Category Archives: drama education

Strategic Ways to Accelerate Learning: Growth Mindset through the Arts

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Strategic Ways to Accelerate Learning:  Growth Mindset through the Arts

https://www.edutopia.org/practice/embracing-failure-building-growth-mindset-through-arts

I just love the arts, don’t you?  Did you know they teach growth mind set?   In case you don’t know what growth mindset is:

People believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work-brains and talent are just the starting point.

Amen and amen.

Here’s an article from Edutopia.com about ways to accelerate learning and growth mindset through the arts.  It’s worth a read.

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At New Mexico School for the Arts (NMSA) — a dual arts and academic curriculum — failure is taught as an important part of the journey toward success. Understanding that mistakes are indicators for areas of growth, freshmen learn to give and receive feedback. By senior year, students welcome tough, critical feedback — and even insist on it.

When Natesa, a senior at NMSA, arrived as a freshman, she had a hard time pushing herself in the areas that were difficult for her to master: choreography and getting into character.

“Now, I feel like I can channel my inner self and my inner fierceness when I need it, and even my inner beauty,” reflects Natesa. “I became more willing to take risks, and I think that taking risks is a big part of who you want to become, and who you’re choosing to be.”

Students audition to get into an NMSA program specific to their craft — dance, theater, music, or visual arts. Each day, they have their academic classes from 9AM to 2PM, and after lunch, they have their art classes until 4:45PM.

“Students have to take risks,” says Cristina Gonzalez, the former chair of NMSA’s visual arts department. “That’s something that is so unique to learning in the arts. Great art comes from risk taking, from being willing to fail. Maybe it will work. Maybe I’ll discover something about myself, something about my capacity that I wasn’t even aware of, and that’s so exciting for a student.”

If you want to help your students develop a growth mindset — the belief that they can improve their abilities through effort — helping them become more comfortable with risk-taking and modeling critical feedback through critique journals are two of NMSA’s strategies that you can adapt to your own practice.

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Teach Your Students That It’s OK to Make Mistakes

Making mistakes, not knowing the answer — this is part of the artistic process. “You’re going to make bad paintings,” says Gonzalez. “You’re going to make bad photographs. You’re going to fumble your way through it, and in fact, that’s how you learn. You need to make those mistakes.”

The idea that you learn from your mistakes is embedded into their entire arts curriculum. Teacher, expert, and peer critiques are innate to the arts process. Immediate feedback is part of the norm. You might pause your piano student in mid-rehearsal to say, “When you get here, make sure you get a really clean pedal on the B flat, but that was great. That’s the kind of energy you want.”

In dance class, you might tell your students how they need to rotate their legs differently when taking their demi-plié in first position.

When ninth-grade theater students rehearse their Working in Silence scenes, they perform in front of their peers and faculty, receive feedback from their teachers, and then re-perform the scene to immediately incorporate their feedback.

“Getting to do the scenes a couple different times really helps because then we get to take the feedback and we get to apply it, and that is the whole learning process,” says Kara, a ninth-grade theater student. “If you fail, then you can do it again, and you could make big leaps and bounds and learn from that.”

You can connect risk taking — and helping your students build comfort around it — to their interests outside of school. Gonzalez has students in her class who enjoy skateboarding. She draws connections to risk taking by referencing their experience with trying a new trick. “

A skateboarder knows what it feels like to try a new trick, how scary it is that they actually might fall,” she says. “They could get hurt, and all their buddies are watching. We ask them to do that every day in the art studio.”

With any art form, students can fall into a pattern of doing what they’re comfortable with or what they’re good at doing without risking something new because they don’t want to make a mistake. “It’s our job as teachers to go, ‘Do that new new trick. Go to the precipice,'” explains Gonzalez.

By encouraging your students, you’re helping them to explore their craft and expand their ability — whether they execute a new technique right out of the gate or over time with feedback and practice. Either way, they see that taking risks pays off.

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“Failure isn’t the end of the road,” explains Cindy Montoya, NMSA’s principal. “You learn from failure. It gives you more information on how to do something better. It’s fodder for success. It’s a cycle of either learning about yourself, the content, or your art form.”

Teach Your Students to Appreciate Feedback

Once your students go through the process of applying constructive feedback to improve their work — and once they create something beautiful as a result — they’ll see its value. They’ll learn to appreciate and even want feedback. “Being able to accept critique and not feel hurt by it is an important skill for us to learn,” says Serena, a 10th-grade student. “We’re taking those critiques and learning how to put them to use.”

Creating something, receiving feedback, and revising their work is a natural part of the artistic process that your students can apply toward their academic classes. “The strengths and skills that these artists come to us with are hard work and a willingness to keep trying,” says Geron Spray, an English and history teacher. “They have perseverance, they take constructive criticism well, and they build on it.”

It’s not uncommon to hear students say, “I’m not good at math,” or “I’m bad at writing essays.” An arts education helps students to see that they can improve at their craft with effort. They can become better at math.

They can become better at writing essays. “They start to see that connection between struggling through the practice, getting feedback, going in for help, and the outcome,” says Eric Crites, NMSA’s assistant principal.

“It’s just so great to watch a student go through that process of struggle, have a teacher believe in them, and then at the end, they have a result that they can be proud of,” adds Gonzalez.

Give your students journals to write down the feedback they receive from you. It’s a way for them to store immediate feedback from each day to review and apply later, and it also allows you to model giving constructive criticism. When providing feedback to your students, share both their successes and areas for improvement, and be specific.

“Feedback is fundamental to growing oneself as an artist,” says Adam McKinney, the chair of NMSA’s dance department. “I try to model what it means to provide critical feedback to my dancers.” One way that the dance department models critical feedback is through dance journals.

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Throughout class, students write their teacher’s feedback in their dance journal. For example, says McKinney, a student might write, “‘When I’m taking my demi-plié in first position, rotate from the top of my legs so that my knees are going over my first and second toes.’

For me, that next level of cognition — to understand the feedback, realize the importance of the feedback, and then to incorporate that into their bodies — is essential as young artists.”

By giving constructive criticism to their peers, your students will learn to better appreciate receiving feedback and they’ll improve their skills to self-assess their own work. “Having young artists provide critical feedback to each other provides a deeper understanding and another layer of what it means to get better as an artist,” says McKinney. “That critical feedback is essential to improving one’s art.”

NMSA develops students’ abilities to assess their own and others’ work through showing them examples of mastery, equipping them with technical vocabulary, and providing them with opportunities to practice peer critique through fishbowl discussions, Visual Thinking Strategies, and Post-it note critiques (See Mastering Self-Assessment: Independent Learning Through the Arts).

“Our students have learned that they can receive feedback — even negative feedback,” says Crites, “make a correction, and then come up with something amazing.”

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“We develop this idea of self-reflection very early in the department,” adds McKinney. “Why are you a dancer? Why is that important to the world? I know that the power of art saves lives. I have several young people in the department — and who have graduated — who communicate that art has saved their lives, and it certainly saved my own.”

The arts saved my life, theatre specifically.  For a post describing how it did so, go to:

https://dramamommaspeaks.com/2017/01/17/how-theatre-saved-m%ef%bb%bfy-life/comment-page-1/

The Majority of Drama Teachers do this and You Should Too!

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Music Rehearsal for Willy Wonka, Jr. Apex Home School Enrichment Program  2014

Note:  Recently, I wrote several pieces concerning reading and literacy for Litpick.com.  This is a re-publish of the latest article. 

I’m not a Wizard, but I can do Magic and so Can You!

Teaching has its up and downs, but one of the most rewarding experiences of teaching is seeing a student’s eyes light up once some learning connects with them. I like to teach “magically” if I can. I bet a lot of teachers do, too!

I don’t wear a wizard’s robe and pull out a magic wand —I have no idea how that is done. I mean when a student learns something when they don’t think they are doing anything, but having fun. Teaching and learning become effortless and almost enchanting!

I use many drama games and exercises in my classroom. I’m especially fond of Viola Spolin’s book Improvisation in the Classroom. But that’s not today’s subject…. (my right brained-ness kicked in there for a moment). Sorry.

I find that when I am teaching a concept that a student is focused upon and I am using a particular activity to demonstrate the concept, the learning becomes “like butter”—smooth, enriching and tasty. (Okay, I do have a fondness for butter I will admit, but you get the point.)

Drama Class and Reading

Reading skills can be strengthened through drama. No joke! Sometimes students don’t realize when they enroll in my classes that we will read aloud in class—that’s a given. And we read A LOT. Of course we read the occasional theatre textbook chapter, but mostly we read plays. I mean, obviously we read plays, right? Also, we perform the readings, so the words become memorized easily.

Families can do this at home, too! The benefits of reading plays aloud are varied, but suffice to say that if a group gets together and reads a play, a child’s reading skills will be honed.

Dialogue

Oh my gosh, play dialogue is so fun to read aloud! It’s far better to read a play aloud than to read it silently. That’s because it was created to be spoken. A playwright depends upon his characters’ dialogue to tell a story. That’s the whole point. Playwrights work for months, maybe years, to find and create just the right meaning in a sentence.

Presently, I am preparing to direct a summer youth theatre camp production of Tams Witmark’s Music Library version of The Wizard of Oz musical. Here is a tidbit of dialogue from the production:

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WICKED WITCH:

They’re gone! The ruby slippers! What have you done with them?

Give them back to me, or I’ll—

GLINDA:

It’s too late! There they are, and there they’ll stay!

Awesome, don’t you think? The dialogue is precise, rhythmical and exciting. A playwright’s goal is to express a particular message, right? She wants the audience to continue listening to her play. Her dialogue must be excellent. There can be no excess words, very few challenging words or word pronunciations that an audience member must struggle to understand.   Since theatre is live, it is essential that the play is engaging right from the first word. When one is not enjoying a book that she is reading, she can put the book down. But at a play? The confused person might just walk out of the performance. Eeek!

Form

Young readers love to read scripts aloud once they understand the form. It’s a little daunting, you must admit. There are no markers—no “he said” or “she yelled” In particular moments, emotions are written in for the actor to use. Generally, a playwright leaves it up to the director and actors to convey the required emotion. That’s more interesting for everyone involved. It allows the director to create her own concept of the play—sort of like painting a picture using her own thoughts about the story. That’s more interesting for everyone involved.

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Usually, I read aloud the stage directions so that the students can create the atmosphere or plot in their minds. The plot of a play must be very clear to understand although surprises are always welcome. That’s what makes for excellent theatre, I think.

Once when my class of middle school students read aloud the “Tom Sawyer” play, I purposely stopped us at an exciting moment—scary Injun Joe hid behind a tree and overheard Tom and Huck discussing the big bag of money they found. Many of the students were reluctant readers. I heard groans of “Oh man, Mrs. B. can’t we continue reading?” But instead, I handed out paper and pencils and asked them to draw what they thought would occur next. I’m a tricky teacher….

Research

In researching this article, I came upon a tremendous website–Readingrockets.org. who says it much better than I can.

  1. Listening to others read develops an appreciation for how a story is written and familiarity with book conventions, such as “once upon a time” and “happily ever after”.

  2. Reading aloud demonstrates the relationship between the printed word and meaning – children understand that print tells a story or conveys information – and invites the listener into a conversation with the author.

  3. Listening to others read develops key understanding and skills. Reading aloud demonstrates the relationship between the printed word and meaning – children understand that print tells a story or conveys information – and invites the listener into a conversation with the author (Bredekamp, Copple, & Neuman, 2000).

  4. Reading aloud makes complex ideas more accessible and exposes children to vocabulary and language patterns that are not part of everyday speech. It exposes less able readers to the same rich and engaging books that fluent readers read on their own, and entices them to become better readers. (Fountas & Pinnell, 1996).

Libraries

How does a family select the right play to read together? I’d suggest checking out a public library. They have a fountain of plays to read including many versions of classics such as Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan, Charlotte’s Web or Huckleberry Finn. If reading an entire play script seems overwhelming, look into reader’s theatre scripts. They are short, concise, edited well and give the “nugget” of the story. They are a great stepping off point for young readers to pique their interest, giving them a feeling of success before they tackle the complete novel.

Reading Experts

Children’s literature consultant Susie Freeman states, “If you’re searching for a way to get your children reading aloud with comprehension, expression, fluency, and joy, reader’s theater is a miracle. Hand out a photocopied play script, assign a part to each child, and have them simply read the script aloud and act it out. That’s it. And then magic happens.”

Aaron Shephard

One of my favorite authors of reader’s theatre scripts is Aaron Shephard. Check him out at http://www.aaronshep.com/rt/. He has adapted a treasure trove of stories, many multicultural, including original ones of his own. I have used a host of his scripts including Legend of Lightning Larry with an ESL drama club, The Legend of Slappy Hooper with a creative dramatics class, and the beloved Casey at the Bat with an introduction to theatre class plus various other scripts.

So, the next time on a really hot summer day your family is stuck indoors and has exhausted every other avenue of entertainment or learning, pick up a play script! I promise you a magical and great time of reading.

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

To purchase a copy of my book, Bumbling Bea go to Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Bumbling-Bea-Deborah-Baldwin/dp/1500390356

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deborah is a newly retired drama teacher through the Apex Home Enrichment Program in the St. Vrain Valley School District.  She has taught all subjects of drama and directed over 250 youth theatre plays for nearly thirty-eight years.  This summer, she’ll direct Aladdin, Kids and The Wizard of Oz. She and her husband recently moved to Kansas to be near their family.   Her award winning middle grade book, Bumbling Bea can be purchased through Amazon.com.  Check out her blog at:  Dramamommaspeaks.wordpress.com or her website at: BumblingBea.com

 

Top Seven Reasons Drama Education is Important to Your Child’s Life, Part 1

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Top Seven Reasons Drama Education is Important to Your Child’s Life, Part 1

This is a re-publish of an article I wrote for Litpick.com.  I hope it’s useful to you.

03ep-stndaln-wonka-fun-xl1Willy Wonka, Jr.  Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies August 2012

When the Litpick staff and I discussed writing several articles concerning drama education, I was stymied.  I have been a drama teacher and director since 1979.

Personally, theatre and the creativity that stems from it is very second nature to me. I forget that other people may not be aware of its strengths in the same manner.

Today’s the day for bolstering creativity in your child!

In a typical school day I taught theatre classes to approximately 100 students, ages eight to eighteen.  Whew!  This included classes in creative dramatics, introduction to musical theatre, film making, technical theatre and a production based musical theatre class. Most of what I taught, I created myself for the students.

Since I worked for an enrichment program for home school students, I taught a different group of students each day.  Double whew! In another words, creating curriculum plus teaching plus directing productions for nearly forty years equals expert first-hand knowledge.  Oh, I forgot that!

 Your Creative Child

At the beginning of the school year, it was not uncommon for parents to stop me in the hallway and express delight that their child will be taking a drama class with me.  Many parents say, “My daughter is very imaginative and expressive.  She plays dress up all day if I let her, but other than dress up, I don’t know what to do with her imagination next.”

I think I know what the parent is trying to express to me.  They need some assurance that A. this is a normal part of the child’s development; B. it should not be squelched but promoted and C. there are many strengths to being a creative human being.  I smile and encourage the parent to allow the child to continue imagining. I take it from there and the magic begins.

I will admit I am very partial to theatre arts.  Honestly, theatre saved my life when I was about ten years old, but that’s another story for some other time.  All arts classes will nurture your child’s creativity and every art form brings different gifts to the table.  Here are my top seven reasons for drama classes in your child’s life.img_0463

 

Stage Make up Assignment in Technical Theatre Class  May 2016

Drama Classes:

Strengthen literacy—We know that through reading, our reading becomes more fluid and comprehensive. Not everyone recognizes that in a drama class we READ a lot–plays, scenes, poems and stories to dramatize.  Of course, when we rehearse a piece we read the words over and over again—aha! Then we MEMORIZE them.

We practice a character’s lines using vocal inflection and variety.  Suddenly, the words come to life for the reader. Voila! We sneak in reading skills without any of us being aware of it.  It is that easy, but reading must be continued in order to have consistent success.

Build self-esteem and self-confidence—If a child has an opportunity to share his ideas through drama, he is immediately accepted. We applaud for the student and his attempt.  We encourage positive comments towards the student’s effort.  Over time, the child begins to see his worth within the classroom, within the school and consequently in the world as well. Self-actualization is realized. It is a known fact that many at-risk students attend school only because they can take an arts class.  That’s pretty powerful.

Build a team spirit—I compare a cast in a play to a football team. The only difference is that no one sits on the bench—everyone plays.  Everyone’s actions count to make the goal, the performance.  If a student knows that he is expected to help other members of the cast and crew, he takes on the responsibility.

This level of responsibility carries over into social situations, because by becoming a part of a team, a student can see himself as part of the whole instead of merely one piece. A P.E. teacher once remarked to me that she could tell which of my drama students took her classes.  When playing games, they were the ones who quickly pulled a group together, used their individual strengths and left out no one. How nice!

Aristocrats kids

Encourage tolerance—Through a scene or play, when one experiences first-hand what is like to be the down trodden character, the misunderstood, the shunned, the innocent accused, one’s framework of understanding broadens.

For example, when we dramatize the story of Anne Frank or Helen Keller, we begin to see life differently and the value of everyone.  Life’s issues become greyer in color to us and thereby we appreciate the many perspectives in a particular situation. This is a remarkable attribute.

Provide a safe place to express one’s emotions—Society’s pressures have encouraged us to keep our emotions to ourselves, especially negative ones. I was one of those people.  In turn, some people are the opposite and show only negative emotions because they feel less vulnerable in so doing.

By creating a character and expressing the character’s emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, pride, curiosity, anger, joy, jealousy, etc. these feelings become an accepted part of one’s psyche. One’s acceptance of all one’s emotions, strengths and weaknesses is vital to our growth, no matter the age.

Lastly, there will come a day when your child will thank you for introducing theatre arts to them.  I have never known a student who didn’t flourish from taking a drama class or participating in a production.  There is something very special about the stage and I hope you’ll give it an opportunity to show you.

Contact me at dhcbalwin@gmail.com or check out my website at DeborahBaldwin.net

I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Energize Your Classroom with Laughter

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Energize Your Classroom with Laughter

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/laughter-learning-teens-tough-crowd-matt-bellace

I was perusing various articles on the web and ran on to this one.

Oh my gosh!  This is me all over.  I use humor everyday to reach and engage my students.  If everyone is laughing, they are relaxed and receptive to the material I am teaching.  Plus, it’s so doggone fun!

Read on….

Laughter, Learning, and Why Teens Are Such a Tough Crowd

Laughter, risk, and novelty stimulate the teenage brain. Make these elements work for you by incorporating the strategies and rhythms of stand-up comedy into your teaching.

The teen brain is like a novelty-seeking missile, disengaged one moment, but capable of intense focus and attention when a task becomes rewarding. I believe it was the late Rodney Dangerfield who said, “The audience is like a dog and jokes are like biscuits.” In over 20 years of speaking and performing stand-up comedy for students, I’ve learned that using humor, interactive demonstrations, and even awkward moments are the biscuits that help students sit up and want more.

In the limbic system of the brain, the most important structure for memory (hippocampus) is located near and connected to a structure that helps produce emotions (amygdala). This anatomical relationship ensures that emotionally charged experiences will be remembered better than neutral events. This is the neurological basis for bringing more emotions (hopefully positive ones) to the classroom. In today’s world of decreased attention spans and distracting smartphones, students need all the help they can get to increase retention of the important information you’re teaching them.

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Engaging Teens With Humor

Here are some strategies for bringing humor, novelty, and engagement to classroom activities.

1. A Laugh A Day: You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to bring one more laugh per day to your classroom. The key is starting with something that you think is funny, but that’s still relevant to the lesson. It could be a quick one-line joke, a bad pun, a funny video from YouTube, or a short story. If it bombs, poke fun at yourself for the attempt and try something else the next time. The best part is that it will spur your brain to look for humor in everyday life, and you’ll start feeling more creative.

2. Use Improv to Spin Classroom Disruptions: Have you ever been in the middle of making an important point and then there’s a loud noise and you’ve lost half the class? It’s frustrating. Well, you can’t stop the disruptions, but you can use improvisational comedy skills to get a laugh out of them. I love it when some weird noise or bell goes off during my program because it’s a real moment that we’ve all just experienced. Comedy comes from relatable events. The next time this happens, try working a comment about the noise into your point and see if you get a laugh. Express your pain over the interruption, and the audience will relate. Over time, you’ll train your mind (and the kids’ minds) to be more in the moment, and the endorphins produced by a good laugh will make getting back on track feel less like work.

3. Bring Students Up: Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, showed in a series of studies that teenagers take more risks when they’re in the presence of their peers. When their brains were imaged during the risk-taking activities, they showed an increase in blood flow in the pleasure center, a collection of neurons that activates during rewarding activities. In his book Age of Opportunity, Steinberg writes that teens take risks because that’s how they learn.

You have a unique opportunity in the classroom. If you use interactive demonstrations that allow students to briefly take over the class, you can leverage this built-in risk-taking mechanism designed to foster learning. These interactives don’t have to be funny, but by nature they will create awkward moments, which can be hilarious.

In my assemblies, the goal is to never embarrass the students who volunteer, but rather to amplify what they’re saying or doing. That technique of reflective listening, with some embellishment, can produce laughter. In many cases, I’ll run into students years after they’ve seen my program. They’ve long forgotten my name and face, but once I describe the interactive part of my presentation to them, suddenly it all comes back. It really makes my day when they immediately recite the point I was trying to make. That is emotional learning at work!

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4. Take a Comedy Workshop: I love watching and performing stand-up comedy, but using it in front of teenagers is the highest level of difficulty for getting laughs. If they sense that a joke is coming, you’re finished. In addition, their age limits their life experience, so not even the best mortgage joke will work on them. In my experience, teenagers respond well to brief anecdotes with jokes that they don’t see coming embedded in the story. It also helps when the story is about things they can relate to, like attachment issues (e.g. parents, sibling rivalries) or pop culture. If you’re interested, I highly recommend taking a comedy workshop (improv or stand-up) at a local comedy club. There are even courses online, but nothing beats performing for actual humans. Interacting with an audience will build your confidence for delivering a joke, and it can be a healthy outlet for you.

It’s Worth the Risk

If you choose to bring comedy into your classroom, you risk being vulnerable in front of your class. I believe it’s a risk worth taking, because the payoff will last long after the laughs are gone. Break a leg!

Matt Bellace, PhD

Speaker, Psychologist and Comedian

Teachers: How to Jump Start Your School Year

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Teachers: How to Jump Start Your School Year

The school year is about to begin. Yikes! 

 I remember that feeling.

 Nerves, anxiety, excitement, worry, hope. 

As a drama teacher, it was not unusual for me to spice up the beginning of the year to assure my classes got off to a good start. 

Radio Theatre in the Classroom was one of my favorite units to teach. 

After thirty-eight years, I have it perfected and available to you to purchase. It is suitable for grades six through ninth. 

Over thirty pages of lessons, exercises, projects, warm ups, history and a FREE full length radio play suitable for your classroom or group. Check it out at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Radio-Theatre-in-the-Classroom-Tune-In-and-Turn-On-3319922

$8.00 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Radio-Theatre-in-the-Classroom-Tune-In-and-Turn-On-3319922

Kamishibai Storytelling Unit– Engaging and Unique for Your Students

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Are you looking for an oral communication unit for your students? Check out my Kamishibai Storytelling unit on teacherspayteachers.com

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kamishibai-Storytelling-The-Paper-Drama-326037

What are Super Hero Postcard Stories? 

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What are Super Hero Postcard Stories? 

Another lesson plan is up! 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Storytelling-Super-Hero-Post-Card-Stories-3238578

The Reason to Value the Broadway Wig Maker

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http://www.npr.org/2014/06/08/319778329/while-broadway-sings-its-praise-the-wigmaker-remains-unsung

The Undervalued Wig MakEr

There are some people who work backstage and behind the scenes of a play who are never acknowledged. One is the wig maker. I ran onto this article in NPR’s Kansas website and thought you’d find it interesting, too!

While Broadway Sings Its Praise, The Wigmaker Remains Unsung

Every time you see a Broadway show, chances are a lot of the actors are wearing wigs.
Sunday night at the 68th Annual Tony Awards, Broadway’s highest honors will be presented in a ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. Awards will go to actors, actresses, set and lighting designers, but not the people who make the wigs the stars wear, even though the wigs are an essential part of theater craft.

Essential, and yet often invisible, says Jason P. Hayes, the wig designer for Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-nominated play, Casa Valentina.

Jason Hayes spent almost a week weaving thousands of strands of human hair into this 1960s hairdo for Reed Birney’s character, Charlotte, in Casa Valentina. The wig’s name is, appropriately, “Charlotta.”

“The problem with being a good wig designer is that if you do your job properly, no one knows that any of your work is on the stage,” Hayes says.

“I don’t think people realize that half of the people they’re looking at are wearing a wig,” Hayes says. “And that’s where a lot of that labor and that love and that work goes unnoticed, because if you do it properly, no one knows … that you were ever in the building!”

Wigs play a central role in Casa Valentina. The drama is based on a real Catskills resort in the 1960s that catered to heterosexual cross-dressers. So Hayes had to create wigs that weren’t for drag queens, but for transvestites.

“It’s knowing that difference that’s very important and integral to getting the looks and the characters right for Casa Valentina,” he says.

“It’s understanding they’re not drag queens. The whole point of their feminine persona is that you should never notice them.”

For the character of Charlotte, Hayes created a realistic 1960s hairdo, painstakingly crafted on a base created from a mold of the actor’s head.

“It’s a very fine mesh lace, so imagine a cross between what looks like window screening, but is as fine as panty hose,” he explains. “For lack of a better word, you take one strand of hair and you hand-knot that, on that mesh. So, it’s almost like you’re doing latch hook.”

It took Hayes almost a week to weave the thousands of strands of human hair into just this one wig. Actor Reed Birney, who’s nominated for a Tony as Charlotte, says that kind of attention to detail helps him as an actor.

“It really is a crucial aspect of the performance, this wig, especially for me,” Birney says. “Your self-image suddenly changes. I can’t see myself, but I see myself in the mirror and I know I’ve got this honey-colored hair and a big swoop and it really does affect the way you move through space.”

Tony-nominated actress Sarah Greene says the wig she wears in The Cripple of Inishmaan completes her character, a volatile teenager on a remote Irish island in the 1930s. Yet initially the brunette actress resisted.

“When they came with the red wig, I was like ‘Oh no! I want my own hair,’ ” Greene says. “And yet, the minute I put it on, it was just like, ‘Oh no — the bold Helen is here.'”

If an actor is playing multiple characters, a wig can be crucial in helping to define them.

In the Tony-nominated musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, actor Jefferson Mays, who’s also a Tony-nominee, plays eight roles.

For the gender-bending musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, wigmaker Mike Potter made eight wigs and used magnets so actor Neil Patrick Harris can change quickly on stage. Click here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIaFn5lsLd8

The styling of the wigs is important, but so is the stuff they’re made of, says Charles LaPointe, who made the hairpieces for the musical. LaPointe, who’s got an impressive Broadway resume, has a studio with 23 employees.

“We build everything [with] human hair,” LaPointe says. And where does he get the hair?
“Well, we have distributors all over the place,” he says. “We get some from London, that’s like fine Caucasian hair; and then we get Indian hair from Bali; and we get Asian hair from the dime store around the corner.”

Perhaps the most outrageous wigs on Broadway right now sit atop Tony-nominee Neil Patrick Harris’ head in the gender-bending musical, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Mike Potter has designed all eight of Hedwig’s hairpieces — which evoke the likes of Farrah Fawcett and Tina Turner — in pink. For this show, Potter had to come up with a way for Neil Patrick Harris to change his wigs on the fly. So, he used magnets.

“They’re sown on these hat bases, called buckrams, and Neil has to do all of his own quick changes on stage,” Potter says. “And there are magnets built into his main wig, and so when he’s in the dark behind the car, he just pops it on and it’s like, instantly on his head.”

The actor will be showing off those expensively shaped locks on the Tony Awards broadcast Sunday evening. Harris wouldn’t be Hedwig without wigs, Potter says.

“They’re really a huge integral part of the character,” he says. “I mean, ‘wig’ is in her name!”

The Hidden Meaning Behind “There are No Small Parts only Small Actors”

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The Hidden Meaning Behind “There are No Small Parts only Small Actors”

Broadway

The Tony Awards show is Sunday, June 11!  I’ve been listening to the Sirius Broadway station all week (honestly, I do most days anyway) and it’s wonderful to hear the performers’ interviews and all the nominated show music.

The Tony Awards are the Oscar Awards for Broadway–except they are more classy, in my humble opinion.

Theatre is different.

It is special, because it is live.

What’s the hidden meaning behind, “There are no small parts, only small actors.”?

I got to thinking about the performers who are playing smaller parts in the nominated productions.  If you ever see them on television in a short quip on a syndicated news or talk show, you’ll observe those supporting characters and chorus members are just as invested in the production as the leading actors.

That’s impressive.  I bet the nominated actors and actresses began as chorus members and under studies many years ago.  They put in their time and earned their stripes to receive the spotlight.

Just because you are cast in a small part does not mean you are not important to the show. If you think so, you have missed the point entirely.

You are still important to the show.  Believe me.

However, if you can’t get past the fact that you are certain you could portray the role you didn’t receive just as well or better than the person cast, it might be best for you to focus on something else in your life.

 Get over yourself, you know?

Brighton Beach (2)

I was Blanche in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” 1989

If you aren’t cast in the role you wanted, it is not a big enough reason not to be involved in a production.  Maybe you are to learn or gain something else from the experience? Life is a journey, you know.

For several days after I cast a production, some times I deal with hurt egos of cast members or those who auditioned for me and didn’t receive the role they desired.

I know I’ve previously mentioned this–casting a production has a lot to do with who a director envisions in a role.

Sometimes I have no idea who I want to play a part.  Other times, the right person walks in and is perfect. They are the essence of the character all ready.

 Some people can mold themselves into what I am looking for.  Those people are special because they are versatile.

There are other factors in the decision to cast someone, however.

Do I know their work?  Are they responsible?  Are they known to be difficult to direct and/or not a team member?

cricket on the hearth (2)

I was Dot in “Cricket in the Hearth” 2000

There are people who can only portray straight roles.  Straight roles are those parts most closely related to your personality.  Have you ever seen someone in a movie who plays the same sort of roles in each movie?  The roles the actor portrays is much like her off screen. Aha. Personally, I think Meg Ryan is a good example of someone who can only portray a straight role.

Then there are character roles.  Characters roles are those parts which are unlike you–because of your age, stature or personality. Paul Giamatti can portray character roles with such genius.

Character roles:

ugly step sister

Wicked Witch

Cowardly Lion

Shrek

Straight roles:

Cinderella

Rapunzel

Dorothy

Fiona

Luckily, I can play both straight and character roles. That makes me more valuable to a director.   To be honest, I enjoy performing character roles the most, because usually they are interesting and unique.

It isn’t about playing the lead.  It is about who you are best suited to portray.

Guess what?  I have not been cast in a production before.  No joke!  (I’m scoffing here a bit.  I hope you understand.)

So, chin up! If you don’t receive the role you craved for, your time will come in the future.

Watch the Tony Awards this Sunday, June 11 and pick out the chorus members or those supporting characters you notice.

I know several actors who will perform that evening.  I am very excited for them.

 Shout a Bravo to your television and I will, too.

I think they will magically hear us…..

Importance of Beaing Earnest (2)

I was Miss Prism in “Importance of Being Earnest” 1976

Contact me at dhcbaldwin@gmail.com or DeborahBaldwin.net

I’d love to hear from you!

 

The Truth About My Teacher Blog 

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The Truth About My Teacher Blog 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have noticed I don’t have any drama lesson plans to share on my blog.  If I were you, I’d be thinking, This blog is called Dramamommaspeaks. What’s the deal? 

But here’s the truth: 

I have been stalling about sharing them. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone would be interested.

Then I noticed I have several posts which are read quite a lot and they speak about the tricks of the trade. Better yet, the readers come from all over the world!

 Oh….

I will share them before the summer is over, I promise. However, they will be for sale at a minimal cost.

Why must someone pay for them?

I’m a professional with 38 years of teaching and directing experience.

I’m an expert.

I know what works and what doesn’t, what is appropriate for each grade level and what is not. (For instance, not all drama students can handle the same improvisation exercises.)

These are GUARANTEED winners AND they are tested out until they are refined by me.  How much better can you get it than that?

Check out my TeacherPayTeachers.com store at:  Teacherspayteachers Store

 

Subjects I will offer:

  • Creative Dramatics

  • Introduction to Theatre

  • Introduction to Musical Theatre

  • Introduction to Shakespeare

  • Storytelling

  • Technical Theatre

  • Film Making

And more!

Are you following this blog? If not, please do.

Here are some posts which might be useful to you if you are a drama teacher:

How to Make Your Drama Class More Successful–Lessons Learned from 38 Years of Teaching Drama-Elementary

How to Make Your Drama Class More Successful –Lessons Learned from 38 Years of Teaching-Middle School

How to Make Your Drama Class More Successful –Lessons Learned from 38 Years of Teaching – High School

The Lessons I Learned from Working as a Drama Teacher

The Unofficial Fortune Teller’s Guide to Becoming a Fantastic Teacher in 12 Steps

You can also find me on Facebook at Bumbling Bea

On Pinterest at DhBaldwin #drama teacher

Or Twitter at Bumbling Bea or Deborah Baldwin

Talk with you soon!