Workshop #2

Waiting in my e-mail yesterday afternoon was my Globe Education Academy Summer Residency info!  Fourteen glorious pages answering every question I could ever come up with regarding my life in London for two and a half weeks.  It’s currently printed and sitting on my coffee table along with my Fodor’s London travel guide.  I’m getting excited!

Also in recent news: Today my students and I attended the second of our Globe Theater workshops at UC Davis.

The focus of this workshop was rehearsal.  After a few warmups (including a demonstration of living iambic pentameter), we found partners and were assigned a scene from Taming of the Shrew to rehearse.  We were given no other instructions.  My partner Rhiann–a fellow-teacher participant–and I were assigned a scene between Bianca and Katharina from Act 2, and energetically went about rehearsing our scene.

After a short break, our facilitator asked us what we had done to rehearse and asked if what we had done had really helped us to understand the text or the characters’ motivation.  He introduced a five-step method of rehearsal that he advocates, and then led two different pairs through this rehearsal process in front of the group:

Step 1: Simply read through the text.  You’re not acting here.  You’re just reading from beginning to end, getting a sense for the text.

Step 2: Talk about it.  Ask questions like:

  • What’s the context?
  • What are the characters talking about?
  • Why are they talking?  What’s their purpose?
  • How do the characters feel?
  • Are there any words that I don’t know?  Anything that I just don’t understand?  (And get those clarified.)

Step 3: Put down the script and improvise.  One thing that we all noticed was that by holding the script in front of us, we weren’t interacting with our acting partner.  Instead, we were focusing on saying the words correctly in the right order.  Taking our responses to step 2, we were encouraged to put down the script and improvise our way through the scene.  By improvising, you learn motivations behind the characters’ words.  You also apply the answers to the questions that you asked in step 2 to your acting.  We were encouraged not to focus entirely on doing it right.  Just as much can be learned by making mistakes–you learn what you don’t want to do in a scene.

Step 4: Talk about it.  Go through the improvised scene and talk about what worked and what didn’t.  What would you keep for performance, and what would you leave out.  What you learned about the character you portrayed and the character you interacted with.

Step 5: Read through the script a second time.  Here, you’re not necessarily standing up and acting.  What you’re doing is reading it through and noticing what makes more sense now about your scene.  (What you’ll see, though, is that students will read through this time with more emphasis, inflection, and passion.)

Now the part that I love: the drive home with the kids.  I never have to ask them what they thought, and I never have to ask them how we can use it in class.  They tell me.  As we drove back to Sacramento, Brianna told me all of the ways that we could have used this strategy in class this year.  She thought it would have been great if we had used it with the novels we read (like Lord of the Flies and To Kill a Mockingbird).  She said that going through a similar process with important pieces of dialogue in a book would have helped her understand the characters and their motivations a lot better.  (She also is excited that we’ll definitely be using this strategy when reading Romeo and Juliet.)

My takeaways:

  • I think I’m going to attempt the living iambic pentameter with my kids.  I think it’s a great way to introduce them to the idea of meter that is both kinesthetic- and audio-oriented.
  • I am definitely going to have my students use this rehearsal protocol in class in order to help them interpret the text.  (Besides, I promised Brianna I would!)  I think my next step is to go through the play and determine which sections we’ll attack through activities like Reader’s Theater, this protocol, etc.  I like this protocol, because not only do I think it helps kids get to a deeper understanding of the text, but it also changes up how we attack our in-class reading.

One thought on “Workshop #2

  1. Pingback: Finishing Romeo and Juliet | My Year with Shakespeare

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