Stay in Character

So this has nothing to do with math.

Apart from algebra and all that, my days have recently been almost equally filled with Bye Bye Birdie, as I choreograph for the musical every year. We always run into the same problem, which is that somehow the kids are terrified of acting. They don’t want to embarrass themselves, I suppose. I don’t quite know what they expected they’d be doing when they signed up to be in a musical comedy. At this point, I would prefer terrible overacting. Which I’ve been begging them to do, so at least there would be something to work with.

The show is next week, and they keep laughing when they forget their lines, and only doing the dance moves halfway, and stuff like that, so yesterday I spur of the moment made up a little game for them that seemed to work okay.

Here’s what we did:

  1. First, I taught them a tiny little dance phrase that was pretty easy to do.
  2. They split into groups of 2 or 3.
  3. Each group picked an emotion or, as one kid put it, “state of mind.”
  4. They performed for each other and tried to guess each others’ emotions. If they didn’t take it seriously or laughed at messing up, I asked them to start over
  5. I asked: what makes this difficult?
  6. I asked: what did you see that really worked?
  7. I asked: what did you see that didn’t work?

The discussion went well. I thought their answers to my questions were pretty funny. They shared in thoughtful, pondering tones things that you would expect to be obvious answers, especially considering the other directors and I have been repeating these things over and over again. One girl said it was jarring when people started laughing. A freshman said it worked best when the performers overdid the emotions. Somebody else said that it didn’t really matter if they messed up the dance moves as long as they kept acting. Obvious things. But they sounded like they were brand new revelations.

It really shows that telling kids things is useless unless you find a way for them to experience it. Because the acting/dancing/singing was way better after doing this. Thank goodness. We’ll see if it sticks.

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