• Shannon Stoddard

Utilizing Creative Drama

Last Fall I took a class called "Theory of Creative Drama" at NYU... I wasn't really sure what it was going to entail... but I never would have imagined that it would shape the way I taught theatre so much. Coming back to Fort Smith over the last 2 months I have taught several Acting classes to students ranging in ages from 5 to 12 years old.

The biggest class I've had is at a local Elementary school where I have about 25 students in grades 3-6 who get to participate each week for FREE. It's been an interesting blending of students -- many of whom had NEVER done theatre before. My ultimate goal with this class was to connect my school's big musical of Beauty and the Beast to this class. We learned the number "Be Our Guest" and the goal was to create scenes based on these enchanted objects in the castle. We started by playing some simple theatre games to work on improvisation and storytelling -- students would create short scenes based on stories and/or images. Each week I wasn't quite sure if what I was teaching was truly clicking with these students; but I was hoping for the best.

As of today we had 4 classes left until our showcase -- as in TODAY was the day to begin these scenes that I wanted them to create based on the enchanted objects. I took 5 Team Leaders based on some of the best behaved students in the class and asked them to take turns picking their ensemble. It was THEIR idea to let the last person picked in each group be able to pick the next ensemble member -- FINALLY this idea of ENSEMBLE was clicking!

Next, the 5 groups divided up and I started by letting them choose TWO scenarios from my scenario cards and pick their favorite. Next I let them choose TWO starting line cards and pick their favorite of those. Now, each group had a scenario and a starting line. I asked them to talk among their group to discuss their characters and the setting where the scene would take place. I told them that EACH person had to be involved in the scene in SOME way.

Then we put things on our feet and played with some Improvisation. Taking turns they would improvise as their characters two at a time with people in their group in a game called Acting Cube. There was no rules except they must interact as their characters. We played this for about 5 minutes with each group only focusing on their own group -- low focus so hopefully they would play more. I'm honestly not sure how this game went for each group; but they said that it helped them think more about their characters.

After that we re-gathered and I handed each actor a piece of paper. Students were given 5 minutes to brainstorm about their character -- their name, their role in the castle, character traits, etc -- and many even drew pictures of their characters! Then it was time for our team leaders to take turns and present a short 30 second promo about what their scene was going to be about. I think this was the most fun -- for each group to hear what the others were doing! It was apparent that the groups were excited and proud of the work which they had done thus far!

Next week we'll begin working on developing scripts for each of these scenes and really putting them on their feet. We'll utilize our storytelling, playwrighting and improvisational skills -- and I can't wait! I think these students are going to end up with something that they are really proud of! And it was interesting that today was the day that we didn't deal with any "drama" within the class -- everyone was working extremely well together and not just forming cliques!

I end today super proud of this class and SUPER excited to begin another round of my Homeschool classes tomorrow AND a BRAND NEW 5-7 year old Theatre class I am starting at the Community School of the Arts! These 5-7 year old groups will be using Creative Drama to tell the story of Where the Wild Things Are and the 8-12 year old group will be working further on their improvisational skills! The next 2 months are going to be VERY exciting and I can't wait!

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