Warm-Up of the Week: Zombies

1.  All students walk around the room with their eyes closed and their arms crossed in front of their chest.

2. The teacher then taps a student on the shoulder to indicate that they have become the zombie. They will need to make a zombie noise that warns the others students.

3. The zombie then stretches their hands out in front of them in search of humans…

4. If the zombie squeezes a student on the shoulder they become a zombie also.

5. If two zombies squeeze each other on the shoulder they turn back into humans. They must give a big sigh to indicate that this has happened.

6. In large classes it is a good idea to split the students into two groups and use the second group as a barrier so the humans and zombies can’t escape.

This game was generously taught to me by one of my prac students Brielle. Thank you!


The Stage Space: A Theory

I recently completed a course in Directing for the Stage. One week we looked at the role of the stage space in performance and the suggested meanings of various positioning of actors and their entrances on the stage. This is just a theory but one I found interesting. It doesn’t discount the traditional nine-quadrant stage space (upstage, centre stage, downstage, stage left, centre, stage right) but adds another layer to this and one that would be interesting to consider when watching or directing scenes. I attempted to explain this in my first screencast. I hope you find it useful.

Actors and The Space: Some Teaching Suggestions

I have a Yr 9 class this year and our first unit is always an introduction to Drama. We look at the toolkit that an actor needs to be successful on stage in preparation for looking at what a director needs in his/her toolkit. It’s difficult to separate the two but in the end it comes down to what you want to focus more on. I’ve really been working on getting my students to explain what they are seeing on stage using all the drama terminology of the elements. I’ve also been focusing on how to make performances more dynamic and engaging. I’ve posted before on some of the activities that I do with the elements of drama. Here are a couple more that I have been trying out this term, particularly to do with character/role and spatial relationships (in particular, proximity and distance) that I have found really make the improvised scenes much more interesting to watch:

Give the student’s a single line of dialogue. For example, “I have something to tell you.” Pair student’s up and have them face each other. One person will deliver the line but they must deliver it with the following constraints on their space:

  • At opposite ends of the room. Take one step towards each other until toe to toe. At each step deliver the line again.
  • Both seated.
  • One seated and one standing.
  • One facing away from the other.
  • One behind the other.
  • Back to back.
  • One lying on the floor.

Discuss the effect of these staging positions on the audience. Consider the following questions:

  • How does the audience’s sense of the character change depending on where they were when they delivered the line?
  • Did the meaning of the line change depending on the spatial relationship?
  • Which position was most/least powerful?
  • What relationships are suggested by the use of these levels and proximity?

At the conclusion of this exercise, try the following exercises:

  • Break into groups of three. Call out an action (e.g. painting, repairing, rehearsing, admiring, rejecting, greeting, opening). Each member of the group has to pose doing that action. Each person in the group must, however, be on a different level. Present them to the class and discuss the effect on the audience. Compare it with the same poses but all on one level.
  • Improvise scenes with dialogue and have pairs of characters meeting with others pairs of characters (e.g. grandparent and child on a bus meet a businessman and his wife).

During the improvisations encourage students to become aware of how they adapt their tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, posture when saying lines in different spatial positions. Discuss who has the greater status in the scenes and how all these things together can determine for an audience which relationships between characters are more formal than others.

Photo Credit: loungerie via Compfight cc

Lesson Lovenotes: Elements of Drama Teaching Suggestions

The Elements of Drama are the absolute bread and butter of the drama sandwich. In every which way possible, whether it is in individual lessons or in your programming and scope and sequencing, you must, must, must, must, must come back to the elements of drama.

The Elements of drama can be studied individually or collectively. Ideally you want to be designing lessons that may focus on an element or particular elements at any one time. In the end though, they all work together to create a drama performance.

The Elements of Drama are (I’ve grouped them together in the way that I like to teach them):

  • Focus
  • Space
  • Character/Role
  • Time/Place/Situation
  • Tension
  • Structure
  • Language/Sound
  • Movement/Timing/Rhythm
  • Atmosphere/Mood/Symbol/Moment
  • Audience Engagement/Dramatic Meaning

My initial unit of study when my student’s come into Drama for the first time in Year 9 is an introductory unit that looks at the Elements of Drama and combines Theatre Sports. Here are some suggestions that I like to use in my classroom when introducing the Elements to my students:

  • SPACE: “Simon Says, UpStage Left!” – a great little game exploring the physical stage space. Have students move from one part of the stage to the other depending on what you call out. The slowest person to get to the spot is out. Have the last two student’s have a”face off”. Have two rounds and the champions from each round can go head to head. Also great for teaching terms such as prompt, opposite prompt, masking and sightlines. You could also look at exploring types of stage spaces such as proscenium arch stage, thrust stage, amphi-theatre and theatre in the round.
  • FOCUS: Look at generating short scenes that look at a) the focus of a scene, b) the focus of the audience, c) the focus of the character and/or d) the focus of the actor. Discuss, compare and contrast scenes that have actors walking around the space doing nothing, the same scene again but with actor’s looking for something and then again but this time it’s a bomb and it will explode in 20 seconds. Discuss how the energy and tension of the scene changes.
  • CHARACTER: Character exercises are a whole post in themselves but you want to start with exercises that focus on awareness of facial expression, tone of voice, body language and movement. You could incorporate Theatre Sports here or choose excerpts from scripts. Some concepts you might also like to explore here are making offers, accepting offers, accepting  and committing to the fiction, conviction/belief, status, action/reaction.
  • TIME/PLACE/SITUATION/TENSION: Improvisation is key here. Play around with scenes that allow student’s to explore not only some typical situations but some unusual ones as well e.g. underneath a rock, at the bottom of the ocean etc. Really focus on the concept of conflict here. Get student’s to improvise scenes that look at man vs. man conflict, man vs. himself and man vs. nature.
  • LANGUAGE/SOUND: Voice workshops are a brilliant starting point. Have student’s become aware of their breath, throat and diaphragm. Consider doing an accent workshop. Have them working with scripts to explore clarity, volume, pitch, pace, inflection, emphasis and pause. Consider how atmosphere can be created using soundscapes and body percussion. Explore scenes that use no sound or language (mime).
  • MOVEMENT/TIMING/RHYTHM: No drama class is complete without a movement workshop. Consider exploring the Laban Movements and putting on music to dance to. Look at physical offers in improvisation as a starting point for a scene.  Look Look at the physicality of characters and the use of space to show relationships. Look at the blocking in a scripted scene. Consider the effect of stillness, contrast, intensity, tableau and expression in a movement piece.
  • ATMOSPHERE/MOOD/SYMBOL: Watch some film excerpts that use music to guide the audience’s feelings in a scene. Consider the use of colour and set in costumes and what they mean to the audience.
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT/DRAMATIC MEANING: At the conclusion of every exercise always ask the class what it was about the element of drama that made the audience feel engaged in the action on stage and what they understood was happening on stage because of that element. In adding this in to your classroom discussion you are effectively making your students become critical thinkers and theatre appreciators.

Image Credits: The Drama Room 5, karlao