For my capstone I decided to do a series of blog post. These blog posts represent big themes I see throughout a freshman drama class. As I am student teaching and interacting with these students I write about big themes that I see happening and how these tools can be used outside the classroom. I decided to do this for my benchmark because drama has affected my life in a tremendous way and I know that a lot of budget cuts across the nation has lead to cuts in art programs such as drama. By blogging about what I see and the incredible growth I see in my students as a person and as a performer I hope to make people think twice about art programs and there significance to a student’s learning.
I remember the very first drama class green stream had. Their first task was to imagine that they were eating an orange. Seems easy enough, right? But there’s more to it than that. You have to imagine the shape, how it feels to dig your nail in to it’s skin and start to peel it and even how you eat it. A lot of thought goes into this. A lot of imagination goes into this.I remember Mr. Kay saying to his class that we as a society have labeled imagination as a bad thing after a certain point. After a certain period in a child’s life making up new worlds and imagine things seem immature. But we tend to forget that everything that’s around us was once imagined. From the house you live in to plane in the sky before it was created it was imagined.
As I am writing this I’m thinking about what imagination is. I can’t really define it though. When I looked it up on oxford dictionary “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses”. I agree with most of this definition. Except when it says that the new ideas, images and concepts are not present to the senses. Because every time I see my kids come up with new scenes and act them out on stage I can see what they’ve been imagining. See the detail that goes into it. I can see their creation.
I’m a pretty timid person. Over time though being up on stage has allowed my voice to flourish. I’ve noticed kids are pretty loud in drama class because of its looser format. Until they get on stage that is. Some people become quieter and some people use the same voice they would use to talk to one person.
As we know in our society our voice is extremely important. If you don’t speak your mind when you should people will ignore you. And that goes for acting as well. If my eyes start to wonder away from an actor’s performance that means that they’re not doing a good job of keeping my attention. We want people to notice us, to listen and grasp what we are saying. And that’s where drama comes in. We show kids how to project there voice and add purposeful movements to it so they can be noticed on stage.For the first half of the semester the kids weren’t even allowed to use their voices. They had to learned how to engage their audience with purposeful movements. Once they were able to master the skills needed to keep their audience engage they were allowed to use their voices. At first it was hard for them to put everything together. But eventually they learned the art of storytelling. Which will help them throughout all their classes and make what they say more meaningful. Because sometimes we take our voices for granted; letting anything come out our mouths or we lock our voices up assuming what we say will not be important enough. I’ve seen the transformations with my own eyes. Someone who walks through those drama room doors and is super timid and has major stage fright hears the supportive claps of their peers and applies the knowledge that they’ve learned end up more outgoing. And I’m not saying that it’s a drastic change but it’s still great to see them come out of their shells.
Overcoming Stage Fright
This year I’ve learned that stage fright comes in all shapes and sizes. I thought that people who usually have stage fright are people who are timid. But this year I met a guy who is extremely outgoing and has a huge personality but has major stage fright. I wasn’t expecting him to say that he had stage fright when he first got up on stage and it was a huge shock to me. I was wondering how someone who has such a presence off the stage could be so scared to be on the stage. Then I realized that being on stage is a whole different ball game. Having people fixated on what your doing or saying can be nerve racking for anyone. Luckily though in this drama class we give constant encouragement. Mr. Kay makes a point of it to clap for whoever comes of stage and whenever they leave the stage. At the end of all performances students are asked if they want to give shout-outs to any of their peers. These techniques help give students confidence and praise. Once you realize that most people are rooting for you rather than judging you it easier to let stage fright fade away. So hopefully the skills we teach and the encouragement we give will kids concur stage fright on and off the stage.
SLA is not your average high school. We don’t have AP classes because every class we have is already at an AP level. We have what is called “Benchmark Season” which is when every student is working on 4 benchmarks for there 4 four major classes. These projects are usually worth at least 20% of your grade and need to show what you’ve learned over the course of the quarter. Needless to say it can get pretty stressful around here. So when kids come to drama they leave their stressors at the door. We play various improv games and let them make up their own scenes with few requirements attached to them. Because in the end we know that this is the place for them to have fun, relax a little but still learn a lot. When talking to my students about what they’ve learned throughout the year and how it has affected them I sensed a feeling of relief from them. A feeling of relief that at least they have these classes like drama, art and music that aren’t about straight up learning facts and figures but teach you just as much anyway. Because the truth is what we learn in our Math, Science, History and English classes is great and interesting and it’s great to show what we’ve learned but it’s also great to take a step back and just learn great skill as well. Sometimes in the mist of it all we forget to laugh, to have fun. And here at SLA we do a great job of balancing the two.