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Teaching Module: Understanding the Principles of Theater and Drama Communication 5600 Becky Locuson WMU Spring 2007 Locuson Page 1 Learning Objectives Recognizing the relationship between theater and art Identifying the basic elements of theatre performance (e.g. acting, directing, producing, designing) Analyzing basic characteristics of various dramatic forms (e.g. comedy, tragedy) Standards – English Language Arts* 1.3.1 Compose written, spoken, and/or multimedia compositions in a range of genres: pieces that serve a variety of purposes and that use a variety of organizational patterns. 1.3.7 Participate collaboratively and productively in groups—fulfilling roles and responsibilities, posing relevant questions, giving and following instructions, acknowledging and building on ideas and contributions of others to answer questions or to solve problems, and offering dissent courteously. 1.5.1 Use writing, speaking, and visual expression to develop powerful, creative and critical messages. 1.5.2 Prepare spoken and multimedia presentations that effectively address audiences by careful use of voice, packing, gestures, eye contact, visual aids, audio and video technology. *More applicable standards available Locuson Page 2 Use a dramatic introduction: Costumed scene Music (used for this demonstration) Dramatic reading using lighting Use props and sound effects Take the class to a theater to introduce unit What is the relationship between theater and art? 1a. Ask class to brainstorm their ideas about what art is while prompting them to “get at” the following ideas about art: (Provide personal examples where applicable) Art makes it possible for people to live wider and richer lives Art helps people to manage their environment and answer their deepest questions Art enables people to express the inexpressible Art allows people to communicate their ideas about experience in a uniquely forceful way. Art communicates something about the human experience 1b.Ask class how art relates to theater (if they have problems here because of inexperience, have them relate art to movies or TV shows) Locuson Page 3 Identify the basic elements of theater performance Director Producer Stage Manager Scene Costume Lighting Designer Designer Designer Running Actors Crew Technical Director Construction Crew NOTE: Give examples as you are inspired 2a. Director’s Job Description: Ask students if they can identify any famous directors (theater, film, TV). What contribution do they think a director makes and what are some of the specific contributions directors make to their plays, films, or shows that make their production so memorable? o Ultimately the director is responsible for everything that goes on onstage (blocking, set, performances, etc.) o The play becomes his/her artistic conception of it. o He/she motivates and inspires the cast and crew Locuson Page 4 2b. Properties Manager: Things to Know o Documents time and place; instrumental in creating “environment” o Three types of properties: Set props (furniture, lamps, tree stumps) Trim props (pictures, drapes, vases) Hand props (money, weapons, cigarettes) 3b. Sound Effects Technician: Things to Know Responsible for creating environment and mood (music, thunder, traffic, gunfire) 4b. Lighting Technician: Things to Know o Lighting systems are divided fundamentally into two components: A source of illumination (Lights, spotlights, flood lights, strip lights working together) A system of control – allows the technician to control amount, direction, color and intensity 5b. Costuming: Things to Know o Functions Documents time and place Aids in character portrayal Assists the actor in playing his/her role Functions metaphorically to help convey basic themes and the mood of the play Adds color and spectacle 6b. Makeup: Things to Know Enhances actors’ natural features Aids in character portrayal or to document certain information about the dramatic character Aids the actor in feeling the role Functions metaphorically to help convey mood Locuson Page 5 Basic characteristics of various dramatic forms NOTE: I wouldn’t teach a class about dramatic forms by using these descriptions alone. I have opted to emphasize them here because this is a study guide for a test that may require that teachers be able to identify the forms. These are all direct quotes. (Please see bibliography). 3a. Comedy: “The essential qualities of comedy aren’t structural and its nature cannot be defined in terms of form, neither can it be linked to a particular subject matter. No one plot, characterization or theme is unique to comedy. It’s the way the playwright views the experience and the value he/she assigns to it determines whether the situations in a play will be comic/serious” 3b. Tragedy: “The essential qualities of tragedy aren’t structural and its nature cannot be defined in terms of form. It’s a common spirit or view of experience which has come to be known as “the tragic view of life.” It’s a view that centers on our fate and, more specifically, on our need to give meaning to our fate despite the fact that we’re doomed to failure and defeat. WE are born to die—the fate of humanity.” 3c. Melodrama: “The drama of disaster” “Melodrama underscores a basic truth of the human condition: the majority of crises and conflicts in our daily lives lack tragedy’s broader moral dimension.” “TRAGEDY WITH CREAM” “The word is Greek (literally “music drama” or “song drama”) and it referred to those parts of ancient Greek festivals that included songs and dances. The function of the music is to heighten drama.” (Give the shark music from Jaws as an example) “Character of melodrama (drama of disaster) o Significant plot events are caused by forces outside the protagonists o Protagonist is a victim who is acted upon, whose moral character is not essential to the event and whose suffering doesn’t imply related guilt or responsibility.” 3d. Farce: “It’s not easy to see the controlling vision of farce: everything is in a state of chaos; superficial farce has a cartoon quality, a series of apparently unrelated lightening flashes, but there’s a zany logic to what happens. Fare is the expression of repressed wishes. (e.g. bedroom farces = repressed sexual desire).” Locuson Page 6 3e. Tragiccomedy: “Combines some of the qualities of tragedy and some of comedy. It’s most like life itself as we live it day-to-day. The vision of tragicomedy is one of almost unrelieved despair, but one in which hopes springs eternal.” ACTIVTIES Activity 1: Scramble game Teachers can employ a game like this as a tool to help students learn terms and avoid rote memorization. Activity 2: (This is a very basic outline. Adjust as needs or learning objectives dictate) This activity may take 2 weeks to a month to complete; teacher will be available to assist students as needed, but the goal should be to let students learn to work cooperatively together in decision-making and problem solving. This would also provide a good opportunity to get teachers/mentors from the community or from other disciplines involved (e.g. parents, business people, drafting, shop, IT, librarians, art, etc) Organize students into 2-person teams based on their interests: (e.g. producing/directing, playwriting, costume/makeup design, set design, properties/sound, marketing; business management/accounting). Due dates for each team will need to be flexible based on logistical requirements. For example: the director and producer will have to select the story and come up with an overall “vision” before meeting with teams; properties team may have to start working after the script is written, etc. o Producer/director select a children’s book that would make a good children’s play; they will come up will come up with a production and rehearsal schedule and then will meet with all other teams to discuss their “vision” for the play (characterization, set ideas, budget etc) and to get team input. o Playwriting team will then create a script (with some basic blocking) based on that children’s story o Costume and makeup team will come up with the costume and makeup design for each character o Set design team will produce a set and lighting concept o Properties/sound team will create a list of trim, hand, and set props and sound effects along with resources o Marketing team will design advertising posters and playbill o Business team will create and manage an operating budget The teams will meet periodically to work collaboratively. The class will create a portfolio or multigenre project and/or a digital story documenting the project. The digital story can then be published online and/or presented at Parent Teacher Conferences or some other venue. Activity 3 Have students create a shoebox set based on a play of their choice. Resource materials are available in books and online. Locuson Page 7 Drama and Theater Exam Option A. Have students attend a production and write a review addressing the various theatrical aspects (genre, performances, set design, costuming etc). Create a grading rubric and provide that rubric to students beforehand so that they know what you will be grading against. Multiple choice: 1. “Blocking” is the term that refers to: a. Set design b. Movement by the actors on stage c. Screen printing advertising posters or playbills d. Keeping autograph hounds from jumping the handsome lead actor 2. What person is responsible for “running the show”? a. Director b. Stage Manager c. Producer d. Technical Director 3a. Identify stage right and stage left (actor’s perspective) 3b. Identify the wings Audience 3c. Identify the orchestra pit 3d. Identify upstage and downstage 3e. Identify the apron Stage 3f. Identify center stage 4. A grip: a. Is one’s hold on a baseball bat b. The person who moves or places scenery c. A term that refers to when the actor understands his/her motivation d. A lever on the light control board 5. A _____________ is placed in front over the lens of an ellipsoidal spotlight, the pattern (circle, stars, etc) is projected onto a backdrop. 6. Who was the Greek poet who is considered the “founder” of the dramatic arts? 7. Briefly describe the duties of the costumer designer OR the set designer. 8. Name a movie that has been adapted from a theatrical production. 9. The major divisions in a play are called ____________(scenes/acts). The smaller divisions are ___________(scenes/acts). 10. Give a reason for replacing one the of principle actors with his/her understudy and write an audience announcement to be made before the curtain goes up. Locuson Page 9
"Understanding the Principles of Theater and Drama"