Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Exam Tip - Some Strategies To Help Your Students Develop Their Characters

There are some techniques that can be done in the classroom as part of the rehearsal process or as homework that will help students develop their character and their belief in them in their performance. These can include:-
         Writing in Role: Writing as if it is my character writing the words, not myself.
         Role on the Wall: Attaching a piece of paper to the wall or board and filling in character details in the form of words or pictures.
         Character Timeline: Writing a history for my character from birth to present day to help develop my understanding of them.
         Hot Seating: In role and without preparation, I answer questions about my character and his or her circumstances.
         Mantle of the Expert: When hot seating someone, even the people asking the questions are in role as other characters.
         Context: If using a script/ text then the following analysis can be done. Set up a grid with columns entitled- What the Playwright says about my Character (find this info in the stage directions)/ What my Character says about the other Characters/ What other Characters say about my Character/ Social, Political, Historical & Cultural (this will have to be researched separately)- each week a different column can be set as homework. By the end of it the students will know a lot more about the play and the characters, including their own.

Other strategies that can be used by the teacher in the classroom to develop characters are:
         Teacher in Role: When the teacher takes a central part in the role-play.
         Tableau: The whole class forms a large frozen picture in which different incidents are portrayed within the same large event.
         Improvisation: Devising and acting out a story line with little preparation.

         Spotlight: Bringing to life a small moment within a tableau or showing some work in progress.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Using Key Drama Forms to Structure the Exam Performance

      An exam performance is the part of the course where the students get a chance to show off what they have learnt on their course. They should be including key drama forms in their piece to add structure to it, to add tension and to help develop the storyline and characters. I recommend that 6-10 key drama forms are included in every piece. Some of these key drama forms include:-
o        Frozen Picture: Also called a Freeze Frame or Still Image. When we form a 3-dimensional image from our bodies. The action is frozen like a photograph. The image should tell the audience about the characters and the situation they are in.
o        Mime: When you act out a story line or situation through movement and gesture without the character speaking.
o        Narration: When one or more characters tell the story directly to the audience.
o        Essence Machine: A short machine-like piece of drama made up of vocal and physical elements that capture the essence of a particular theme or activity to help build tension.
o        Angel & Devil: When two actors play the roles of the Angel and the Devil, to show the audience the 'good' and 'bad' thoughts that a character is having about a problem that they have.
o        Duologue: An interaction of dialogue between two characters.
o        Voices in the Head: When several actors are used to express the thoughts of another character to show their inner torment/ dilemma and to help create tension.
o        Thought Tunnel: When a tunnel formation is created and a character walks down or along the tunnel, the other actors voice their thoughts.
o        Thought aloud: A character speaks a thought for the audiences benefit to show how they are really feeling about a situation or another character.
o        Aside: A character speaks a thought directly to the audience whilst the action is still taking place.
o        Split scene: Where one scene is split into 2 or more scenes and linked together either with speech, a sound, a gesture, a frozen image to show different moments that are taking place at the same time or to show different points of view.
o        Slow motion: When a particular moment is slowed down in order to emphasise its importance to the audience.                                                                                                                       

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Importance of the Length of the Exam Performance

Exam performances are marked based on 5 minutes per performer. The easiest way to ensure that everyone is seen is to keep all students on stage at all times (unless a deliberate decision is made for some reason for someone to exit/ appear for dramatic effect.) Don't have blackouts throughout the piece with music in scene changes as this adds to the length of the piece. The examiner will stop marking at the allocated time, so if a group of 5 students have done a piece that is 35 minutes when it should have been 25-30 minutes, the examiner won't have marked the last 5 minutes. If a student has their monologue/ big moment in that 5 minutes, they won't have been marked for this and this will affect their result.

Monday, 3 February 2014

How Long Should a Drama Exam Performance Be?

For exam performances, the length of a piece is important. The guidelines usually state approx. 5 minutes per performer. This means if there are 5 students in the group, the piece needs to be approx-20-25 minutes. The minimum length of a piece with 3-5 performers is 15 minutes. If it is too short, this will highlight lack of plot development or lack of development when exploring the issue, to the examiner. It could also indicate lack of character development- stronger performers may achieve their 5 minutes, weaker ones may only be on stage for 2-3 minutes. This can affect individual marks. If a piece is too long, the examiner will stop marking e.g. 3 - 6 performers = 30 minutes/ 7- 9 performers = max. of 45 minutes. The examiner will stop marking at this point. A way to try and help the weaker students with this is to keep them on stage and involved for the whole performance, whether in mime, frozen images, echoing words of other performances for example so that they can pick up some extra marks as part of the ensemble.