Acting class: Liam Neeson

Acting class: Liam Neeson

In my drama class, I use videos to demonstrate how great actors use principles of acting and it almost turns into a master class. While there are many differences between being on the screen and being live on stage, they are great master classes.

I find Rickey Gervais’s webseries Life’s Too Short – like a mine for these master classes on comedy. My middle school children are trying to work on comedy and improvisation. We are beginners at this, and I find that hte hardest to practice is the first and second rule of Improv

  1. Accepting the gift.
  2. Going with the attitude of Yes And!

Quiet often our own personal remarks short ended and end the scene, or worse – lead no where. Liam Neeson is a great example of this.

This whole sketch is full of pregnant pauses. In comedy, a pregnant pause is a technique of comic timing used to accentuate a comedy element. David Letterman (whom I love) has perfected the act of pregnant pause. In this, Ricky Gervais has used it to show discomfort as a character.

Liam shows how even a good improv actor can be dragged down if the basic ideas of improv are not followed.

In class:

  1. Talk to the students about the two rules of improv theatre
  2. Watch the sketch
  3. Discuss the different elements of comedy and identify them
  4. Ask students to identify what elements of improv are being used in the sketch.
  5. How is Liam resisting improvisation.
  6. Discuss what we do to take the story forward or not.

Have a look.

Cheering + When to Stop!

Cheering

We have been having a football match in our school for the past two days, and the students sat today in order to cheer our girl and boy teams. What fun! Some of the preppies – 5 year olds chanted cheer songs in the loudest volume possible, and earned great smiles from their other school mates and some from the visiting schools / rival football teams. (and I wish again I could show videos or pictures). The name of our school is Aditi, and they inserted it everywhere.  Here are some popular cheer poems that they used.

North South East West /

Aditi Is the best/ 

Aditiiiii Aditi

Here is another one.

Lemon Soda Ginger Pop

We Want Aditi On the Top

Aditiiiii Adiiti

They were so enthused by the whole process, they kept it going for a long time. Many repetitions later, when their enthusiasm dipped, they changed to another song.

What was happening in front of me was that the children automatically demoed one of the big questions that assiles teachers of drama / any teacher in class.

The question being: When is it a good time to stop an activity in class? 

This is something that you cannot write in a lesson plan, or time with a watch. Rather it is something, I believe, i have learned from experience. If we for example play a game, a simple tag game let us say, I wonder when it is a good time to say – “All right, moving on …” in class. There were some classes which I lost and let completely fall down on the ground because I overkilled a game, and then kids did not want to play it anymore. It was appalling, because even though the game by itself was perfect, the children had lost all interest for it.

How? By the simple means of over doing it / over playing it. So really, when is it the right time to stop? Agyatmitra of PLAY explained this to me using a visual. Our own learning curve/ plot map graphic. I will try to create it here, though I may not be that successful.

Image Made with Paper (app)

1st-grade-addition-worksheets

Basically Agyat taught me that we need to stop an activity before it reached the peak of excitement. He said that once the children experience that satiation, they may not reach out to play that game again. Made a lot of sense for me. Now this combined with observation in class can make any teacher notice those moments just before a peak and save the best for future and stop the game. It has helped me plenty too.

Here is some more advice to me from friends who have been in the world of play and theatre.

  1. Helps to share the name of the game. Children can always refer to it easily in later classes when they want to play the game.
  2. Gather around before any new game or activity – helps all children the opportunity of hearing the instructions together.
  3. After instructions, check if you have understood or not understood the instruction (may be show and thumbs up for understood, and a thumbs down for not understood) If a child has not understood, give the instruction again, better still, get a student to explain. May be you are not being clear.
  4. Play the game/ move the activity
  5. See for fairness in class and not favoritism.
  6. Bring the game / activity to an end before it touches the peak.
  7. In younger classes, a good transition from one game / activity to another is by means of clapping. It announces the completion of something. Cheer for having completed.
  8. Move on!

Exit Stage!

What is a Green Room?

Many times we sit in a green room and wonder what really gave it it’s name. I personally did not know this myself. Was reading Brewer’s Theatre Phrase dictionary today and came across this piece of information.

Green Room: A backstage room in a theatre set aside for use by the cast and stage crew. The term was introduced in the late 17th century. Large theatres had several such rooms for relaxation, conversation and the reception of visitors before and after a performance. Such areas were traditionally painted green, thought it is also possible that the phrase was a corruption of the name ‘scene’ (scenery)

Ranga Shankara's green room - image from the Internet
Ranga Shankara’s green room – image from the Internet

In our own practice of theatre, actors and make up artists, costume people meet in the “green room” before and during the play to get ready and get their make up done. Green room is a term that has become associated with all the back stage activity such as the group huddle before the play and a meeting place for the players and the crew.

Bangalore Theatre Trivia: The great make up artist from Bangalore, a pioneer in many areas of theatre in Bangalore, B N Nani spend a lot of his time in the theatre with artists and directors on and back stage. His house is called Green Room. #Bangaloretheatretrivia