ACTING IN THE CLASSROOM
Marina Serra Vidal, Professional actress and theatre trainer.
“Everyone can act. Everyone can impr...
2. RELAXATION – CONCENTRATION
Relaxation games enable to group to relax and quiet down. We use relaxation games before
get...
Observations:The teacher can seize the moment when the students are verbalizing their
experience to strengthen oral expres...
Pointers:
- Keep the conversation going until everyone participates
- Have those who are more fluent in gibberish converse...
with all inflections, movements, and gestures with which he/she is able to express. They
have to choose only one.
- The re...
- Decide what each character wants from the others (for ex: the kid wants candy from
mom, grandma wants the newspaper from...
- Decide what each character wants from the others (for ex: the kid wants candy from
mom, grandma wants the newspaper from...
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Actingintheclassroom tarragona20-11-2009-091203042759-phpapp02

  1. 1. ACTING IN THE CLASSROOM Marina Serra Vidal, Professional actress and theatre trainer. “Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theatre and learn to become ‘stageworthy.’” (Viola Spolin) Organizing theatre workshops in the classroom The proposed theatre games/exercises for the classroom give enough material to organize one, two or three theatre workshops for students. I usually divide workshops into four parts: nº1. Getting started, nº2. Relaxation/Concentration, nº3. Expression, and nº4. Evaluation. It is recommended to choose one or two exercises from each of the four parts to organize a complete theatre workshop. We should always finish with a group evaluation. Evaluation is nonjudgmental. It is not critical, but grows out of the focus in the games/exercises. Evaluation should be about asking questions to see if the problems of a game/exercise have been solved. 1. GETTING STARTED The main point of “getting started” is to work on the physical preparation, to free the body of tensions and create an atmosphere that encourages team work. 1.1 Walk sequence Objectives: - To break initial tension - Prepare and free the body Procedure (sequence of actions): - We walk around the space without touching anybody (different speeds rates can be called out by the teacher) - We try the same walking backwards - We choose a spot and we walk to it in a straight line - Try not to collide with anyone by yielding the path - We choose a space and walk to it in curved lines - Walk around the classroom with small and silent footsteps - Walk around the classroom with long and noisy footsteps - Walk as slowly as you can - Walk as quickly as you can - Walk as if you were underwater - Walk as if the floor was on fire - Invent other variations (sunny day/rainy day, countryside/city, etc). 1.2 Team Photograph Objectives: - To establish an appropriate atmosphere for the workshop - To have fun - Learn to be exposed - Explore body awareness Procedure: - Two participants are called. The first person strikes a pose (perhaps pointing at someone, with an imaginary gun) and then the second person strikes a pose to complete the photograph (like raising hands in the air). After the photo is completed, the first person sits down but the second person remains (with hands raised). Then, a third person comes in to complete the new photograph (perhaps dressing up the person with raised hands), and so on. Observations: Most traditional games can serve the purpose of “getting started”. Tug or chase games, name games, word games, rhythm games, playing with invisible objects and exchanging them among participants... The main idea is to set up an atmosphere for play and to make individuals focus into a group experience. Theatre is playing, acting is doing.
  2. 2. 2. RELAXATION – CONCENTRATION Relaxation games enable to group to relax and quiet down. We use relaxation games before getting into more complex games/exercises. Wee might want to use relaxation games at any point during a workshop or class to quiet down or relax the group. 2.1 Breathing awareness Objective: - Being aware of breath - To set up a quiet and relaxed atmosphere Procedure: - We begin by laying down on our back - Breathe in. We breathe in through our nose. We slowly fill in the lower part of our lungs. A proposed image may be the one of an umbrella opening slowly or an inflating balloon. When the lungs are full, we hold for five seconds. - Breathe out. We slowly blow out the air. The image may be the one of an umbrella closing slowly or a deflating balloon. Wait for five seconds before starting a new inspiration. Repeat this exercise a few more times. - You may accompany this exercise with relaxing soft music. 2.2 The circle of trust Objective: - To create group cohesion and trust - To quiet down Procedure: Divide students into groups of six. Five students make a small circle, and the sixth stands in the middle with eyes shut. The student in the middle leans into the members of the circle who gently push this student in other directions. The student in the center must not bend body or knees during the entire activity. Observations: it is important to have courage and trust in fellow classmates in order to do this. 2.3 The imaginary flying trip Objective: - To exercise concentration - To explore imagination Procedure: - The teacher may put on relaxing and soft music. - The teacher invites the students to lay down on a cloth, blanket or towel. They can imagine it is a mattress, a pillow or a sheet. - Play the music and invite the students to close their eyes and to adopt a comfortable position. - With a soft tone of voice, tell them that their cloths, blankets… have turned into a magic flying carpet and that they slowly start to elevate and they are going to take a trip on top of the flying carpet. Tell them they are going out through a window of the classroom, that they see from above the roof the school’s playground, that they are going up higher and higher, tell them they can now see the whole town or city from the sky, and that everything is becoming smaller and smaller, and they later land on top of a nice and soft cloud… - Ask the students to imagine their trip on the magic carpet. Suggest to them they might see the sea, the mountains, the rivers, the trees, the birds flying around them… - Allow some time for each student to relax and have the opportunity to imagine his or her own trip. - Then, slowly bring down and stop the music, and ask them to slowly incorporate into the classroom. Subsequent actions: - Each student tells the rest how was his trip on the magic carpet and what places has he or she seen… - We may make a drawing or an essay about the experience
  3. 3. Observations:The teacher can seize the moment when the students are verbalizing their experience to strengthen oral expression, helping them to express themselves by helping them with the language with questions such as: What window did you go out through? How did you see the school from far away? How did the mountains look? Have you seen any of your classmates flying with you? How did you feel on the magic flying carpet? If we find that this exercise works very well to relax the students and we want to repeat it in another session, we can try to take a trip to the center of the earth, into the sea, etc. 3. EXPRESSION – COMUNICATION 3.1 Corporal technique and creativity 3.1.1 Mirror exercises Objectives: - To produce a penetrating involvement with each other - To look and see - To allow for heightened concentration Procedure: Players count off into teams of two. One player becomes A, the other B. All teams play simultaneously. A faces B and A reflects all movements initiated by B, head to foot, including facial expressions. After a time, reverse the roles, calling upon B to reflect A. 3.1.2 Telling and showing a story Objectives: - Synchronize gestured movement with oral speech Procedure: A student (actor/actress) tells a story that has really happened to her or him; at the same time, the other students illustrate the story that is being told. The narrator can not intervene nor make corrections during the exercise. In the end they discuss the differences. The narrator will have the opportunity to compare his or her reactions with those of the rest of the class. 3.1.3 The growing tree Objectives: - To heighten awareness of the autonomy of each of the body segments - To heighten awareness of body mechanisms for movement Procedure: Play soft music or nature sounds and tell the students they are now very small seeds. They might want to start this game/exercise in a fetal position. Tell them that a sprout is coming out of this seed, and that it is slowly turning into a very small tree (they could start to move starting with the fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms, head, legs…). They are slowly growing and growing and turning into a steady and big tree that opens the branches out towards the sun. Remind them of the leaves being moved by the wind, of the roots that hold them grounded… If you find they are enjoying this exercise you might want to invite them through the four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. 3.2 Vocal technique and creativity 3.2.1 Gibberish Objectives: - To discover voice abilities - To unblock non-used vocal possibilities - To explore the expression and emotion of sound Procedure: - Ask the whole group to turn to neighbors and carry on conversations in gibberish as if speaking an unknown language, and converse as though making perfect sense. - As they proceed you may ask them to use as many sounds as possible, to exaggerate mouth movements, to vary the tone, to keep their usual speech rhythm, to let the gibberish flow…
  4. 4. Pointers: - Keep the conversation going until everyone participates - Have those who are more fluent in gibberish converse with those who stick with a monotonous dadeeda sound. - While most of the group will be delighted at their ability to converse in gibberish, there may be one or two who are so tied to speech for communication that they will be almost paralyzed, physically as well as vocally. Treat this casually and, in subsequent gibberish exercises, flow of sound and body expression should become one. - If this is too difficult, you may try with animal sounds. 3.2.2 Match your animal! Objectives: - To discover voice abilities - To unblock non-used oral possibilities - To imitate animal sounds with the voice Procedure: - We write in pieces of paper names of animals and their sex: male or female, and mix them up in a bag or pot. - Each student picks a piece of paper. When each participant has an animal, without telling each other, they have to act as the animal written on the piece of paper they pulled out. - You might suggest them to eat the same way as their animal. How does it drink? How does it sleep: Standing? On a tree? Laying down? Have them find a place to sleep. - Once they wake up, without words, they have to find their partner. All participants have to wait until the whole class is paired up to say out loud what animal each one had to represent and see if the matches are correct. 3.2.3 The forest full of sounds Objectives: - To heighten listening capacity - To create sounds - To awaken and stimulate the selective function of hearing - To promote trust between peers Procedure: - The group is divided into pairs: one person will be the blind; the other person, the guide. The guide is to emit a sound (it can be an animal sound, or any kind of sound, but they all need to be different) and the blind is to listen carefully for a few seconds. - The blinds close their eyes, and the guides start emitting their sounds all at once, and they slowly move around the room. The blinds are to follow their guides through the sound they emit. - When the guide stops emitting the sound, the blind is to stop moving. - The guide is responsible for the security of his or her partner (the blind) and must stop emitting sound if the blind is to hit or trip over any object or to bump into a partner… - The guide will constantly change his/her position. - At this point you might ask the guides to emit the sound softer and softer, so the blind has to make an extra effort to find the guide and move towards it. - The blind has to concentrate only in his/her sound, even if surrounded by many sounds. - Once the game is over, have the blinds be the guides. You may tell them in the beginning that they will later on change their roles, so that each person takes responsibility for their partner in whom they will later have to trust. 3.2.4 How many As are in one A? Objectives: - To explore the relation sound/meaning - To create sounds - To imitate sounds / expression. Procedure: - The group makes a circle. One person goes into the middle of the circle and expresses a feeling, sensation, emotion or idea, using only one of the many sounds of the letter “A”,
  5. 5. with all inflections, movements, and gestures with which he/she is able to express. They have to choose only one. - The rest of the participants, in the circle, repeat the sound and the action twice, trying to feel again the same emotion, sensation, feeling, or idea that originated the sound and movement. - Another participant goes into the circle and expresses other feelings, sensations, ideas or emotions, being followed again by the rest of the group twice. - When all possible As are exhausted, the teacher/director goes on with the other vowels. (E, I, O, U). - We may later move on into ordinary words of everyday live, such us YES, NO (with different meanings), etc. - If you want to try with whole sentences it might also be interesting 3.3 Improvisation starters Objectives: - Getting familiar with improvisation - Learning to react to other’s actions - To try to use all the resources learned during the workshop Procedure: The situations in these starters should be fairly easy for beginning improvisers. Each character has a motivation, what the person wants in the scene. The student/actor should decide the “why” behind their desire before starting the scene. This will help them to focus during the improvisation. Set up the three “Ws”: Where, Who and What. Some suggestions: a. A girl brings a dog (not another actor-imagine it is there) into her house who "followed her home". She tries to convince her mother to let her keep the dog. b. A teacher tries to teach the multiplication table to a student who only wants to talk about TV shows. c. One friend tries to convince another friend that she/he has seen a UFO. The friend is disbelieving. d. A child tries to convince parent to stay home from work and let her stay home form school. e. A mother and son/daughter are shopping for school clothes. The Mother does not think her child’s attire choices are appropriate for his/her age/weight/personality. f. A friend tries to convince another who is shy to come to a party. g. Two friends are on a talk show. Their problem is that one keeps changing her interests and attire to match the other friend. The talk show host is on the imitator’s side. h. Two people are at an amusement park. One wants to ride the newest roller coaster in the park (choose specifics), and the other one is terrified to do so. He/she tries to convince the other not to ride without letting on that he/she is scared. i. Girl/boy talks to male/female (opposite gender) friend about new boy/girl she/he is dating. The person is a JERK and the friend doesn’t think she/he should see him/her. j. Babysitter tries to get a child to go to bed. The child will not fall asleep, because he/she is afraid of a monster (pick a kind). k. Four people are going to the movies, but two want to see one movie (choose a type) and the other two want to see a different one (choose something radically different from first). 3.4 Dramatization/Improvisation for larger groups: Objectives: - To try to use all the resources learned during the workshop - To learn to share a scene Procedure: - If the participants are many, we may divide them into three or four groups. - The first step is to set up the “Ws”: Where, Who, and What. - Where: You may ask them Where would you like to be? Have the students suggest many places, and each group is to choose one. For example it could be a living room. - Who: Who do you want it the living room? They may suggest different members of a family (mother, father, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister…) as well as pets, etc. - What: What is everyone doing there? Find the actions for each character. How old are they? What do they do in general? (study, work, rest…)
  6. 6. - Decide what each character wants from the others (for ex: the kid wants candy from mom, grandma wants the newspaper from the dog, mom wants a foot rub from dad, dad wants grandma’s pillow, and so on) - Try to have a box full of props and costumes that they can use. If this is not possible, ask them to work with the objects available in the space. After the initial discussion, each group is to set up their scene, with the materials at hand, and the chosen costumes. - When the “stage” is set up, there will probably be many things missing from the space chosen. Ask your students to close their eyes and try to see a living room (or any of the other spaces) they are familiar with. Quietly tell them to see the floors, the walls, and the color of the ceiling. Do not intrude in their visualization; simply give them some direction. What was in your living room that was missing on stage? We could then make a list of objects that are still missing from the stage, and these should be created with the means at hand, or with the bodies of other students. - Once the scene is created, ask them to improvise their actions. Each character is to “get what they want” (or at least try). Each character is more preoccupied in getting what they want than in giving what is being asked of them. For example, grandma is more preoccupied in getting the newspaper from the dog than in giving the pillow to dad, who is more preoccupied in getting the pillow from grandma than giving the feet rub to mom, and so on. - This improvised scene can evolve into a play if we keep on repetition and establishing an order for the actions and speech. - Ask them to quickly put the scene in order (decide who speaks first, what action is second, etc.) and suggest that they think of the place of the audience (where will your audience be sitting? How will you make them understand what you mean? How can you make it clearer? After a few rehearsals, each group might share their scene with the other groups. - This can be followed by a debate of what was credible, and what was not. Was grandma showing her age by the way she moved? Try not to evaluate in terms of right/wrong, but rather by asking, what could we do to make this look more real or more believable? … 4. EVALUATION All games/exercises should end with an evaluation by participants. We must keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to solve a workshop problem; the honest attempt, the seeking, is what is important. In the end of a whole session the following questions should be asked: - What have you most enjoyed? What have you least enjoyed? - Why do you think what we have done may be useful? - Would you be willing to participate in another theatre session? … If you are interested in continuing this work with the students, or if you want to find more games/exercises of this kind you can check the following books and websites: - Improvisation for the Theatre by Viola Spolin - Theatre Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook by Viola Spolin - Games for actors and non-actors by Augusto Boal - http://www.spolin.com - http://www.creativedrama.com/theatre.htm All game/exercises have been, taken, adapted or inspired by the works of Viola Spolin or Augusto Boal, from different workshops I have participated and their books Improvisation for the theatre (by Viola Spolin) and Games for actors and non-actors (by Augusto Boal).
  7. 7. - Decide what each character wants from the others (for ex: the kid wants candy from mom, grandma wants the newspaper from the dog, mom wants a foot rub from dad, dad wants grandma’s pillow, and so on) - Try to have a box full of props and costumes that they can use. If this is not possible, ask them to work with the objects available in the space. After the initial discussion, each group is to set up their scene, with the materials at hand, and the chosen costumes. - When the “stage” is set up, there will probably be many things missing from the space chosen. Ask your students to close their eyes and try to see a living room (or any of the other spaces) they are familiar with. Quietly tell them to see the floors, the walls, and the color of the ceiling. Do not intrude in their visualization; simply give them some direction. What was in your living room that was missing on stage? We could then make a list of objects that are still missing from the stage, and these should be created with the means at hand, or with the bodies of other students. - Once the scene is created, ask them to improvise their actions. Each character is to “get what they want” (or at least try). Each character is more preoccupied in getting what they want than in giving what is being asked of them. For example, grandma is more preoccupied in getting the newspaper from the dog than in giving the pillow to dad, who is more preoccupied in getting the pillow from grandma than giving the feet rub to mom, and so on. - This improvised scene can evolve into a play if we keep on repetition and establishing an order for the actions and speech. - Ask them to quickly put the scene in order (decide who speaks first, what action is second, etc.) and suggest that they think of the place of the audience (where will your audience be sitting? How will you make them understand what you mean? How can you make it clearer? After a few rehearsals, each group might share their scene with the other groups. - This can be followed by a debate of what was credible, and what was not. Was grandma showing her age by the way she moved? Try not to evaluate in terms of right/wrong, but rather by asking, what could we do to make this look more real or more believable? … 4. EVALUATION All games/exercises should end with an evaluation by participants. We must keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to solve a workshop problem; the honest attempt, the seeking, is what is important. In the end of a whole session the following questions should be asked: - What have you most enjoyed? What have you least enjoyed? - Why do you think what we have done may be useful? - Would you be willing to participate in another theatre session? … If you are interested in continuing this work with the students, or if you want to find more games/exercises of this kind you can check the following books and websites: - Improvisation for the Theatre by Viola Spolin - Theatre Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook by Viola Spolin - Games for actors and non-actors by Augusto Boal - http://www.spolin.com - http://www.creativedrama.com/theatre.htm All game/exercises have been, taken, adapted or inspired by the works of Viola Spolin or Augusto Boal, from different workshops I have participated and their books Improvisation for the theatre (by Viola Spolin) and Games for actors and non-actors (by Augusto Boal).

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