Today was attempt one in using the five-step rehearsal protocol that I learned in the second of my Globe Education workshops.
After reviewing our Act 2 Prologue translations, I had students get into groups of threes. Their job, to rehearse Act 2, Scene 1 with each student taking a role (Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio). I told them I’d give them 5-7 minutes to run through it as many times as they could. Their goal was to try to understand what each character was talking about.
After the allotted time, we stopped and gathered back as a class. I asked how it went, and their response was mixed. I asked if it was easy for them to act when holding bulky books in front of their faces trying to read. Their response: “No!”
I told the kids that we were going to take a look at a five-step protocol for looking at a scene, and explained the steps:
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.
Step 4: Talk about it.
Step 5: Read through the script a second time.
I selected a group to try it out (after having asked them during the “rehearsal” time if they would be alright doing this in front of the class).
After a read through with our three actors, we chatted our way through the scene. Since the actors were doing the heavy lifting in terms of being vulnerable in front of the class, the remainder of the class did the heavy lifting in terms of talking about the scene. After we had a good sense of the scene as a class, I asked each actor how their character felt at that point in time. “Romeo” said that he was in love and just wanted to get back to Juliet. “Mercutio” said that he was tired from the party and just wanted to go home. He didn’t want to ditch Romeo, and, as a friend, tease Romeo as he called him. “Benvolio” said that, as his cousin, she was worried about Romeo, especially because she wasn’t able to find him.
At this point we put down our script and improvised. This went especially well in my first class. I think for the first time doing the activity, it was good that I chose a group that would go all out. (My choice the next period was not as wise, and I think the momentum of the class suffered a little.) Afterwards, I asked the class if they missed anything. We discussed how they could have added them, and then transitioned to the final read-through. I strayed from the original protocol that I had been taught, and had them act this second time. I think this worked well–it was good to see that they incorporated their improv work into their scene acting.
Back to their groups they went, this time armed with the 2.1 Promptbook handout, which I modified from Shakespeare Set Free (2.1 — Promptbook). Now that we had a much better idea for the scene, in groups their job was to read back through a portion of that scene and decide what the actors would be doing at each spot. I told them that they were demonstrating their understanding of the scene through demonstrating an understanding of what the characters would be doing throughout the scene. I modeled a line or two (taking suggestions from them, of course) and then set them free. Again, this worked better in my first afternoon class than in my second, and I’m wondering if this is a combination of a lack of momentum and less time (due to my constant stopping for side conversations and such). The kids are finishing this activity for homework, and we’ll probably start class tomorrow by having a group walk us through their decisions.