Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Opera and Theater Games

Richard Blakeney, COT Teaching Artist

At Hampton we have gotten the year off to a great start. The students at Hampton are learning lots while having fun. Building an ensemble in the classroom creates a safe place for discovery and exploration. At Hampton we are eagerly learning “Se Vuol Ballare” and “A Boy and Wolf”. Memorization and rehearsing can be boring and cause student to loss interest if not done in a fun way. Please enjoy the passage from Dr June Cottrell’s book” Creative Drama in the Classroom, she decribes the importance of “Reinforcing Bi- Modal Learn” in the arts classroom. Translation- get students out of their seats and imaging, role playing while memorizing or doing logical activities. They will be more engaged and learn more. Much to this end I offer two games we have been learning at Hampton. The Singing Opera Circle is a game that requires the Instructor to model good practice techniques for student while they are still learning the text.  It reinforces bi- modal learning and creativity in young performers. Sequencing the Story is a game that teaches students to work in a group, while using rhythm. Students learn to focus better on their line and when they should be delivered. The instructor challenges the students to “pick up the beat” or “cue pick up” to better tell a story. These are theatre games I have modified over the years to enhance performance for young actors and singers.

“Traditionally, most classroom learning emphasizes the logical, rational, linear, and verbal functions of the left hemisphere of the brain, yet many children(and adults) learn best when they can employ visualization, intuition, imagination and metaphoric, and spatial thinking- processes resident in the right hemisphere. Ideally, all students ought to use and strengthen their abilities with all functions, with teacher’s recognizing that for some learners the emphasis on left-hemisphere learning does not fit their preferred learning style. Opera learning in the classroom, offer experiences in which both hemispheres play major roles, with a considerable amount of traffic, both directions, over the corpus callosum, that remarkable bridge that connects the two halves of the human brain." “(June Cottrell, Creative Drama)

The Games:
The Singing Opera Circle
1. Students take their chair and make a circle in the center of the room.
2. The instructor tells the group, to copy every word exactly the way it is called.
3. When the students are responding to the instructors call, students must stand up and move to the next seat to the right.
4. Students repeat both vocal and physical gesture offered by instructor.

Instructor side notes:
- Calls must be over exaggerated to receive best response from students
- If the students have a problem repeating a word or phrase, clap the phrase while making the call and have students repeat with the clap.
- Once the calls are fluent and fast the instructor should start sing or rapping calls
- Instructor models good singing technique with call - For best responses no vibrato should be used and singing in head voice with no weight - will receive best response for the groups of young learners
- Instructor should model different gestures that enhance physical storytelling of the poem.
- Instructor repeats until 90% of students respond together

Sequencing the story
1. Students stand in a circle
2. Students are assigned a line of poetry
3. Students establish a sequence, when the first student recites their given line of poetry, then making eye contact and pointing across the circle to the student with next line in the poem.
4. Students continue until all the students in the circle have recited their given line.
5. Repeat until the students are Fluent with sequence.

Instructor Side note
-Students are told that this is a rhythm game, and that they should pick up the beat. There should be no beats between sequenced line responses.
-Students are encouraged to speed up the sequence or slow down by responding after or before the beat.
-Some groups of students require a few rounds of “Sequencing with Numbers” to get the gist of the game- same rules, simply replace numbers with lines of poetry.
-Students should repeat this game until no one drops a beat
- Larger groups work best when learning this game.

Add- ons
- Once students have established a great sequence, have them add a gesture. Once each student has chosen a gesture for their line of poetry, have students work to make a statue of the poem.
- Each students repeats their line of poetry and gesture and freezes before the next student in sequence begins there line of poetry. When each student freezes they make physical contact with the person before them. Then process continues until everyone has delivered their lines and gesture and the statue is built. Student repeat and try to use different gestures to tell the story.

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