Hints and tips on how to get the most out of the performance. Book 4. Acting tips

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1 Hints and tips on how to get the most out of the performance. Book 4 Acting tips

2 Tips on how to introduce the show to the group, run workshops, explore the text, cast and organise the show. Before the show is introduced to the class it is very important that some pre-production work is done as there are words within the show that the students will not be familiar with. These words are listed in Book 1. 1

3 Introducing and reading the play to the group 1. Before reading the play aloud in class the teacher should read through it at least twice while interpolating the music. 2. Ensure you have sufficient copies of the script to go around the class. Ideally have one script per person or at least one between two. 3. Sometimes a warm-up theatre game works well before reading the play just to get good levels of concentration from the students and to help put them in the theatrical mood. 4. Read the play round a circle where possible. Everyone takes a speech in turn. It is important that everyone is treated equally and given a fair audition/reading of the play. Longer speeches can be split on an ad hoc basis. 5. Avoid indicating possible casting; assumptions will be made if you make choices for this particular exercise even though you are likely to have some ideas about whom you want to play what. Dominant and quieter individuals should be treated with complete equality. How much they have to read, and which parts, should be a matter of chance. The overall concentration level is likely to be higher than if individuals can switch off for a whole scene. 6. When listening to the children be mindful of the following: Who can lift the text from the page and make it his or her own? Which voices show an affinity with which words? Which voices seem to balance, or contrast with, others? Which speeches, and which sections of the play, reveal difficulties in interpretation? Which parts of the play do they particularly enjoy at this first reading? Which ones made them switch off? Remember a good reader of the play may not necessarily be a good actor. Therefore do not cast from a reading but after the workshop session. 7. It may be that the play is too long to read as a whole in one session. It may also happen that the children show a desire to begin working on certain sections, and you need to be alert to the mood and the needs of the group to make the best use of their enthusiasm. 8. It is useful however, to spend some time discussing their reactions to what they have read, what they feel about the language of the play, the characters, the themes and the plot. This early discussion will begin to establish ideas about the style of production, altering or reinforcing ideas which emerged during the play. You are also likely to get some indication of which characters particular individuals are interested in and would like to work on, which may help in casting decisions. 2

4 Workshops 1. Now that the play, its themes, plot and characters are established in everyone s mind, it is possible to take some time working alongside the text, rather than allowing the text to dominate activities. Working on the assumption that everyone has a reasonable knowledge of the text, you can isolate certain themes and characters to place at the centre of this phase of the work. 2. Here are a few suggestions that may be useful: Use key theme words to trigger instant improvisation, singly, in pairs, and in small groups. (See Book 1.) Work on a developed improvisation using a situation or theme from the play. In groups of four or five, present a frozen picture of key moments from the play. Scene 7 The Forest The chase through the trees. This scene is difficult to describe in the script, however it does form the basis of a well-known game. This is an improvised chase through the forest where the trees assist Valbrand in evading capture by the bugs (by such means as tripping up the bugs etc). The intention is for Valbrand to find an easy pathway through the trees, making it difficult for the bugs to catch him. This should be practised in a workshop session. Each person takes on a role and, working in twos and threes, places the characters in a cinema queue, a lift, on a park bench, or waiting on a train. In a circle, re-tell the story of the play, each person contributing in turn. 3. These activities may reveal some new aspects of the play and possibilities for the production and will help bring something of the class to the play. The opportunities for early exploration and discoveries are very useful. Two or three sessions are quite adequate if the activities are not taking place alongside some work on the script. Suggested Warm-Up Games KNEE FIGHTS Focus Shape Time Energy Low Partners One minute High 1. Everyone finds a partner and stands opposite that partner in a space in the room. 2. All players put their hands on their knees: these are guarded knees. 3. All players take their hands off their knees: these are unguarded knees. 3

5 4. When the session leader/teacher calls GO everyone tries to grab their partner s knees. 5. One point is scored for every touch on an unguarded knee. 6. First person to score 5 is the winner. 7. Any player who keeps guarding their knees for more than 30 seconds is out. NOTE: This is an excellent warm-up for all ages and also for all spaces, however small. It is also useful for groups who are not wearing appropriate clothes for other warm-ups in which running around is required. It does not matter if there are no winners; stop the game after a minute or less. QUICK FEELINGS Focus Shape Time Energy Low Circle 3-5 minutes High 1. Mark out a large cross on the floor (with chalk, shoes, chairs, etc). 2. Choose four feelings, such as ANGRY, HAPPY, SAD and FRIGHTENED. Each section formed by the cross represents one of the feelings and should be marked accordingly (with chalk, coloured paper, etc.). 3. The players walk in a circle around the cross. 4. At a given signal from the session leader all the players stop. 5. When the players stop, each player must act out immediately the feelings indicated, each player responding to the one he/she has stopped in. 6. No player may leave a section until the session leader signals that they may walk round again. 7. In the angry section no player may touch another player. NOTE: REHEARSAL NOTE: You can vary the game by indicating different categories in the sections, such as jobs, ages, times of day and so on. The game can be played by actors in role: when a character stops in one of the sections she/he voices the points in the play which arouse such feelings for the character. 4

6 Workshops / Improvisational Games PICTURE BOOK Focus Shape Time Energy Shared high Teams minutes Medium 1. Split the group into teams of four or five. 2. Each team chooses a famous fairy story. 3. The team prepares for group arrangements from the story and arranges themselves in a suitable freeze. 4. The teams present their stories to each other. 5. The session leader calls Picture 1, Picture 2, etc. 6. The other players guess which story it is. TV COMMERCIALS Focus Shared high Shape Teams Time minutes Energy Medium 1. Split the group into teams of five or six. 2. Each team chooses a product to promote. 3. The teams have five minutes to create a commercial for their products. 4. The teams present their commercials. 5. The group discusses which product they would want to buy as a result of the commercials. The above games have been taken from Christine Poulter, Playing The Game, 1987, Macmillan Press Ltd. Reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. Additional reading: Anna Scher & Charles Verrall: 100+ Ideas for Drama, first published 1975, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. Anna Scher & Charles Verrall: Another 100+ Ideas for Drama, first published 1987, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. Christine Poulter: Playing The Game, first published in 1987, Macmillan Press Ltd. 5

7 Exploring the text 1. If you take this approach, or one based on these ideas, as the basis of your production process, you will still not have cast the play and there is still no need to do so, as the longer the group spends working together, in small groups and individually, on all aspects of the play, the better they will know it and the easier they will find the later stages of intensive work. 2. The exploration of the text need not be tiring and you don t want the students to get bored before you have even begun but it should range quite widely throughout the play, focusing on key scenes that vary in nature. You may wish to take a fairly long scene and split it into smaller sections, giving each section to a small group to work on, and then play them consecutively. 3. During this stage, as well as exploring the text and gathering ideas about playing, you will be observing how individuals work together, how well they handle the demands of particular roles, and which combinations and groups work together best. This knowledge will be invaluable to you when you come to cast the play. Casting By now you will have seen most of your potential cast in action dealing with different characters and sections of the play, so any audition process will have taken place without any formality. You may still, however, be put in the position of disappointing some people, who may have shown either openly or surreptitiously that they want to play certain parts for which they are not suited, or which you feel that others can handle better. This is never easy to deal with. Be kind. When casting, it s worthwhile doing it all at once. If there is initial disappointment from some students, they can deal with it together. Early rehearsals, organisation and method 1. When the basic decisions have been made about the nature and style of production, the groundwork done on the text, and the play cast, you will be beginning a more formal rehearsal process. Take into consideration school breaks, important dates in the school s calendar, and any inservice days which may interrupt your rehearsal schedule. 2. Try to rehearse at the same time every day as this helps to focus everyone, and avoids When are we doing the play Teacher? syndrome. Students should be encouraged to work without a script as soon as realistically possible. Holding a sheaf of papers inhibits movement, and some people will use a script to hide behind if they are uncertain about getting to grips with the real acting. You need to be fairly strict about the no script rule. 3. Script can be learnt as homework. It is very important to remind students that they must not only learn their parts, but also their cue lines as well. As all plays must present with a freshness ; don t allow students to deliver lines as if repeating a mantra. Lines must be meant and felt. Let this be your mantra. 6

8 Movement on stage 1. For many students this will be their first time performing and many of them will not be familiar with certain terminology of stage work. It is important that the teacher explain to the group that masking, i.e. standing in front of another cast member is not allowed. When on stage students should ask themselves: Am I standing in front of anyone, or is anyone standing in front of me? When gesturing or pointing make sure actors use the arm or hand furthest away from the audience. 2. There should be no backs to the audience. Explain that to see and hear everything audiences require the actor to be aware of their position on stage. Try not to have the actor speaking in profile. 3. Actors should move when the lines or feeling dictate. They should move on the line. Avoid moving cast members when they have concluded their line. All movements on stage should appear natural and unforced. 4. Explain the positions on the stage. It is helpful when a teacher stands on the stage or acting area, and explains with movement. D.S.R. U.S.L. U.S. D.S. DOWN STAGE RIGHT UP STAGE LEFT UP STAGE (away from the audience) DOWN STAGE (down to the audience) This will provide you with a useful shorthand when moving students. Avoid using the U.S. area as it will be harder to hear and see the students. Explain D.S. is where you want them to be. 5. On stage actors should not fidget. No extra movement of hands or feet. Sometimes younger actors have a tendency to move their feet backwards and forwards when saying their lines. Explain to them that this is very distracting for the audience. They will watch the dancing feet rather than listen to the lines spoken. Props and furniture It is a good idea to use relevant props and furniture from day one. This helps the students immeasurably and gets over the walking into furniture syndrome. The actors can think about using the prop to highlight a line or speech, and it can become an integral part of the play or character, used in a creative way. 7

9 NOTES 8

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