What is the best way to direct a class play?
It’s the time in the school year when teachers are looking for a performance of some kind for the end of the semester. I know it is barely November, but if other teachers plan as I do, they are organizing their calendars from now until winter break. Winter break, can you believe it?
Performing a play doesn’t come easily for everyone. It’s my first mode of operation and I forget not everyone is bent the same way as I am. Even if it’s a class play, there are stresses a teacher doesn’t realize everyone experiences. Never fear….I’m here to help you!
I was thinking about some of the issues which come up for a teacher/director. I have a few suggestions for you.
Here they are:
- It is best to have a written script which includes everyone in some form. Not everyone needs to play a part. Some students are just as happy making props, creating sound effects or painting a little backdrop.
- When I audition young students, grades 3-6 I ask for them to give me three parts they are interested in performing. I DON’T audition them per se. Kids know themselves and what they can handle. Generally, I’m able to cast them in one of their requested roles.
- Have a few understudies just in case you see illness looming. That way, you can go ahead and rehearse with all the parts filled even if the lead is absent.
- Although it is lots of fun to have costumes, unless everyone is dressed equally it is a burden for those who can’t afford to provide one or haven’t the faintest idea how to do such a thing. Simple costume pieces–hats, capes, scarves, etc. are best.
- If possible, work masks into your performance. Kids LOVE them and are used to making them but not wearing them. A student can hide behind a mask and you will be amazed the performance they’ll give if they think no one can really see them (even though of course they can….teehee)
- Stay away from the school’s stage. Performing in the classroom is best. That may seem backwards to you, but if your students haven’t practiced on the stage several times, they will wig out on you in front of an audience. If you won’t be happy over your winter break if you don’t use the stage, at least practice on the stage several times before performing there. Nothing is worse than throwing a cast on stage and expecting them to be successful when they haven’t even found their way around the place until they are in front of an audience’
- If you perform in the classroom, you don’t have to worry about amplification. (Hint, hint) Not everyone knows this, but children shouldn’t be expected to concern themselves with their voice’s volume until they are in about sixth grade. It’s just too much to ask. Creative dramatics is just that.
- It’s okay to ask your audience to clap and chuckle if they want to. It’s also acceptable to practice bowing in front of the audience at the end. You will probably practice bowing before your performance, but gee, why not take a few minutes and practice in front of the audience? They will love that you needed their help.
- Celebrations afterward are a must! Don’t be surprised if your students have a melt down or are absolutely exhausted when the performance is over. Have a little party–ask parents to send in a few cookies and punch. Play a few games and celebrate yourselves.
- Make sure to process with your students afterward. I usually do this the next day if I can so they have had time to tuck the memory into their brain for a bit. If you have little time to verbally process, an exit slip will do.
- Also, and this is a biggie: I wouldn’t schedule this performance for the last day of the semester. A lot is asked of students at that time and if you could perform a few days from the end you are more likely to have a successful performance than on the last day of classes. That way, if you have a snow day (which has occurred with me several times) or lots of sickness, you can postpone the performance if need be.
I hope this helps you. I love creative dramatics, youth theater and everything in between. I believe all students benefit from it.
If you are interested, I have several multi-cultural folk tales I have dramatized into fifteen minute plays. Check them out at:
The Little Girl and the Winter Whirlwinds The Little Girl and the Winter Whirlwinds
Sedna, an Inuit Tale Sedna
OjiSan, and the Grateful Statues Oji San and the Grateful Statues
It Could Always Be Worse It Could Always Be Worse
or a growing bundle of all three
Multicultural Folk Tales Adapted into Class Plays Multicultural Folk Tales Adapted into Class Plays
What class plays have you done? I’d love to hear about them. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.