How To Introduce Text in Acting


Children from ten to twelve are often very perceptive. They will begin to need to work on material which has a structure. The teacher might find it useful to create short scenes from books they’ve read, children’s stories, plays and children’s plays, and always from stories with dialogue: Dickens, of adult novelists, springs to mind because of the dramatic qualities of his characters and action. (See how easily Oliver Twist transmuted into Oliver!) The teacher will need to edit dramatic episodes into scenes from five to ten minutes long, becoming a jobbing playwright in addition to clown, nursemaid, father or mother figure, comforter, disciplinarian, administrator, planner and child psychiatrist.

Text work must be pursued, progressing to longer and subtler and more challenging material as the kids get older. I remember a group of young teenagers at a summer school giving a splendid account of Orson Welles’ version of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a story of abundant action and epic proportions. The story tells of the hard and dangerous life aboard a whaler in the last century, of a sailing ship, with its half-crazy captain, Ahab in pursuit of the great White Whale, his eternal enemy. There was rich cast of strange and mysterious characters, tattooed men with mysterious pasts, men of all nationalities. The young actors mimed all of the action, shivering in howling gales, drenched by the sea, taking the wheel, handling sails and ropes, lowering the whale-boats, clambering down the lines into them, rowing like demons.

Classroom

The whale was sighted. The big dramatic moment had arrived. Harpoons were prepared, and hurled, striking the great, in this case invisible, beast; it towed them furiously through the sea, turned on them, crushed their boat to matchwood, and hurled them into the sea, leaving them to swim for their lives. Or deaths.

Moby Dick is an almost ideal text, combining action, story and character. I must add that girls played whale men just as well as the lads. The choice of material is limitless, and it’s up to the teacher to make choices and to direct the work toward interesting text. The only constraint on his freedom is the GCSE syllabus which he should embrace with every enthusiasm, since the choices can be wide and stimulating. Older teenagers are capable of a wide range of work from plays and musicals, and the convention of studio and workshop production has made mounting a play easier and less expensive.

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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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