Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Taming of the Shrew for English learners

January 25, 26, 27 were the culmination of our 3 month marathon: staging The Taming of the Shrew with the students of the Secondary BOC. Among the actors - kids from Congo and benin, Russia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, Vietnam and Ethiopia... Just as at our school kids come from all over the world and make their first unsure steps in language acquisition, the actors in my drama class learn first things about stage - the pain and the joy of it, the necessity to work as a group, to speak in a loud, sure voice in front of the complete strangers...
Nothing builds up a young person's confidence as much as a public performance, but to bring him/her there!!! Oh, that is my job

My semester is 18 weeks. We begin with fun and games, learning about each other, learning to trust each other and our bodies. From "Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?", from "Zip-zap" and other theater games we slowly move into something more serious - improvisations: mirror, imaginary qualities of things, a chance meeting, etc.
I teach them to breathe, to fall, to laugh, to fight...
We even stage 3-4 little plays they write themselves.
Then comes the script and cold reading.
I have learned the hard way to always, always have understudies!
We read for a week, talking about each episode - it is not easy, because many of my students have very limited English. I explain difficult words, jokes, customs, show pictures of where the play takes place...
Then - the drill of memorizing lines. Again, most of my students have never learned a poem in their lives. I teach them how to memorize through repetition, how to use movement and action while memorizing...
This semester I was extremely fortunate - I had a whole class of wonderful seniors from The Bush School, who diligently came every Thursday, grabbed a kid each and drilled, cajoled, demonstrated, and helped.
My sister-in-law, a dancer, choreographer and Pilates instructor happened to be visiting from Prague. I involved her! never let a resourse go unused! She contributed to the tarantella!
We built our sets during winter break, and in January we were ready to rehearse on stage.
I promised myself that next time I must have a prop manager... Hopefully... It was tough to run the show all alone.
But - the show was great! Good job, my wonderful students!

In January

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