By Tamara Pogin SLP
& Tahirih Bushey SLP
The second week of acting classes went well. Actually, this week was every kind of wonderful. We saw skills on stage that we did not expect to see so quickly particularly the skill of acting out a scene with another person--which for many of our youngsters is very challenging. The actors were delighted with one another and with their own performances.
Each child that attended the large group acting classes this week got a chance to practice new activities in a small group session before our Wednesday Large Group acting class. We practiced in a beautiful 100 year old theater in the Scottish Rite Temple and this location clearly impressed the children. I think that the children enjoyed both locations equally but they were more excited to be with all the other kids at the Play Ground Theater. The new curriculum for the week included new vocabulary and short scenes with two people together on stage.
New Vocabulary: Onstage, Backstage, and Dressing Room. We also emphasized the role of director and continued to emphasize the roles of actor and audience. All of the children came up onstage in pairs and held the onstage symbol and recited, We are onstage. Then they went backstage and yelled, We are backstage. Can you see us? And the audience responded , NOOOO!. The children loved choral response so we need to do more of that. It also gives the children in the audience a role and that helps them sit and wait for a turn.
All of the kids got a chance to check out the dressing room and walk from backstage to onstage. They had spontaneous conversations about how we really need costumes in our acting class. Some children offered to bring in their Halloween costumes. Some of the boys were concerned that they would have to put on makeup. So a lot of enthusiasm for the idea of costumes, and very little for the idea of putting on make-up.
We also added the concept of playing scenes this week and that was fun. We called one scene Giving a Present and the other scene Running a Race. We were very explicit in explaining and demonstrating each scene. We had visuals for the scenes but did not need them because these two scenes were familiar enough to the children.
Giving a Present went well because all the children understood both roles. They clearly loved giving and receiving. Both were desirable roles. Many children started to improvise and pretend something was inside the empty present box. In a practice session, one child gave his mother a pretend present and said, It’s a puppy! She responded with, It’s just what you’ve always wanted. It was easy to vary the scene in simple, meaningful ways. For some children, we provided the variations and other children added variations on their own. The emotions associated with this scene were all happy, and it turns out that happy is easy for most our children to pretend. Some like pretending angry and hurt more but happy is easy. We talked about the present being a surprise in some cases. Surprise is also relatively easy for our actors to act out. We pretended in increasingly complex ways and the children seemed to take in all the details and enjoy the added complexity.
Running a Race was more of a challenge for many of our actors but the issue was that the scene required both a winner and a loser and most of our children had no interest in losing. We tried several approaches to make this easier, including giving one person the role of tripping, which does look fun to most our young actors. When it came right down to choosing though, most were willing to forgo tripping and falling in order to win. Hmmm. So we stopped calling it Winning and started calling it Finishing. That allowed more of our actors to try out the role of Tipping. Then we tried running a race in which kids tied. This was good too but it was hard for two children with autism to reach the finish line at the same time intentionally. We did everything in slow motion but even moving slowly, coordinating movement across a room is hard for our young actors. Which makes it a great skill to practice!
More on week three of acting classes soon. Stay Tuned.