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How to Direct an Amazing Homeschool Play and Build Community at the Same Time

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					How to Direct an Amazing Homeschool Play and Build
Community at the Same Time

Dr. Marci Hanks

The benefits of incorporating theater arts into homeschoolers’ education are
immeasurable—regardless of whether you choose to do a big production or a small
skit. Our homeschool group did a production of Robin Hood. The play was wonderful
on so many levels—from what it did for each child all the way up to how it knit
thirteen homeschooling families with twenty-five children closer together. Two years
later, our play is still the buzz that our homeschool group is talking about. What
makes a play so memorable?

Homeschool plays are memorable because they build community. Plays provide
unique opportunities for homeschool families to work together, and new relationships
form among children and among entire families. Opportunities to connect with other
homeschoolers are important because without them, some homeschool parents and
students might feel lonely or depressed.

Homeschool plays build children’s self-esteem, confidence, and communication skills.
Children enjoy acting and using their imaginations. Participation in a homeschool
drama production gives children an opportunity to learn how to work in a group
environment. They also will get to practice speaking in front of a live audience.

Preparing for a homeschool play can be a lot of fun. You can direct an amazing
homeschool play even if you do not have any prior acting experience or theater
background. Here are some tips to help you.

Scripts

You can find scripts through your public library or by searching online for children’s
plays. If possible, use a script that the author will allow you to make changes to.
Changes allow you to accommodate varying age levels and acting abilities, and if
necessary, you can cast more children by splitting a character’s lines. You can also
write in new characters. Add non-speaking parts for children who do not want to
speak in front of an audience but still want to be a part of the play, and simply delete
lines that you don’t like.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, have children write a play together in the fall,
followed by a performance in the spring. Ask the children which characters they
would like to play, and . . . go for it!

Venue

Check with local churches, community centers, schools, or university theaters to see
if you can use their stage. With some creativity, plays can be done in a backyard.
Hang sheets up on a clothesline and ask everyone to bring lawn chairs with them for
performance night.

Rehearsals
The number of rehearsals you need depends on the length of your script. Two or
three months is a good amount of time to prepare for an hour-long production.
During the first few rehearsals, have the children sit in a big circle to read their lines
out loud together. Let them get comfortable with their lines. Direct them to pay
attention to their cues, which are the lines spoken by a few of the characters before
their turn. You may even suggest that they highlight (in their scripts) their cues in
one color and their speaking parts in another color.

Talk about the characters. Have the children explain what their characters are like.
Once children are familiar with the script, have them stand up and read their lines.
Encourage the children to experiment with exiting and entering the stage and acting
the scene out on their own the first few times. Then offer suggestions for staging and
blocking.

Both the children and the directors should record entrances, exits, and actions in the
scripts. In the beginning, concentrate on one scene at each rehearsal, alternating
scenes each week. As you get closer to the performance date, run through the entire
play, which will allow the cast to work on making smooth transitions.

Make Rehearsals Fun

Start rehearsals with fun theater warm-up games that teach important acting skills
such as projecting your voice, facing the audience, and not blocking other actors
from the audience’s view. You can find books on theater warm-up games through
your public library.

Provide Snacks and Refreshments

Children will appreciate a break in the middle of rehearsals for snacks and
refreshments (and their leaders will too, of course). As families take turns baking or
bringing snacks, a sense of community and bonding is developed.

Memorizing Lines

Set a deadline by which all the children must have their lines memorized, and inform
them that after that date the use of scripts will not be allowed. Children may call
“line” if they forget their lines, but they must remain in character and not disrupt the
flow of the scene.

Dress Rehearsals

Children love dress rehearsals! Plan to have at least two dress rehearsals.

Costumes and props help children bring their characters to life. By this time, if
someone drops lines, the children will need to practice adlibbing their way out of the
rough spots. Have a cast party at the last dress rehearsal to show the children that
you appreciate their hard work, time, and effort.

Props

Designate a Prop Master. Then take a list of needed props to rehearsals and place it
where parents can easily read it. Ask parents to write their names next to props they
will bring, and at rehearsals, place a check mark next to the props as you receive
them.

Call upon families to apply their creativity to make, sew, or build whatever is not
provided via the sign-up system. Participating students should research the time
period in order to make the props as authentic as possible. Ask your local university
drama department if you can borrow some of their props; often, they will be happy
to share their resources with another production team.

During dress rehearsals and on performance night, keep track of all props by using
prop tables. Use masking tape to divide the tables into sections. Then write the
name of a prop and the character it belongs to in each section. The use of prop
tables allows you to quickly determine if something is missing.

Set Building

Designate a Set Designer, and during the rehearsal period designate three or four
“set building days.” Invite families to contribute supplies to the drama project.
Parents have a lot of fun building and painting together on these days.

Make sure the set is ready for use by the time you’re ready to start having dress
rehearsals. Wonderful sets can be built out of cardboard. Check with your local
appliance stores about how to get a few of their large refrigerator boxes.

Cost

I recommend that you charge a minimal fee, such as $6 per child or $12 per family,
to help cover the costs of the various aspects of production. If everyone works
together, plays do not have to be costly.

Use Teamwork

The more homeschool families you have involved in your production, the better it will
be. Trust me—many parents and grandparents will enjoy offering their time and
talents to help the children make snacks, props, costumes, and the set.

Having more than one co-director increases the level of creativity exhibited in the
play and makes the workload more manageable. We had three co-directors for Robin
Hood. I was blessed to work with Amy Biegler and Laurie Marzofka during that
production, and I included many of their wonderful ideas in this article.

Theater Classes

An alternative to a big production would be to have weekly theater classes that meet
for a month or so. At the last class, you can include fun theater games and do a
short skit for families.

Whether you choose to do homeschool plays or theater classes, may you be blessed
with laughter, fun, and learning. I pray that the Lord will guide you in all of your
decisions. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom so that you can provide what the
children need—through your efforts, their efforts, and the support and contributions
of their families. May your love for one another in your homeschool community
continue to grow.


Marci Hanks, a former middle school, high school, and religious education teacher,
earned her Doctorate of Education degree in teaching and learning. She enjoys
homeschooling her son, co-directing plays, and coordinating field trips with her
homeschool group in Wisconsin. She also loves directing short skits with her nieces
and nephews at family reunions.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally
appeared in the January 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade
magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at
www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at
www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

				
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