July 2013 entries
Gabrielle and I both have theatre camp this week, so I took her out to breakfast at Julie's Coffee today. She's not the least bit excited about theatre camp...what do you think?
Today was tie-dye day at camp! The play that we are doing features two groups of people, the Blues and the Greens, who dislike each other simply because they are different. A Purple girl comes along and helps them to see that their differences actually enhance the community. (Handy to have around, that Purple girl.)
I decided to have the kids tie dye shirts because no two tie-dyed shirts are the same. Even though the Greens think they are all the same, they are varied and diverse in their greenness. Same goes for the Blues. The tie-dyed shirts help to symbolize this concept to anyone reading that far into a 30-minute children's theatre camp play. (Or, maybe that's just me. Ah well. It's lonely being a nerd.)
At any rate, we had fun and the kids have a memento of our two weeks together.
Today, I tried a technique that I use in my AP and Honors English 11 classes with one of my 5th grade campers. I modified it a bit to met her ability level, but the concept remained the same. As an English teacher and a Drama director, I insist that students critically read. Too often, we assign the same value to words, as if they are all created equal. For my AP students, it is crucial that they understand that an author CHOOSES words, that words don't just accidentally fall into place to form a sentence. For my Drama students, it is crucial that they understand that they cannot deliver every word, every line in the same way --- that's boring and it undermines the play's purpose for the audience.
I use the analogy of a seismograph to illustrate the varying impact of words. An earthquake consists of several tremors that have different degrees of strength, and a seismograph measures those differences. Sentences, essays, plays, novels all work the same way. Words have different strengths and serve a variety of purposes.
I worked individually with the young girl who was cast as the Tree, the narrator of our play. Focusing on her portions of text, we examined which words are more important and require greater emphasis. For example, her opening line is "Welcome to a land of fantasy, where extraordinary things happen." As you can see from our chart below, our Tree knew that "fantasy" and "extraordinary" were important words because from the get-go, the audience expects an unrealistic play, and as a result, the audience willing accepts a talking Tree, too. She went on to highlight the words in her script that demand more emphasis from her delivery.
I also explained the rhetorical triangle, developed by Aristotle, of the relationship between the speaker (tree), the audience, and the subject (our play). We also talked about her goal as the narrator (to teach the audience a lesson about accepting others' differences) and how the words of the text all work together to accomplish that purpose.
It went so well that I am going to do it with the whole group tomorrow!
Our parish priest, Father Manno, started calling Gabrielle Drew Barrymore about 6 months ago because he thinks she bears a resemblance to the little girl Drew Barrymore played in ET. When our kids didn't know what ET was, Father insisted that we have a movie night at his house to enlighten the kids.
Finally, after a surgery, 5 weddings, and countless other commitments, we had our ET night. Father asked me what the kids like to eat, and I told him popcorn would be fine. Just popcorn is far too small-scale for Father Manno! He made a poster for his front door welcoming the kids to his house. He set out such a spread that Gabrielle asked me if we were the only people coming, assuming there would be more. Father even bought each of our kids a toy, including a telescope for them to try to find their own ET 's.
He told us it was a blessing to have a family movie night, to see the kids huddled together on their pillows giggling at the silly alien in a wig. When Gabrielle first saw Drew Barrymore, she turned to Father and said, "You are right! That does look like me!" I think it made his day.
We are blessed to have such a kind-hearted, generous man as our priest.
Yesterday, I gave my campers brown bags with five items inside. They were given the task of using those five items to create a character. I encouraged them to be creative. For example, I held up a sanitizing hand wipe and asked for ways this item could fit in. "You are a nurse!" "You are afraid of getting sick!" "You are a house cleaner!" They were great, and the activity turned out really well.
It's that time again! These next few weeks of summer are a tad bit more scheduled than the summer has been thus far. I am teaching two theatre camps at our community theatre, Aidan is attending a science camp and a theatre camp, and Ellie is attending a theatre camp and a dance camp. Mike and Liam are attending Father-and-Son camp. :)
My camp lasts two weeks, with one group meeting for three hours in the morning and another group meeting for three hours in the afternoon. The age range is 4th and 5th grade. Just like when I taught Vacation Bible School to elementary-aged students, these camp experiences are fun . . . but very different. I am accustomed to teaching 11th graders, and theatre kids in grades 9-12. Theatre kids tend to be more mature, more outgoing, and less likely to worry about being "weird" or "different" than other kids. (Yes, I am making a generalization. I've had uber-confident kids who haven't stepped on stage in their lives, and I've had shy kids who have attended theatre camps since they were 5.) Even though my own children are young, I am not used to teaching younger kids in packs.
That being said, I love working with the younger age group. Their enthusiasm and energy are infectious. Because they are young, they have not been exposed to a lot of theatre games, so they delight in just about anything I come up with. This afternoon's group kept asking to play Park Bench, a silly game in which one player tries to get the other player to abandon his/her seat on a bench. They were fake-sneezing and pretending to pick their noses and acting like they were hearing voices.
I also taught them a game called First Line, Last Line, in which two players draw sentences from a bag and have to incorporate them in a brief improv scene as the first line of the scene and the last line of the scene. I had three high-school-age helpers with me, and I used them to demonstrate ways that the campers could improve their skills. For example, visualizing an imaginary place with another person is not easy for 4th and 5th graders. Sure, we use our imaginations all the time, but usually in a solo pursuit. In improv, we have to work together, "see" the same setting, "hear" the same sounds, and so on. After employing adequate scaffolding through the use of demonstration and coaching, I witness growth in just a few hours in several students. That's exciting.
The main project for the camp is to stage a play called "Just Like Us" --- it's a simple story of two groups of people, the Greens and the Blues, who don't mix with each other because each group believes it is superior. In Romeo-Juliet style, a green and a blue fall in love (which I will have to change a little bit for my afternoon, all-female camp) and then a purple comes along and shows them all that a Blue can like Green things and vice versa. Throw in a Tree narrator and some homemade instruments, and you've got the idea.
Tomorrow, I plan to work on character development. Authentic characters are critical to me. I'd rather see a show with crudely painted cardboard for a set and dynamic, engaging characters than a show that has an elaborate set and drab characters. Characterization matters. A lot. And now that I've had the chance to meet the kids and get a feel for their level of experience and instinct, I have a sense for how we can proceed.
I do love to teach.
By the time we arrived home from our camps, and I made dinner, it was 6 PM! It's tough being back in the work force!
Liam was running his car up and down his alphabet apple toy, making a loud noise.
Me: "Liam, what are you doing?"
L: "I'm making this noise."
Ah, it's all so clear now!
Last night, we went to a local beach near the campground where we are staying. We found over 20 horseshoe crabs in the tide pools there. Usually, we find the molted shells of these intriguing animals. Their angry pinchers and searching claws attempt to intimidate, but of course Aidan asked us to use our phones to look up details about horseshoe crabs. (Did you know their blood is used to make a bacteria test?)
Even little Liam found one. He was convinced his hermit crab was just baby horseshoe.
Gabrielle was happy to let Aidan do all the handling, but after about a dozen crabs, she got a rush of bravery and became a fierce crab hunter, too.