Saturday, October 20, 2007

Creative dramatics.

I was so thrilled last spring about being given an opportunity to lead a creative dramatics class at the homeschooling coop. Having some experience in the past of performing on stage, I still thought I needed to do some reading on the subject. As the summer went by I was getting a bit nervous about how I was going to manage to create a great atmosphere for the kids to explore the possibilities of expressing themselves through acting and drama.

I bought a book "On Stage, theater games and activities for kids", by Lisa Bany-Winters, and was using Ivana and Leona to see what works with the kids and what not so much. And the book is great! It has a lot of ideas, actually more than enough to keep the class going strong for a year.

The games and activities in the book are getting more complex and challenging as you get to spend more time with the kids, and they get comfortable in each other's presence and are less worried to look "stupid" and be laughed at. It's learning and playing at the same time. As the part Getting Onstage gives the kids an idea about stage space and certain way of moving around. Ideas from chapters Any time Theater Games, Twisting Your Tongue and Make 'Em Laugh help me to get the group together and teach them to work in unison. And then activities from Creating Characters, Improvisation and Creative Drama work as a culmination of our club time and the time for self expression.

The very first class I already had them act out a story. I chose a Russian folk tale "An enormous turnip", or how we say it in Russian, simply "Repka". It's a funny and a pretty simple plot. A grandpa plants a seed and it grows into an enormous turnip. We brainstormed with the kids other synonyms to express the size of the turnip, and they came up with a pretty impressive list for 5 and 6 year olds ("big", of course, "very big", "extra large","extra, extra large", "huge", "colossal", "gigantic", and I introduced "gargantuan" to them) . Well... the old man could not pull the turnip alone, so he had to call an old woman for help. They were pulling together, but still it didn't come out from the ground. The old woman called a granddaughter for help. They were pulling together, and still nothing happened. The granddaughter called a black dog for help. They were pulling vain. The black dog called a cat for help. Still there was no result. And finally the cat called a mouse. They all pulled together, and they pulled, and pulled, and YES... they were able to pull the turnip out!

An evening before Ivana and I made very simple costumes for our mini play. There was Mirek's fishing hat for an old man. I took my apron and a scarf to put on head for an old woman. I braided three ribbons together for granddaughter. And we made head pieces with ears for the dog, cat and mouse. There was a part of a turnip as well. I brought a radish...And the actor playing the part of an enormous turnip was sitting on a chair with a jumping rope tied around the waist holding the radish in the hands. Imagination at work! The kids had a blast playing different parts. Almost everyone got a turn to be different character.

Another fun part that I came up was to read the same story in Russian! If you could only see their bulging eyes, motionlessly listening to me acting the story in Russian. Your could here a fly buzzing by... And when I asked them, "Can you say REPKA?REPKA!REPKA!" making a lot of stress of the vibrating rrrrrrrr sound, they were giggling and trying to imitate me.

The other time we acted out "Ten Little Monkeys" nursery rhyme. First we made masks from paper plates. I brought a blanket to use as a bed, a telephone to call a doctor, Ivana's scrubs and a stethoscope for a doctor. There was a lot of jumping and falling and bumping. The "little monkeys" got carried away and I had to remind them not to bump their heads for real, just a bit.
"Show and tell" was a huge success! And next time we are making sock puppets and doing voices. And I am getting a bit too ambitious, as I am seriously thinking of putting a small stage production for the Christmas Show in December.

There is simply not enough hours in a day to do everything I want to do!

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