Taking Students to Competition

Episode-112

How do you handle competition with your students? How do you circumvent the win, win, win mentality, especially if you don’t win? Teacher Gary Rodgers competes every year in his region and talks about his experiences.

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Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Welcome to TFP – The Theatrefolk Podcast – the place to be for Drama teachers, Drama students, and theatre educators everywhere.

I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk.

Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.

Welcome to Episode 112. You can find all the links for this episode at theatrefolk.com/episode112.

So, aside from playwriting and teaching, I also adjudicate. I’m around a lot of competition and I’ve been adjudicating individual events – monologues and scenes – for about… I think, about eight years. But, in the past four years, I’ve actively sought out adjudicating one-acts and full-lengths, and I do it. I like to sit on that side of the table because I like the analytical part. I like watching and analyzing a production. It’s very interesting to me and I like sharing the thoughts that I have about that. But, too, I got really, really tired of hearing student’s stories about being ripped apart in an adjudication.

It’s one thing to be critical of a student production, and to be critical is fine. You know, if there are things that need to be worked on, that should be addressed. But I’m really not a believer in “tough love” for students because there is a way to provide constructive criticism where it becomes a learning experience. You know, where they can work on things for the next time. And, you know, I know a teacher who, just this year, after an adjudication, said the experience made her students feel defeated, and I don’t get that. I don’t get why that’s good for an adjudicator to make a student feel defeated.

Again, this is not about making everything sunshine and roses – that’s not helpful either. But what are we supposed to be teaching? Are we supposed to be teaching students to not ever want to step on-stage again? Or do we want them to learn and grow? Granted, you know, sometimes I give a comment and you can tell when a student is not going to do anything with it, but that’s

fine. I still have to offer it in a constructive way, and that’s my goal as an adjudicator – to find that line where criticism is a tool to build something and not a hammer to smash it down.

So, that sort of segues into our podcast today. We’re going to talk about competition – what it’s like on the other side of the table, to take students to competition. How do you handle adjudications? How do you handle the competitive atmosphere in a constructive manner? I’m going to talk to one teacher who takes his students to competition on a regular basis and see how he does it.

Lindsay: Hello, everyone! I am here today with Teacher Gary Rodgers.

Hello, Gary!

Gary: Hi! How do you do?

Lindsay: Oh, I’m excellent. How are you?

Gary: I am very good. Thank you.

Lindsay: Tell everybody where in the world you are situated.

Gary: I am in Grand Falls, Newfoundland.

Lindsay: Ah! Newfoundland!

Gary: Center of Newfoundland, yes.

Lindsay: For the majority of our audience who are in the States, they might not know where Newfoundland is. Us Canadians, we better know, but you guys are at the easternmost province of Canada.

Gary: We are. We are the easternmost province or part of North America, really.

Lindsay: When I was in Newfoundland, there were some people who actually referred to Canada as “the mainland.”

Gary: You do hear that. You will hear that a lot here. Oh, we are an island.

Lindsay: Yes. Yes, a lovely island. My other memory of Newfoundland is we arrived in June and it was four degrees.

Gary: Yes.

Lindsay: It was very cold.

Gary: We had an exceptionally hot summer this year but June was four degrees.

Lindsay: You’re the only one! Everyone else, we’ve had a sort of middling summer. Okay. We’ll stop talking about the weather.

Gary: Sure.

Lindsay: I always get in trouble. All right!

You have written two plays that we have included in our catalogue. We have a lovely comedy Shakespeare extravaganza mix-up called Lose Not Thy Head and then we also have a very different kind of comedy but a comedy that is basically called Layers and I think, Gary, that really is the only way to describe the play, isn’t it? It’s layer upon layer upon layer upon layer upon layer.

Gary: It is. The title sort of was automatic. It came with the concept.

Lindsay: I don’t doubt it. And you used both these plays with your students in competition, and that’s kind of what we’re going to talk about. First of all, we’re going to talk about what it’s like to compete with high school students. You work with high school students?

Gary: I do.

Lindsay: In competition?

Gary: Yes.

Lindsay: What is the main competition that you have in Newfoundland?

Gary: We have our Provincial High School Theatre Festival. It’s broken down into regions. We are in the central region and, once a year, we will go to our local arts and culture center and we’ll have about ten to twelve schools perform there. Each play has to be under 45 minutes and has to have a cast of less than 16. Other than that, you’re free to do whatever you wish.

Lindsay: You’re free to do whatever you wish.

Gary: Yeah.

Lindsay: And what’s the assessment of the plays? Are you guys adjudicated? Is there a form that gets followed? What’s the process for deciding who gets to go on?

Gary: We are adjudicated. Usually, we’ll have local – as in Newfoundland actor or playwright or director – a very experienced person who will adjudicate each play in the festival. You’ll spend a half hour to an hour with this person – usually the following day – just in conversation about your play with your cast. And, ultimately, this person will pick the best overall performance which will go on to our provincial festival.

Lindsay: Now, competition is a very unique beast, isn’t it? Because it’s not like, you know, putting up a play and it’s going to be for family and friends and everyone’s going to love it.

Gary: It’s quite different from your Christmas concert. No question.

Lindsay: It’s quite different than Aunt Mildred coming to your show and just telling you and gushing how wonderful you are.

Gary: Yeah.

Lindsay: So, let’s start with that whole adjudication factor. What do you tell your students to expect from an adjudication?

Gary: Anything. You know, honestly, adjudicators can pick on a variety of things. Quite often, they’ll pick in things that are totally out of the student’s control and have more to do with myself as the director.

Lindsay: Do you have an example of that? What’s something that an adjudicator has picked on that was more reflective of you than of the students?

Gary: Oh, the script.

Lindsay: Ah!

Gary: You know? Another thing that adjudicators often – I guess they’re aware of it but they tend to forget sometimes because – if you’re a person who’s dedicated your life to theatre, you’re employed through theatre and you work with professionals all day long, you tend to forget that you’re looking at a group of kids who have other interests – they play sports, they play instruments, they have a full course load of subjects that are really supposed to take precedence over everything.

So, as a director, you have to make choices. You can look at things in rehearsal and say, “Yeah, that’s wrong, but I can’t fix it right now. I have to deal with something else. I have to work on this and, if we get time, we’ll go back to that,” and you just have to sort of accept sometimes that it will be what it will be.

Now, that said, I don’t mean to pick on adjudicators because they’re wonderful people and they bring a tremendous amount to my kids year after year.

Lindsay: I think a really good adjudicator, it’s useful practical feedback that they can offer.

Gary: Yes.

Lindsay: And then, on the other end of the spectrum, I think that the type of adjudicator also that you’re talking about, there are just some people who don’t get that you need to speak to students in a different way than you speak to adults.

Gary: It is, and writing for them is completely different. A 35- or 45-minute play for a high school festival is not the same animal that you would have in community theatre or underground-type theatre, you know, where you can see practically anything. You have to be very careful not to go over any lines. But, at the same time, you don’t want to be condescending and patronizing. You want to give your students a challenge. You want to give them something they can do and that will require work but that, ultimately, in the end is going to be a great deal of fun and they’ll feel like they’ve accomplished something whether it’s comedy or not.

Lindsay: Do you ever run into just the thought in your head of “If I choose to do this play, I know that I’m going to get flack for it from an adjudicator”? Does that ever cross your mind?

Gary: Yeah, it certainly has, and also, when we go into a festival, generally, it’s only, like, the week before that I find out who the adjudicator actually is, and some, naturally, you’re going to do a little background check on them and try to find out as much as you can. But it’s far too late now to, at that stage, to really change anything you’ve done to try and gear it toward an adjudicator, and you shouldn’t do that anyway. I mean, it’s not about trying to please an adjudicator. It’s about a whole bunch of stuff.

Lindsay: That’s the whole…

Gary: Yeah, it’s about pleasing an audience, it’s about pleasing yourself, it’s about pleasing a group of students who dearly love what they’re doing. So, the fact that it’s competitive is kind of strange at times.

But, if you’re going to have a provincial festival, we can’t have every school in the province all show up at one festival. It would take weeks. So, ultimately, somebody has to be selected to go on to our provincial festival and I attended the provincial last year along with another group – not my own, actually – and it’s a wonderful experience so you really want your kids to win too at the same time. So, it gets competitive.

Lindsay: Well, and it should. Like, there’s nothing wrong with getting your students to work towards a higher level of achievement. I think that that’s a noble goal. It’s when things get into a “we must win at all costs” mentality where things, I think, go awry. How do you avoid that with your students?

Gary: I don’t know. I’m a competitive person by nature. I think we all are.

Lindsay: Oh! So, maybe it is a win-win-win!

Gary: I threw off this hockey player, to be honest, in the theatre group at my high school. But, at the same time, it’s not really in my nature to push a group of kids beyond, you know, what’s sensible, I suppose. In fact, this past year, we went to our festival. I had more kids than I was allowed to take. I didn’t really feel that we had a real good shot at winning so I took them all and I basically forfeited my chance to actually win and go to provincial. I ended up going with a different group, to be honest. But I still put just as much into it and my kids still put just as much into even though they weren’t competitive.

Lindsay: That’s not actually a bad idea, you know? When, instead of choosing to abide by the rules one year, choose to abide by “I don’t want to kick a student out.”

Gary: Yeah, exactly.

Lindsay: So that I am abiding by the rules and that it’s not a bad idea to go to a competition knowing you’re not competing. They still get kind of the same experience, don’t they? Because they get to see the other performances. Did you still get adjudicated?

Gary: We were adjudicated, yes, and we took part in everything – all the workshops – and we gave a great performance. It was very well-received. I just didn’t feel it was going to be our year and, in retrospect, I did make the right decision on that. So, instead of having to remove a couple of kids from the group or cast them as understudies then keep them out of the actual production, I took them all and I actually spoke to our program specialist and did sort of say, “Maybe we should look at revisit the number of students.” Understandably, we have a time limit. That makes sense, or else, you know, people would be putting in three-hour musicals and stuff. But I see no real benefit in limiting the number of students that you can put into your production.

Lindsay: I know that the Sears Drama Festival here in Ontario has a minimum number. Like, you can’t do one-person shows and your show has to be at least fifteen minutes long and fifty minutes is the time limit here. I actually have never come across another competition that has a maximum number.

Gary: Well, I am going to say that Lindsay Price said that.

Lindsay: See how far that gets you! I’m not sure it’ll get you far!

You know, the reason that rules exist in a competition is because someone has tried to go around them, right? There’s a reason. And, also, I think parameters are good because I think students excel within limitations.

There’s a competition in the States – the Thespian competitions – where everything that you’re going to put on the set has to go in – and I don’t remember the dimensions but – you have to stand on this sort of taped-out box on the side of the stage. So, everyone stands on that box with their props and costumes and their set and then, at the time goes, they have to run and I’m amazed sometimes about what a group of students can do with a limitation where the thing comes to life. That’s what I like about, I think, the competition aspect is because there usually are those limitations.

What do you think your students get out of competition?

Gary: I think not just so much out of competition but of the whole experience. It’s amazing how you can watch some kids over the course of three or four productions really build a lot of self-confidence and just become more outspoken, more well-presented, and confident children. Very few of the students that I work with will go on to lives in theatre. However, at that point in time, they’re very much in the moment, they’re loving what they’re doing, and they do take away from this a whole lot of experience and, you know, maybe someday when they’re sitting down at a job interview, they’ll be a little more confident about it, or when they’re dealt with some situation of diversity – something somewhere along the lines, that little bit of development in self-confidence that they took from theatre will still be there with them.

Lindsay: How often do you write your competition pieces?

Gary: More often than not.

Lindsay: Why is that?

Gary: That’s a good question. I do it because I’m looking for the perfect fit for the group I have. It’s very unusual. I work in a small school. We have 220 students, grades seven to twelve.

Lindsay: Wow.

Gary: I always have a reasonable number of students interested in taking part in Drama every year. However, I don’t have to audition and I don’t have a big pool of students. Like, if I say to myself, “Well, I need a six-foot-nine, very hairy guy,” I probably don’t have four or five of them to pick from. So, I basically have a group and I write for the group which is kind of unusual. It’s not like a typical playwright who has a topic which they wish to address through theatre.

Lindsay: You know what though? It’s more common than not in our field.

Gary: It is.

Lindsay: Like, I get a number of plays from teachers and the reason the play exists is because they wrote it for their students – for the exact same reason that you’re doing it. It’s all about what’s going to be best for the group of students I have in front of me and I think that’s wonderful. With my publisher hat on, I love it because that means the play has been vetted by students, worked by students, performed in front of other students, and, in this case, you know, performed in a competition situation which is exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for. And I can’t think of anything better! So, well done!

Gary: Yeah. Well, thank you! Yeah, and each individual part almost really was written with a particular person in mind which, as a writer, does limit you in many ways. Like, you might say to yourself, “Well, I won’t do that with this character,” or, “I’ll have to do that with this character because so and so is going to play the role,” and, I mean, that’s probably not true for every single character but, for most of them, and my plays tend to have 13 or 14 students because that’s the maximum. We’re allowed 16 in our festival but two of those have to be chaperones with teacher chaperones whether they’re directors or not.

I try to get more and more students involved in production and in sound and light, but they all want to be on-stage, especially when you’re doing comedy as comedy is a lot of fun. Although, this past year, I did have a lighting tech and I did have a co-director who actually called our show.

Lindsay: And did you treat them like gold? Because they were far so far and few between?

Gary: Absolutely, because I want them doing the same thing next year.

Lindsay: Hey! Just on that note, do you have a lot of set and technical limitations for your plays too in the competition?

Gary: It’s very unusual. In rehearsals, yes. In rehearsals, you’re in the high school gym or a classroom or the library and, you know, you’re playing your soundtrack through a stereo. And then, we go to the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts which is where we have our festival or regional and, you know, it’s a state of the art theatre. It’s a beautiful theatre with pretty well everything you could want, and you only have one hour prior to your show for technical. So, you’ve got one hour to place your lights, to run through your soundtrack if you’re using the cyc, if you’re using gobos, whatever.

Lindsay: How do your students handle that transformation? Because it could freak some out to go from working in the library to being in a state of the art theatre.

Gary: Well, we’ve been in this theatre so often now that I know it well enough that I map things out on our gym floor basically. I tell them, you know, “This is your presidium. These are your wings. If you walk over this line, you’re going to fall into the audience.” And so, we get a good sense of stage left, stage right. You know, all your entrances and exits, but also how much space you have – how much physical space on-stage.

So, having been in this theatre enough to know it well enough that I can do that, that makes a big difference. But the first couple of shows that we did there, yeah, they had their problems but you learn from it all.

Lindsay: I really like the idea of, if you’re going to work in your home space, to tape it out as if it is the space you’re going to be in eventually. You know, I think that’s a good tip. I know it’ll never replicate it but, if they know that they’re in the confines of that tape, what they’re working on is the space they’re going to eventually be performing on, that’s got to help a little bit.

Gary: Oh, it certainly does, and it really needs blocking a lot so the students know how far they have to travel between on-stage – makes a big difference for blocking. The wonderful thing about gyms is they’re full of lines anyway so you don’t need tape.

Lindsay: Use what you’ve got, right? Use what you’ve got.

Gary: You’ve got everything there.

Lindsay: How do you deal with limitations in set? Is it a set that you can only carry on? How much time do you have at the start of the show to get your set together?

Gary: At the start of your show, you probably have about fifteen minutes. So, everything has to be mobile. We can put everything backstage and have it stored. We might run three or four shows on one night at the festival. And so, between shows, you probably have fifteen, twenty minutes just to get yourself up there and organized. So, everything has to be ready just to come straight on and, when done, just go straight off.

Lindsay: Do you practice that in your home space?

Gary: We do. Well, we have – depends on the set and what you need. Generally, through rehearsals, anything that comes on and off – like you’re practicing taking them on and off – and you get used to it. However, if your set, like in Lose Not Thy Head, the set goes on and the set stays on, and it’s a bit of a big set though it was fairly mobile. But, the guillotine, that was a fun piece.

Lindsay: Any piece with a guillotine is a fun piece.

Gary: You can’t go wrong with a guillotine in your play.

Lindsay: Yeah, let’s talk about that play for a second. So, where did the impetus come from to take Shakespeare and to take Shakespeare’s sister and mother and sort of have Shakespeare run off and have them not only try to impersonate Shakespeare but then be accused of impersonating Shakespeare and to end up in front of the executioner?

Gary: Yeah, that kind of came from a costume from a few previous Shakespearean pieces – not pieces but really spoofs. I had a Shakespeare costume and it’s been kicking around a while so I said to myself, “We really ought to use that Shakespeare costume, but I don’t have a Shakespeare.” I did a few years ago. I had a wonderful actor too who did a very nice Shakespeare, but I didn’t have one this year. But I had a marvelous student, female, who I kind of wanted to put front and center in a show. she’d been with the group a while and it was her graduating year and I was thinking, “Yeah, she’d make a fine Shakespeare,” only she’s female and Shakespeare was not. So, she became Shakespeare’s sister.

Lindsay: Why not?

Gary: Exactly. So, the costume fit her nicely and Shakespeare’s sister she was whose named had to be Joan and her mother was Mary. Shakespeare had a sister named Joan.

Lindsay: You just went with it, right?

Gary: Yeah.

Lindsay: I’ve got to say, I think that, for teachers out there listening, one, if you can’t find a play that’s going to fit your students, take a stab at it and find out, you know, look at the strengths of the students you have around you, and I think that this is a perfect example of how theatricality works. If you have a Shakespeare costume and you don’t have a Shakespeare, make it a girl and then see where it takes you, right?

Gary: Exactly.

Someone once told me, you know, “Don’t bother writing until you know how it ends.” But, you know, you can’t do that, or else you’d never write anything. And this was a play that just evolved one step after the other with just a series of questions like, “Okay. What next? Okay. Well, what’s Shakespeare’s sister? What’s her problem? Ah, she’s about to be executed. That’s always a problem. So, why? Well, she’s Shakespeare’s sister. What else is she going to do? She’s wearing the costume, she’s impersonating Shakespeare.”

It just built on top of that – one step after the other and after the other – and you look at your kids and you scratch your head sometimes and say, “What can I get them to do?” That’s, like, where the head came from, actually. It just worked so marvellously well.

Lindsay: And we’d just like to tell everyone that, yes, there is a severed head that talks in this play.

Gary: Exactly.

Lindsay: You’re all intrigued now! I know it!

Gary: Yeah, exactly! It’s good to have a severed head. If you’re going to have a guillotine, you might as well have a severed head in your play. You know, take it from their perspective. And, the fact that, well, he’s quite all right with being severed. He’s not hungry anymore. And, the fact that everybody else in the play – other than Mary and her daughter Joan – are perfectly all right with the idea that the severed head is talking. You know, it just adds to the whole fun of it.

Lindsay: Well, what’s fun too is that you have characters who act out of character. The executioner is kind of depressed and is not all that happy with her job. The severed head is really okay with being a severed head. Joan is impersonating Shakespeare. Like, there’s lots of characters who do things they’re not supposed to do and I think that’s the epitome of comedy – get characters who aren’t doing what they normally do.

Gary: Yes, it is. Much like Joan. I mean, Joan is very concerned about the fact that she’s beheaded. But, when someone insults her play, well, okay, that’s more important. “I’m more concerned about my play and your attitude toward it. And my head being severed, well, that’s important, but not as important as my play.”

Lindsay: Well, don’t all playwrights think that?

Gary: Of course.

Lindsay: You can take my head but don’t criticize my play.

Gary: Don’t criticize my play.

Lindsay: So, you know, basically, describe it at the end of if you like Shakespeare, Monty Python, love, death, laughs, and lunch at the pub, I think that kind of wraps it up nicely for Lose Not Thy Head.

Layers is a completely different animal all together. Where did Layers come from?

Gary: Layers came after Lose Not Thy Head and, having played with the play within a play concept, I was talking with my daughter one day and we were actually at the provincial festival, looking at a few plays ourselves, and we said, “What if we went a step further and went play within a play within a play?” and, actually, the original concept had another play on top of that but it got too long for a competition. So, that’s where it came from. And, the fact that the final play, I guess, doesn’t realize it’s a play at first, just sort of evolves out of it. As you’re sitting there looking at your script saying, “Okay. What’s this guy’s problem really? He’s got writer’s block? So what? It’s got to be more intense than that. Murder! We need some death.”

Lindsay: If you can’t have a severed head, you might as well have some death.

Gary: That’s right. Every good play needs a little death.

Lindsay: Especially the comedies.

Gary: Especially the comedies, yeah. And then, I played with that. I mean, Layers is just fun with theatre. It steps right on to the stage and says, “This is a play.” Robin asks his conscience why he hasn’t seen her at rehearsal before. He’s recognized as a multidimensional character. But even though it recognizes itself as a play – at least that first initial play – well, the second play doesn’t. It’s the writers in the third play, basically, who acknowledge that the dimensionality anthropologists are really a play.

Lindsay: It’s a spiral, and I think that what’s interesting is that, sometimes, particularly with comedies and particularly with high school plays, is that a lot of students get stuck doing things that are really linear. That it’s just “here’s the beginning, here’s the middle, here’s the end.” The characters want one thing. With competition pieces that are often so short, there’s not a lot of time to enjoy a piece that is complicated in its structure, and I think that that’s something that’s missing. Like, we need some complicated. As you said, you want to give them a challenge. You don’t want to condescend on them.

Gary: Yeah, and it’s a difficult line to walk. You don’t want things too easy for them. You don’t want them under their heads but you don’t want them over their heads either. They are kids, after all, right? Sixteen, seventeen years old. You want to deal with tricky subjects but, at the same time, you want to deal with them – I guess I want to deal with them – in a fun way, I suppose, like the pot party. And so, the original idea was…

Lindsay: That’s in the play, by the way. A pot party in the play – not in the classroom, in the play! And the pots are the plants – I guess that’s a plant, too – of the plant kind, sort of. Read the play, everybody!

Gary: Yeah, exactly! It really gets intense at the end. I love it at the end when the writer is discovering what is really going on – if that isn’t what is going on, ultimately, his friend pens the last word. Did I give too much away? I’m not sure.

Lindsay: It’s an onion in a cauliflower in a cabbage. It’s all very complicated.

Gary: Yeah, it gets really intense and really fun and fast-paced. I just love the different deaths. I love Sedrick’s death where she just lies on the floor acknowledging her death, saying, “Oh, I’m dead now,” or something to the like. And, you know, it’s comfortable. She’s just lying there, eyeballing the audience. However, when the writer’s killed, well, he gives us this big dramatic death with a real-life death and they all ask, “Is he?” “Yes, he is.” “I think so.” “You know, you killed him, and so he’s dead.”

Lindsay: So, as we wrap up here, let’s bring this back around to competition and about how important it is to kind of choose these plays sometimes that maybe they fit into the rules or maybe they don’t, or that they give your students a challenge.

One thing I noticed is that you tend to go to provincial even if you don’t have a show in it, right?

Gary: Yeah.

Lindsay: Sometimes.

Gary: Yeah, sometimes I do. I get lucky and I get some substitute time and I get the nod to go to the provincial.

Lindsay: And I know some teachers, they get right put off. Like, if they don’t get chosen to go on then they wash their hands of the next-level competition. They’re not interested. I think that, sometimes, that’s the wrong attitude – that it’s important to go see the shows that go on and that what was chosen and sort of think about and analyze it. If you could take your students, what might be useful in that as an exercise?

Gary: Well, I’m very analytical of every other high school show that I see and I try to take from something that I can use in my next production – not necessarily something specific but, certainly, it’s provincial level. Every show there has won a festival and so you look at it and say, “Okay. What is in there that separated this one from the others?” and it’s just a marvelous experience, too. Like, no one should ever go into theatre to win. Being into theatre, you know you’ve already won when you made the choice to do something like this. But, I guess, choosing the play, one thing I look for is a play that I will be happy producing and my kids would enjoy. Ultimately, it’s got to be a combination of they have to love the play, I have to love the play. There’s nothing worse than being halfway to production and going, “Ugh. I don’t like this anymore. Can we do something else? It’s too late now,” and it’s not because the script you have is not a good script. It’s probably just not the right fit for you.

I love comedy and I love plot and I try to cram as much plot as you can into a half hour, forty-five minutes in a script like this with a pinch of character development as well. You know, it’s nice that, at the end of the play, somebody has grown, even if they do end up severed. But it’s nice to see a character a little wiser, a little more mature through the whole experience. We take in that. We all enjoy that.

But, at the same time, the play has to speak to you and, when I sit down and look at something else, I just ask myself, “Does this speak to me? Is it something I could see myself doing or little elements of it?” Even if it’s just something tiny, I’d say, “Wow! I love how they did that. That was so much fun. Why didn’t I think of that?”

But, yeah, I love festivals. I don’t think I’ve gone to one without seeing one of yours, actually. And the festival atmosphere is just so, so much fun. You know, you’ve worked so long and so hard, theatre is really strange too. It’s not like being the hockey team where every game is a hockey game and the rules don’t change. The story doesn’t change. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, hopefully improve as the season goes on.

But, with theatre, you’ve worked long and hard for, like, months without a game and, finally, it hits the stage. And then, you know, after you do your festival production, you’ll probably do it a couple of others. But then, it’s done and it’s forgotten about and a whole new rulebook gets written for next year.

Lindsay: It’s not necessarily a bad thing, is it?

Gary: Oh, it’s not. It certainly isn’t.

Lindsay: Makes it interesting.

Gary: It does. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you thinking.

Lindsay: That sounds good.

Okay. Thank you so much, Gary!

Gary: It’s my pleasure! The thunder that you’ve heard in the background, I’ve created that for effect.

Lindsay: I love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. And here’s to your next competition! And thanks for talking to me!

Gary: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.

Thank you, Gary!

So, the links for this episode can be found at theatrefolk.com/112.

So, before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS.

Okay. So, Gary talks about his plays, Layers and Lose Not Thy Head. So, it’s a play feature! It’s a play feature! It’s time to feature a play! We’re going to look at the opening from Lose Not Thy Head.

So, the scene is a jail cell in Elizabethan England. There is a guillotine in the background. There is a woman with a register who is clearly in charge. Death hovers in the background. We hear a steel blade slicing and the thump of a head falling into a bucket.

FRIAR: Good shot, Cromwell! Right in the bucket!

CROMWELL: All in a day’s work, Friar.

WOLSEY: Get this one, will you, Cromwell?

CROMWELL: What? I got the last one. It’s your turn.

WOLSEY: Sorry. I’m feeling a bit queasy today. Suppose I’ve got a touch of that stomach flu.

Cromwell groans and takes up the bloodied bucket with the supposed head in it. Cromwell walks to the stone table and death follows behind.

DEATH: Come to me thy wretched soul and eternal darkness be thy reward. Come get thee hence into thy welcoming arms. Come on… ugh… Okay, fine. Stay in your bucket.

FRIAR: Wolsey, you wouldn’t have had the stomach flu every day if you stayed out of the King’s Head Pub every night.

WOLSEY: Gee, Friar, I wasn’t at the King’s Head last night.

FRIAR: Really? So, that wasn’t you hanging off the bar? Chatting up old Brown’s stable boy.

WOLSEY: You were there too, then?

FRIAR: What, maybe… but just for a smidgen.

VISCOUNTESS: Quite your prattling, fools. You two, fetch the next one.

FRIAR: Is there something the matter, my lord?

VISCOUNTESS: What? Oh. No. Nothing. It’s nothing… just… I don’t know, Friar. I just feel so uninspired, as though something were amiss. There’s an ambiguity inside of me. My life’s purpose seems uncertain. I hate to say it but I wonder if I really belong in this line of work.

FRIAR: No! But, my lord, you love beheading. You were born to do this. And, if it wasn’t for your fine work, who would chop the heads off of people? Hmm? Who?

VISCOUNTESS: Oh, I’m sure I could be replaced. Cromwell knows the practice well and she’s usually sober.

WOLSEY: Can’t be that bad, my lord.

CROMWELL: Could be worse!

VISCOUNTESS: But it’s the same thing day in, day out. Drag them in, off their heads, over and over.

WOLSEY: You know what you need, my lord? You need a hobby.

CROMWELL: Cross stitch is fun.

WOLSEY: I’m learning the piano.

CROMWELL: Ohhh… that sounds nice. What can you play?

WOLSEY: Gee, my lord, it sounds as though you’re suffering a bout of melancholy.

VISCOUNTESS: Oh, Wolsey, do you really think so?

CROMWELL: You need some cheering up, my lord. Why don’t I bake you a giant cookie for lunch? You know, a big one, like a pizza.

WOLSEY: Or perhaps lunch at the King’s Head?

CROMWELL: The condemned, my lord.

VISCOUNTESS: Oh, right… yes… er… emm… Right, what have we got here? Thief? Adulterer? Doesn’t matter. Get her set up.

So, that’s Lose Not Thy Head. And I want to mention too that this cast is very gender-flexible. The people who work the guillotine, one of them is a woman. The woman who is in-charge, she is the Viscountess. I really like that about this script – that there’s not very specific assigned gender roles. It’s very open and that, I know, is exactly what high schools need. Great sense of humor for this play, Lose Not Thy Head.

Go to the show notes at theatrefolk.com/112. Pick up a copy and read more.

Finally, where, oh, where can you find this podcast? We post new episodes every Wednesday at theatrefolk.com and on our Facebook page and Twitter. You can find us on YouTube.com/Theatrefolk, and you can find us on the Stitcher app and you can also subscribe to TFP on iTunes. All you have to do is search for the word “Theatrefolk.”

That’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.

Music credit: ”Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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The Neglect Quartet: How to request a cut or change

  • The play runs too long. We’ll get disqualified.
  • My administration won’t let us say the word “cigarette.”
  • I have more girls auditioned than guys.

In the professional world, changing the script is a big no-no. What the playwright puts on the page is what is supposed to end up on the stage. The length is the length. The genders stay the same. If a word puts someone off, don’t do the play. Certainly changes still happen without the playwright’s permission, but that’s another story.

In the educational world, the spirit of that law is always in place but there are other factors in play.

  • You’re dealing with students.
  • You’re dealing with parents.
  • You’re dealing with administrators.

And if you don’t take these groups into consideration there will be consequences beyond not doing a play. That is a fact and that can’t be ignored. It creates a situation where you have to request a cut or a change from a playwright/publisher.

This is something that publishers are aware of. Here at Theatrefolk we are very much aware of it. We get cut and change requests every day. Most of the time, it’s a question of running time for a competition. This particular request came in so often that we put together competition-length cuttings of a few of our plays.

Another request that comes in a lot is the gender change. A director holds auditions and fires off an email to us: “Can this part be played by a girl?”

In general our customers are great when it comes to change requests. We get many emails that agonize over their requests because they love the play and the understand what it means to cut or change it.

But this is not always the case.

There’s a right way, and a less than right way to ask for cuts and changes.

The Neglect Quartet

The Mind Slipper: It’s the week before opening. On direction from her administration, Sheila has already made the cuts and removed one of the characters. But she forgets until the last minute to contact the publisher prefacing her email with “Hope you don’t mind…”

The Presumer: Dan buys thirty scripts, the royalties for three performances, and then emails the publisher about cutting the play to fit the rules of his district competition. He is astonished and outraged when the playwright declines the request and he’s unable to do the play.

The Visioneer: Bethany wants to change the gender of a character from male to female. She writes the playwright a long impassioned email. She talks about her vision for the character, how she sees the character as a girl. It should be a girl. The playwright respects her passion but explains the role was written as a guy, for a guy and can’t be changed. Sheila writes a second email begging the playwright to change her mind. And then a third. And a fourth.

The Presumptist: Jim makes changes to the script and never bothers contacting the publisher. He believes he is well within his right to make those changes.

Our quartet all have one thing in common. They put other interests ahead of the script. The cuts and changes may be made with the best of intentions, or based on a ruling from administration, but the bottom line is you can’t make a cut or a change without written permission from the publisher/playwright. The play has to be performed as-is unless you have written permission from the publisher/playwright. No exceptions.

Think of the script like a rental car. If Sally rents a blue car and decides it would look better in green, will the rental company be overjoyed when she a freshly painted green car?

So what do you do?

Respect your time

It’s possible you won’t get an immediate response from a publisher for your request. Behind the scenes, a chain of conversation has to take place. You email the publisher. the publisher emails the playwright. The playwright emails the publisher. The publisher emails you. Sometimes there’s an agent between the publisher and the playwright.

So make sure you place your request in plenty of time to make alternate arrangements. Never put yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to scramble. The best time to reach out to the publisher is before you choose the script, before you buy the scripts/royalties, before you hold auditions. It’s not fair to you or to the publisher to say, “I need an answer tomorrow because I start rehearsals next week.” If you don’t get a response, don’t assume it’s okay just to go ahead and make your cuts. Be persistent.

Respect the playwright’s intention

Remember that the publisher is going to be speaking to the playwright on your behalf. Get them on your side! Be kind in your request. Acknowledge the playwright’s contribution. Talk about why you chose the play. Be specific in your request. And give yourself lots of time to get a response back.

It’s important that your director’s vision should reflect what’s on the page. All of these suggestions have come across our desk over the years:

  • “I want to change this character to a girl because I want to play her.”
  • “My students were so inspired by the play they wrote an extra scene, we can put it in can’t we?”
  • “Witches are against our religion, so we can’t have those characters in the play.”
  • “The school board has said we’re not allowed to say the word Christmas.”

When you’re putting together a request for cuts/changes, think about why you chose the play, what speaks to you about the play, and how your cuts/changes maintain the playwright’s intention.

Be specific

Changes and cuts happen in educational theatre. They happen all the time and publishers know this. But you have to be specific.

Instead of “we need permission to make changes” be specific with your request and the reason for your request. That reason is a huge one. Is the cut for competition? Is it two lines or a hundred? Are you cutting because the administration is breathing down your neck about a word?

The playwright put a lot of time and effort into the script and hearing the reasoning can help them with their decision.

Be prepared to hear “no”

The playwright has the final decision when it comes to cuts and changes. It’s their property both legally and morally. They have the right to say no to any cut or change.

Assume you’re going to hear no and have a back-up plan in place. That way you can be pleasantly surprised when your request is accepted!

The most important reason to ask permission

Someone is watching you. Your students are watching what you do and how you do it. If you tell a student it’s okay to make a cut without permission, they’re going to think it’s okay. Why would they think anything different? Time and time again we hear from young teachers that they do things to scripts because their own teacher did them.

If you respect the script then show your students it’s important to respect the script. That is a valuable lesson for them to learn.

Click here for a printable poster to hang in your classroom.

neglectquartet

emotionalattachment

You can’t be emotional about a thing.

That’s a common refrain. You can’t feel anything about an object or a building because they’re just things. They have no feelings. They can’t return or respond with any emotion you give them.

Except for the fact that we have emotional attachments toward things all the time.

  • Our childhood home.
  • A seashell from our best vacation ever.
  • A ring from Grandma before she died.

Explore the concept of emotional attachment with this exercise. Start off with a class discussion about an object or a place that you yourself have an emotional attachment to. Ask students, “Why do we feel emotion toward things that can’t return the favour? What does it mean to feel mad, sad, pride or love to an object or building? What are these emotions attached to?”

Exercise

Look at the picture in the downloadable version of this exercise. Answer the following questions:

  1. Where is this building?
  2. What is this building, or what did it used to be?
  3. What happened here recently?

Next create a character who has an emotional attachment to the place in the picture. For example: The building looks like an abandoned school, destroyed by a fire. The character is an orphan and spent their childhood at the school. They hate the building and they’re glad that it’s abandoned because of the miserable memories.

Based on their emotional attachment, create a few details for the character. For example: This character is in his 50’s, his name is Alan, he is tall, fit and wears an expensive suit. He has worked his whole life to overcome his bad childhood. He’s a CEO and arrived at the building in a limo. But he still can’t shake his memories.

Write a monologue with this information as the inspiration: The specific emotional attachment, and the character details.

In the monologue the character is looking at the building as it is now, talking about how they feel.

Define a listener for the monologue. Who are they talking to? Why are they sharing their feelings? Why are they sharing in this exact moment? For example: Alan is talking to his limo driver because he’s the one person he trusts. It’s a secret that Alan was an orphan and he knows his driver will never talk.

Define how the character talks. It’s important for all characters to have a specific character voice. For example: Alan is a CEO and has worked to overcome his past. He uses big words. He never uses slang.

Lastly have the character’s emotion change throughout the monologue. Change is important in monologues. For example: Alan starts out angry because of the memories and ends happy because he has changed his life. He’s glad the building is run down.

Give students time to work on their monologues. Have students share them in small groups and submit them for assessment.

Discuss the writing afterward with students. What is it like to write for a character who is attached to a place? How might students use this exercise in their future writing?

Click here for a printable PDF version of this exercise and a Monologue rubric!

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Episode 111: Directing the Large Cast Middle School Play

Episode-111

It’s one thing to want to put every middle schooler who auditions on stage. It’s another thing to pull off a successful production. How do you actually direct a large cast middle school play without feeling like a traffic cop?

Play

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Welcome to TFP – The Theatrefolk Podcast – the place to be for Drama teachers, Drama students, and theatre educators everywhere.

I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk.

Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.

Welcome to Episode 111 – one one one. So, you can find all the links for this episode at theatrefolk.com/episode111. Three ones make a… I don’t know what they make. They make three? Three ones… Three ones make a… Ah, that’s not going anywhere.

So, how are you this week? Are the days flying by? Usually, around this time I am, oh, I am so grateful for the creeping fall. But, this year, our summer hasn’t been that bad. It hasn’t been that humid at all. The sweeping has been gorgeous. You know, when the leaves start to burn orange, yellow, and red. Ah, it’s my favorite time of year. And the air turns just a shade colder. Ah!

I like living in a place that has seasons. I like visiting places that are warm all year round, but I like calling home a place that goes through all of them – yes, even winter, although last winter was not good, but there’s always next winter.

So, middle school, we’re going to talk about directing the large cast middle school play. I’ve talked to two middle school teachers who have both said that directing middle school students is like herding cats which sounds a little bit frustrating to me, you know? I have a lot of appreciation for teachers who can do that – who can take all those students and mold something, and everybody wants to be on-stage and I think that’s the thing about the middle school play is that there’s more of an impetus, I think, to put as many students on-stage as you can.

But it’s one thing to put every middle schooler who auditions on-stage and it’s another thing to pull off a successful production. How do you actually do it without feeling like a traffic cop? So, that’s what we’re talking about today. We’re going to talk to Holly Beardsley who directed the first production of her play, The Pauper Princess, with a large cast of middle school students. Let’s find out how she did it.

Lindsay: All right. So, today, I am talking to Holly Beardsley. Hello, Holly!

Holly: Hello.

Lindsay: Tell everybody where in the world you are.

Holly: Well, right now, I am in Champaign, Illinois, which is about two hours south of Chicago, Illinois, which is what most people know us for.

Lindsay: Right. So, Holly has written a play that we have in our catalogue. It’s called The Pauper Princess and it is – as you might guess – a retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. A pretty amazing, wonderful comedy.

Holly, when you directed the first production of this show, you had – you were telling me – first of all, you did this with middle school.

Holly: Yes.

Lindsay: Secondly, you had over fifty students in the play.

Holly: That is correct. Maybe under eighty, over fifty.

Lindsay: Who knows how many got in there somewhere, right?

Holly: There was quite a bit of them, you know? And they’re very small. They fit into large places.

Lindsay: But that’s what we’re going to talk about first. We’re going to talk about not only directing middle school students but directing a large cast middle school show. it must be sort of a pre-requisite that, when you do a middle school show, everyone gets cast.

Holly: Sometimes, you know, you do have to draw the line occasionally. But my idea was always that there’s going to be enough heartache later on in life. You want them to get that moment of success of getting into the show and finding their place in theatre because that’s such a wonderful moment. And then, the kids that, you know, don’t really want to be in theatre realize it very quickly and I let them reject us which is kind of how it’s worked for me pretty well.

Lindsay: Did you do auditions for this show?

Holly: Yes. Oh, you have to audition. That way, you can see that little germ of talent that you’re going to have to try and build up as it is. So, yes, we did audition.

Lindsay: What works best, do you think, in middle school? At the middle school level, what kind of audition works best?

Holly: You know, often, we would do group auditions because there would be, like, about a thousand of them auditioning at the same time. So, we would give group scenes previously and let them practice and then they could choose to do it together or we would give a very small monologue and let them choose which one they would like to do – if they’d like to do it alone or as a group. The biggest issue is actually that they’d want to do both and I’d be like, “No, we don’t have time.”

Lindsay: And, also, if you give a group scene and have them practice it, you’re going to see pretty quickly who can work well together.

Holly: Exactly. You could see who wants to listen and who is actually acting as opposed to just reading. It’s very interesting what you see in an audition.

Lindsay: I agree. And how do you deal at the middle school level with disappointment when that cast list goes up?

Holly: Oh, it’s always there.

Lindsay: I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it because you may give someone a part and you think that they’re so wonderful for it and they’re like, “Oh, but I wanted such and such.”

Holly: Oh, definitely. I mean, well, we always dubbed the wall where we put the cast list as “The Crying Wall” or “The Wailing Wall” because, invariably, someone is totally destroyed that they did not get the lead, you know?

Even if they were the youngest kid, has never tried out for anything but they’d just have these ideas of grandeur, you know? So, they would cry and you just kind of have to let them cry. That’s their moment that they also need to have – that moment of disappointment – that’s growing right there.

But then, we also have the ones that were like, you know, “I was supposed to be the star,” and that’s also growing because you kind of, I guess, shoot them down a little bit – bring them down just a touch. That’s important.

Lindsay: Learning and growing in those moments are important for the grander scheme of their lives and, if you just say, “Oh, no! Well, you can have the part,” or, “Oh, no! We’ll make a change,” that doesn’t help them either, does it?

Holly: Exactly, exactly. You know, I worked with my mother in this same show and she’s so funny because she’d be like, “Oh, but they’re such a nice kid.” I’m like, “Of course, they’re a nice kid! I’m not destroying them right now, you know. They got a part. That’s good. So, they’re in.” If it were up to my mother, they would have all been leads.

Lindsay: The show would have been seven hours long because everybody had a part – big part.

Holly: Exactly, that’s what I said. She’s like, “Well, can’t they just have one line?” I’m like, “Mother, we only have two hours or less here.”

Lindsay: What about dealing with parents? I’m sure you’ve had to come across some stage parents. They’re the ones who say, “My kid should have had the lead.”

Holly: Oh, yes! Oh, we love the stage parents. I’ve had parents that are incredible, that volunteer so much of their time and they’re there. They become like family. And then, I have parents that really just come in at the last minute to complain that their child wasn’t the star. You get it all, especially with a cast of, like, you know, eighty kids. You have almost like the sports dad on the side who doesn’t actually understand theatre at all but he’s just rooting for his kid to win and you’re like, “You know, there’s no real winning right here. We’re just making a show. You know, we’re not going to state or anything. We’re doing a show.”

So, yes, parents. You know, honestly, especially with middle school – I shouldn’t say this but – if I just dealt with the kids, it would have been a beautiful, beautiful time always because the kids were always open to it. I mean, you had moments – because kids have moments – but the real tantrums actually came from the parents most of the time which is terrible but it’s true.

Lindsay: I think that is one of the cool thing about dealing with that particular age. They’re pretty open, aren’t they? They’re still okay with being a little silly.

Holly: Exactly. I love that about that age. They’re just getting old enough to start really understanding your jokes but they’re not too cool yet. Like, when they get into high school, sometimes they think they’re cooler than you – actually, they know they’re cooler than you.

Lindsay: They are cooler than you.

Holly: Yeah, they are cooler than you. But, in middle school, they’re still not sure about that yet and they just are excited to be with you there doing theatre. I love that about them.

Lindsay: Okay. So, with those parents though, do you just let them rant? Obviously, you have to stand your ground. What do you do?

Holly: Oh, of course. It’s all about perspective because, I mean, this is their kid, this is their world. And so, it hurts them when their kid is hurt. And so, you just have to let them be hurt, too. It’s the same principle of the kid, you know, at The Wailing Wall. They have to be hurt for a moment and then you go in and you just start telling them the facts. And most parents will totally become rational after a moment. They just have to have that little tantrum and then they’re like, “Oh, yes, I am a rational human being. I can listen to you and we can have a conversation.”

So, usually, it’s just letting them have a moment and then just speaking like a normal person. Really, it comes down to, like, we’re not going to change parents. There’s no way that we’re going to change parents and that they’re not going to automatically be hurt when their child is hurt. But we can change how we respond to parents. Like, you know, we can change how they see us if we let them have their moment and then just act like a normal person.

And, also, we have to have, as directors, a thicker skin, I think, because they will totally lash out at you because they are hurt. You know, they are hurt so they will lash out and they will say terrible things. But then, at a certain point, you just have to pull back and let them have that moment.

Lindsay: I think that’s a lovely way of looking at it actually – that their child is hurt so they are hurt. In that context, it’s a bit easier to not meet their anger, I think.

Holly: Yes, that is sometimes the only way. And then, of course, you have the extra, above, and beyond person and then it’s like, you know, “Bring in the administrator.”

Lindsay: Yes.

Holly: If you have a good principal, they will be behind you, and I’ve always had that situation.

Lindsay: Okay. So, now let’s get into the rehearsal proper. How do you rehearse with fifty-plus middle school students running left, right, and center? What were some of your tactics?

Holly: The phrase “herding cats” comes to mind.

Lindsay: You are not the first middle school teacher who has used that phrase.

Holly: Yeah, yeah, you know, we’re all cat-lovers so, you know, it’s a good thing. Honestly, when you have a large cast like that, the best part is just getting them into groups. That’s why, sometimes, when you see – at least in my plays that I have written – you will see these groups, these natural groupings, so that you can work with maybe, like, the villagers one moment or the leads the next or the ladies in waiting so that you can have other groups doing other things and that also comes down to your assistant directors. If you have good assistant directors who can work with the other groups, it becomes much more manageable.

Lindsay: Were your assistant directors other teachers? Were they parents? Were they older students? Where did you pull your assistant directors from?

Holly: Entirely depends on what year. But, that precise one, the first time that we did Pauper, it was, I believe, another teacher and then, also, I had I think it was two other students who were now in high school. So, they came back, actually, to help with the middle school production which they love to do because they’re so much wiser now in high school. They know everything! But they’re also very loyal, sweet kids that will help you.

Lindsay: Well, I think having those high school students around, I think, that could only be in your benefit, if they’re good workers. I think that the biggest mistake must be trying to do it all alone.

Holly: Yes, and, you know, there are times where you have to be the main person. Like, on big group scenes where all of your groups are together. I mean, what are you going to do? They’re all there. So, in that case, usually, I resorted to something called Sparkly where I would just do jazz hands and I’d be like, “Sparkly! Look at me! Look at me!” and then, eventually, they would all look at me. But that’s only in group scenes when you resort to sparkle hands.

Lindsay: Yeah, and it’s only when you start getting the laser pointer out, that’s when you know things are bad.

Holly: Oh, yes. I believe one year I had a whistle but then the whistle didn’t quite work out because then they would all talk about how loud the whistle was, you know? I don’t know why but sparkly fingers always worked. It just goes, “Sparkle! Sparkle! Look at me!” and I think you have to buffoon sometimes. You have to be the jester and then they’re so amused at you and watching you, you know, they are quiet for a moment.

Lindsay: So, how do you balance that? Being the buffoon and the jester just to get their attention and then also being the authority of “I’m the director. I know what I’m doing. Listen to me so we can do it that way.” Where is that balance for you?

Holly: Oh, it is a balancing act. I think that, when they see you in the smaller groups and it’s pure authority director and it’s all about the product of what we are making, they see that and so they know that there’s going to be moments of the jester and that’s really just about getting attention. And then, as soon as you have their attention, go right into that director mode as well.

Lindsay: So, you start with one and then just sort of really segue quickly into the other?

Holly: Exactly. I mean, it’s just an attention-getter. It’s just, you know, a big bang wow. Honestly, also, that means that you do need to have those small groups. You need to see each small group. You can’t just be with the leads only. You have to occasionally make your way over to the other side of the room that’s with the villagers and, you know, really help the villagers.

Lindsay: Do you have some character stuff that you give those groups that are sort of like villager one, citizen, here’s the group of citizens, the group of courtiers, you know, the group of servants? Do you ever give them any character stuff that they can work on so they don’t feel like villagers so much?

Holly: Definitely. Most times, I actually try to give every single character a name.

Lindsay: Ah!

Holly: Because, at a certain point, like I said, when we’re the fifty-plus going to eighty, that does get a little ridiculous. But, when I can’t give them a name, I have them give themselves a name and I have them give themselves a full-on history and there’ll be full rehearsals where they’re just working on their histories so that, when I say, “Why are you going over there?” then they say, “Well, my name is Bob – Sir Bob – and Sir Bob is going across the stage because he needs to get to the market.” You know, they’ve thought about this. One, that’s great because then they’ve gone into characterization and, two, as a teacher, that’s great because they spent an hour on that and you get to work with someone else for an hour. So, it’s great for time management and for characterization and for theatre in general.

Lindsay: I don’t think you can ever go wrong with those kinds of exercises, particularly when you have large groups – here are your villagers, here are your this, here are your that – it makes them feel a part of it.

Holly: Kids are smart. They will figure out if you just shove them in the corner, you know what I mean? They will understand if they’re just like the tree in the background and there’s nothing wrong being the tree in the background. It serves its purpose. But they’re smart kids and they have an ego of their own so you want to make sure that they are still learning and that this is still worth their time.

Lindsay: Well, it’s one thing to say, “We are all part of an ensemble. We are all a community. Okay. Now, go be a tree.” You can’t be contradictory like that, can you?

Holly: Exactly, yeah.

Lindsay: Okay. So, how do you block fifty-plus students? When you have those large groups where everybody’s on-stage all at once, what is that process like?

Holly: You know, honestly, I think sometimes, as a director, you have to be very visual and you have to see it as you’re doing it because, as much as you could plan out in advance, when you’re looking at these kids, you have to be able to move them and make it look right when you’re right there.

Lindsay: Do you use floor plans? Do you draw it out? What do you do?

Holly: I personally don’t, but that’s because I think I have the luck of having written the show.

Lindsay: You can visualize it in your head.

Holly: Yes, I visualized it from that first keystroke at my laptop so I have that luck. It really is just luck that I have the ability to do that because I’ve worked with other directors who will just stare at me and go, “How did you do that?” and I say, “Well, you know, I wrote the thing so I know where I thought they were going to be.” It makes it a little easier on me. But I’ve also seen other directors do wonderful jobs with writing it out, having visual aids of either a previous production of it and then taking that and doing something with it themselves. I’ve seen all kinds of things. But, myself, I just do it.

Lindsay: I like to draw, when I directed, pictures were always helpful for me so that I could just, “Here’s the picture. Here’s the set. All right, now, you’re going to move this way,” just the pattern of it.

Holly: Definitely.

Lindsay: I think that helps, too.

And then, have you ever gotten in that situation though when you have everybody on stage and you can visualize it and they start moving and it just looks like chaos? It’s like a stampede?

Holly: Oh, yes, I’ve definitely had that moment. The kids were always funny because, occasionally, I would just stop moving and I would be absolutely frozen because I was trying to figure out what was happening and, usually, I would say to the kids, “I need just a minute.” Just one moment to think and I’ll just be staring. What’s funny about kids is that they’ll sometimes replicate what you’re doing. So, they’ll all stop and stare. So, I’ve got, you know, eighty-plus kids – well, no – fifty-plus kids staring at me while I’m staring at them. But, usually, thank goodness, it usually kicks in and I figure out what needs to be moved.

You know, often actually – I’ll take that back – because, yes, often it kicks in for me, but that’s where those wonderful assistant directors come in because, occasionally, I will just turn to one of them and I would say, “Jake” or whomever, “What am I doing wrong here? What needs to be fixed?” and he would say, “This kid needs to move over there,” and then there’s an empty space there for them to go and I’d be like, “You’re right1 Move that kid.” So, having that extra person there is invaluable. You have to have. You can’t do it alone, especially with a large cast like that. Maybe with a small cast, you could take that moment and it’s easier to see. But, when you have a big large cast, you need other people.

Lindsay: And I don’t think it’s a bad thing for your students to see, “Hey! This isn’t perfect all the time. You know, we need to make mistakes. We need to ask for help and just sort of everyone’s working together to make it happen.”

Holly: Exactly. Yes, very much so.

Lindsay: Yeah. What do you do when you’re in the middle, you know, you’ve started rehearsals, you’ve got blocking, students are maybe getting their lines down, and you sort of hit that mid-rehearsal rut where maybe lines are being lost or the energy just kind of goes out of a show? How do you deal with that?

Holly: I have a trick! I have a trick for that because everyone has experienced that where it just suddenly is “wonk wonk wah!” and you’ve said these lines over and over again, it’s no longer funny and now it’s just blech.

What we do – and this is a terrible name for it – we do it on Crack Speed which means that we do a run-through where it is just as fast as humanly possible, like words are coming out, you know, they’re not even words coming out but they’re just running through it, running through it, running through it. That usually kind of jars their system and, also, they just get so hilarious, you know, so they just love it. You just try and keep the chaos contained to make sure nothing goes flying one way or the other and you just run through the whole thing on crack speed, as they like to say, and I think it was the kids that came up with that name but it works. It works because they’re going so fast that they’re not even thinking about it anymore. They’re flying and it really is really funny, to be honest. Even as a teacher, it’s nice to have that moment where you just get to laugh because you’re tired of the same lines, too. It always helps.

Lindsay: And it’s important for everyone to remember that, you know, it’s play. It’s supposed to be fun.

Holly: Exactly.

Lindsay: It can get pretty much to drudgery if you don’t watch out, can’t it?

Holly: Oh, yeah, it can get snake-bit very fast where suddenly everything is just ugh. Sorry, I speak in sound effects – sounds.

Lindsay: That’s all right. I’ll say sometimes I go ping! So, it’s all good.

And I think too that, going really fast like that, you’re going to see pretty quickly who’s having trouble with their lines and who’s not.

Holly: Yeah.

Lindsay: Because it’s in those out-of-step sort of rehearsals where you’re not sort of in the same routine – even in the movement too – that things get ajar. How do you handle students who have trouble with lines?

Holly: Well, it depends on the kid. The kid that is very studious, you have them just literally write them many times and that helps them. The kid that just needs extra work, just needs extra help, you just run them – when he’s not on stage, he’s running, he’s running his lines. Sometimes, you have to just tell them the importance of this kind of thing.

And I may have been more of a stickler because I did write the lines so I’m like, “Hey, no, no, no! I know that line. You know, that is incorrect and we don’t do paraphrasing because the writer wrote them for a reason.” So, I think it just depends on the kid. But the most important thing is just that they understand how important this is – that other people are relying on them and that they have to know their lines to act their lines. Until they know their lines, they are just reciting from memory. They’re trying to pull back from their memory. They’re not acting yet even. They may have never been acting until they know their lines.

Lindsay: When you do that, you are instilling in a student, at a young age, respect, aren’t you? Respect for the theatre. Respect for your peers. Respect for the process. You know, whether or not they’re a great actor is moot when you can instil that in a young actor, isn’t it?

Holly: Yes, you can’t see it but I’m nodding the whole time you were saying that. Very much so. Sometimes, I would forget how young they are because they’re doing such a big thing and I think that it’s important to do such a big thing at that age so that no one underestimates them.

Lindsay: Again, it’s that balance because you can’t forget they’re kids but why not give them something big to handle?

Holly: Exactly. I never dumb down with those kids because they’re at such an important age. Middle school is a huge deal. They’re at the beginning of abstract thought. They’re deciding who they’re going to be. I’ve got to tell you, by the time they get into high school, they often have already decided who they are going to be – at least for high school – and it’s a moment to get in there and make really great human beings. I mean, that’s a big calling but that’s what it is.

Lindsay: It’s a big responsibility. It’s one not to be taken lightly, I think.

Holly: No, no.

Lindsay: Awesome. All right. Oh, that gave me just a little chill. I like that. Love that!

All right, let’s just end on getting ready for the show. You know, it must be quite the feat to put fifty-plus kids through a dress rehearsal, get them all ready for that performance moment. How is that herding? How do you get them ready?

Holly: It’s a madhouse. It’s an utter madhouse. Sometimes, it comes down to just the faith that you know it’s going to happen. You know, the show will go on because it does. So, you just have to get it through.

I said earlier that I worked with my mother. My mother is actually the costumer and producer of all the productions that I’ve ever done so that’s an extra interesting little layer on top of that. And, as the costumer, she was always dealing with that craziness and there’s nothing funnier than to see one of your young actors put on literally every costume they have. Like, they have three costumes but they put them all at once so they’ve got, like, six vests on, all these other weird things, and you’re like, “No, no, just this costume.” It is an utter madhouse but you just have to have faith that all that rehearsal that you did beforehand will kick in and you just have to get the logistics in. You have to just get through it. Get to the actual performance. It just takes a couple of shows to know that it will always work out.

Lindsay: Yeah, for sure.

Holly: Borrowing some, like, act of God, it will always work out.

Lindsay: What’s your number one tip for a middle school teacher who is faced with a plus-fifty cast?

Holly: Go with the flow. I would say go with the flow and adapt because, with fifty-plus kids, it’s never going to go as you planned but oftentimes it will be better than you planned because those kids will bring new things to the characters that you had no idea were even in there and that’s coming from a director who wrote her shows. I had no idea a character was a certain way until a kid played it.

So, the show will go on and adapt.

Lindsay: Awesome. So, on that note, let’s talk about The Pauper Princess a little bit.

So, this is a retelling of Mark Twain’s The Prince and The Pauper. But this time I think it’s pretty clear we have two girls in the two original boys’ parts and I think that’s pretty obvious. There’s always more girls than guys, aren’t there?

Holly: Yes.

Lindsay: Absolutely. Also, you’ve added a nice little spin too because it takes place in Shakespearean time. Why that?

Holly: Yes. Well, when I was first reading The Prince and The Pauper – and I love Mark Twain, he is so funny – there was, like, one line about the Prince’s sister, Elizabeth, and I was sitting there going, “Wait a minute. Does he mean Queen Elizabeth?” You know, the mother of Shakespearean theatre? The patron of Shakespeare? And there’s even those conspiracy theories that she wrote Shakespeare’s works herself.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Holly: You know, just kind of took that and ran with it because it was, frankly, it was just fun to go into Shakespeare. I mean, who doesn’t love Shakespeare in theatre? It’s the origin, you know. It was fun to have that kind of reference humor with Shakespeare and to bring up the Tudors which is always a lot of drama.

Lindsay: There’s never a dull moment.

Holly: Yeah, never a dull moment and it all kind of came together. It was also, I will say though, that there was a need to do The Prince and The Pauper with the female character because there are so many girls that try out for these shows so I wanted to do that twist but I also wanted it to have a purpose.

Lindsay: Well, what I like about it too is that we always get to see Queen Elizabeth, right? We always get to see her after she’s on the throne and she looks a very specific way.

Holly: Very scary.

Lindsay: Yeah! Here, it’s like teenage Elizabeth.

Holly: Exactly.

Lindsay: And she’s a young girl and that is so, you know, it’s very relevant. So, that, obviously, if you haven’t caught on, guys, the princess in The Prince and The Pauper, The Princess and the Pauper is Queen Elizabeth as a young girl dealing with the fact that people keep trying to marry her off and that she would rather not have all the constraints of being a princess and everything that’s happening around her in her own life with her dad and Henry VIII and her brother and seals and then switching parts, you know, switching identities with a young pauper who’s just trying to get ahead who, you know, was willing to resort to pretending to be a boy and being in a play because that’s the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Holly: That’s right.

Lindsay: So, what was your students’ response to this scenario?

Holly: Well, some of them – like, the gifted kids – caught on very quickly because they were learning it in History and they’re like, “Wait a minute. These are real people, aren’t they?” and I was like, “Yes, they are. They are real people.” Some of the other kids who were really sweet, we were on the eve of performance and they’re like, “Wait a second. Queen Elizabeth’s a real person?” I’m like, “Yeah!”

Lindsay: Oh, dear.

Holly: It was lots of fun for both kids because they would suddenly realize that they were a part of something bigger because then they learned the history and that was big for me as a history buff. I love putting real bits, you know, real bits of history into something more fanciful. I would say that was really the most fun of it – those kids that suddenly had that moment. One kid – I’m trying to remember which one – she later did a history report on her character specifically. So, I think that’s fun to put that love of history in the kids, too.

Lindsay: Well, this way, they’re participating in it as opposed to reading about something that happened a long time ago. They’re actually in the middle of it.

Holly: Yeah, talk about immersing yourself into the history.

Lindsay: I love plays that do that naturally, you know, because the thing to always remember is that this is not a history brochure or a textbook. It’s a play and play has to be the main focus and the main fun.

Holly: They can tell when they’re being taught to.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Holly: They could see that moment and they’re like, “Wait a minute.”

Lindsay: Well, I see plays like that all the time. You know, it’s like, “Oh, here it is. Here’s the teaching moment.”

Holly: Yeah, you can even almost hear the music in the background going to the teaching moment.

Lindsay: And, somehow, they never end up in our catalogue. I don’t know what it is.

So, in this play, what’s really wonderful too is that you have a whole notion about how, look, you could do the costuming period, right? But you can also do it with modern themes, you know? Like anachronistic choices like, you know, Converse sneakers or sunglasses that make it an obvious comedy, and I think that that kind of choice is really good for a lot of middle school teachers who might not have any background. Maybe they’re actors. Maybe they have a little bit of directing.

But many of them have no of that other stuff that goes into making the play and, you know, sure, you can do it with all the bangs and whistles. But you know what? You can just sort of put this play on and you obviously had some costuming. You had a mom. But what about all that other stuff about getting your sets put together?

Holly: Well, I think I was very lucky. I actually come from a visual arts background before I even went into writing so I was able to do the sets and my mother did the costuming – she is the queen of costuming. It was actually quite funny to try and get her to put some of those anachronistic things in there. I said, “Why don’t we put some Converse on them?” She’s like, “What? No! You must be wearing boots! That is not of the period!”

Lindsay: Well, the picture of the two girls that you sent us, well, the costumes are beautiful.

Holly: She’s very good.

Lindsay: What would you say to that teacher who doesn’t have anything, you know? What’s really important here?

Holly: Well, I’ll say what I’ve always said to my mother, actually, and that is that the story comes first and the plot comes first because, of course, when I was saying that to my mother, it’s usually because she’s like, “Well, they can’t sit on the ground because they’re wearing white pants,” or something. I’d be like, “You know what, Mom? The story comes first. They have to sit on the ground.” So, if the story isn’t acted properly. It doesn’t matter what they’re wearing. They could be wearing pure gold but, if it’s not acted right, it’s not worth it.

So, yes, the costuming is wonderful and fun and the kids love it. But, if you don’t have that at your disposal, just have fun and add a little fun touches that you can in the accessories and things like that that make them feel like the character. But, really, it comes down to the acting. Technically, this whole thing could be done in a black box situation which is just, you know, nothing. It’s all about the imagination because technically that’s how Shakespeare did it.

I mean, Shakespeare did it with basically no costumes. They used hand-me-downs from people that were higher up. There wasn’t costuming. It was all about what they were saying and that’s way more important than the costuming. Don’t tell my mother that I said that.

Lindsay: And, Holly, you can’t see me either but I’m sitting here nodding. I’m like, “No one can see me but I’m totally agreeing,” and that’s a perfect note to end on here.

So, this is Holly Beardsley who has written a wonderful, wonderful play called The Pauper Princess. Check it out.

Thank you so much for talking to me today!

Holly: Thank you! That was fun!

Thank you, Holly!

So, the links for this episode can be found at theatrefolk.com/episode111.

Before we go, let’s do some THEATREFOLK NEWS!

It’s a play feature! It’s a play feature! It’s time to feature a play!

So, we heard Holly talk about her play, The Pauper Princess. So, let’s hear something from it!

What I love about this script so much is the humor. It is light but it’s smart. It’s fun and, yes, there is a cast of thousands.

So, to recap, the play is based on Mark Twain’s The Prince and The Pauper and is set in Elizabethan England. In fact, Elizabeth is the princess in the title. So, I’m going to read a scene between the two of them – Elizabeth and Theresa who is the pauper – and when they first meet. Elizabth has gone to see a show and Theresa is pretending to be a man just so that she can get a job. That’s what it takes to get a job in this place, you need to pretend to be a guy. So, that’s where Theresa is coming from.

THERESA: Your highness! Princess Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: Arise, arise! I know you, do I not?

THERESA: No, no – I am nothing but a lowly player.

ELIZABETH: You’re the girl in the square, aren’t you?

THERESA: No. a young man performer, your highness. Don’t let the dress fool you, your majesty. Don’t let the eye patch fool you either… two eyes! Two eyes to see the ladies with… because I’m a man… who likes ladies… Oh, yes, it’s true! I am the girl in the square! I am so, so, so sorry, Princess! Please forgive me! Please don’t hang me all ‘cause I wore pants! They were completely uncomfortable – not worth it! I am so sorry! Forgive me!

ELIZABETH: Oh, calm yourself, girl. I have no intention of hanging you. Calm yourself! Arise, arise! Why did you wave to me this morning? Do we know each other?

THERESA: I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to wave! I’m always doing that! Waving to people I don’t know. Father Andrew always chastised me for waving to people above my station! Mercy, forgive me! Please don’t hang me for waving!

ELIZABETH: Calm yourself! I’m not going to hang you! Stand up for goodness sake! You did wave to me, yes? Not that again! Stand up nice and tall – don’t speak. Nod or shake your head, got it? You were the girl in the square, yes? You live in London then? Near the palace? You work in Asinus’ troupe as a play? But they don’t know that you are a girl? But how do you do it? How do you escape without your servants noticing?

THERESA: Servants? I don’t have any servants.

ELIZABETH: No servants? But who brings you food? Who dresses and undresses you?

THERESA: I bring myself food. Whenever there is any food to be had. As for dressing and undressing, Father Andrew taught me well. I’m a good religious girl. Nobody’s undressing me.

ELIZABETH: No, no, no! Not that kind of undressing. Who helps you change your attire from day to evening or when you go to sleep? Who helps you into your sleeping gown?

THERESA: I only really have the one dress. Then there’s the vest and the trousers I stole – borrowed – from the Dandelion theatre. My sisters, Bet and Nan, helped me into those.

ELIZABETH: Only one dress? But what do you wear to see suitors?

THERESA: I don’t have any suitors.

ELIZABETH: No candidates for marriage?

THERESA: There is this one boy who delivers firewood – he cuts firewood all day so he has big arms like tree trunks. But also a pretty face with big blue eyes. Sometimes I let him sit with me. Sometimes he brings me an apple.

ELIZABETH: And this boy, he is an important political connection to your father?

THERESA: No, I just like him. I never knew my father.

ELIZABETH: You like him? Because of his big arms?

THERESA: No, I’d say more because of his eyes, and the apples he brings me.

ELIZABETH: No one picked him for you?

THERESA: Nope.

ELIZABETH: And you can go anywhere you like? I suppose you go on many adventures.

THERESA: All my adventures involve finding food. I’m sure you have much more fun here, princess! All the music and dress and food! It’s like a dream!

ELIZABETH: A dream you can’t wake up from.

THERESA: Beg your pardon, princess.

ELIZABETH: Nothing. You are quite lucky, my dear. What is your real name?

THERESA: Theresa Canty. Thomas Canty is my stage name.

ELIZABETH: Miss Canty, you are luckier than you know. Theresa, are you sure we do not know each other? You seem so familiar to me… I don’t… believe it…

THERESA: What?

ELIZABETH: Come, I want to try something!

That’s The Pauper Princess by Holly Beardsley. So, go to the show notes, click on the link, and read more.

Finally, where, oh, where can you find this podcast? We post new episodes every Wednesday at theatrefolk.com and on our Facebook page and Twitter. You can find us on YouTube.com/Theatrefolk, and you can find us on the Stitcher app and you can also subscribe to TFP on iTunes. All you’ve got to do is search on the word “Theatrefolk.”

That’s where we’re going to end. Take care, my friends. Take care.

Music credit: ”Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

What does public domain mean

What does Public Domain Mean?

A Guide for Drama Teachers

I’m putting together a course for the Drama Teacher Academy and I wanted to share what I’ve learned about Public Domain material – particularly how it applies to Drama Teachers.

Before I get started, I want to be clear that I’m not a lawyer and so please don’t take anything here as legal advice. This is a summary of what I’ve learned in my years as a publisher.

Let’s answer the question in the headline first: What does “Public Domain” mean?

A work that is “in the Public Domain” is a work that is completely free for anyone to use in any way they like. It has entered the Public Domain either because the term of the copyright expired or the work was never covered by copyright in the first place.

An example of this would be the works of William Shakespeare. Nobody holds a copyright on his works and so anybody can do whatever they please with them.

Publish them in a book? Sure.

Perform them without royalty? Absolutely.

Translate the text into “modern English?” Yes.

Into Italian? Si.

Write a derivative work such as Postcards from Shakespeare? I hope so, otherwise our lawyers are going to be busy.

Cut them down to an hour? You bet.

Shakespeare works are in the domain of the public. They are there for all of us to use, share, enjoy, build upon, be inspired by, and perform. Here are some other examples of work in the Public Domain.

  • Greek Drama (there are Public Domain translations available on Project Gutenberg)
  • Grimms’ Fairy Tales (there are Public Domain translations available on Project Gutenberg)
  • The works of Charles Dickens (one of the reasons that there are so many versions of A Christmas Carol available)
  • Gilbert and Sullivan

How do you know that a work is in the Public Domain?

This depends on an awful lot of things. The first question is: Where you are going to be using it? It doesn’t necessarily matter where the work originated, it matters where you’re using it. Copyright law is applied in the country of use.

Modern copyright law is based on the date of the author’s death. In Canada, the work is under copyright for 50 years after the author dies. In the US, it’s 70 years after the author dies. Therefore, the works of George Bernard Shaw (who died in 1950) is in the Public Domain in Canada but is still under copyright in the US.

Copyright law has changed many times and it can be tricky to navigate all the ins and outs of the various changes. Sometimes it matters when a book was first printed, sometimes it matters if it had a copyright notice, sometimes it matters if the copyright was renewed.

There are some wonderful flowcharts that help with this. Remember that copyright law applies in the country in which the work is being used, not in the country in which the work originated. Make sure you’re using the proper flowchart for your country:

Thankfully, copyright is simpler today. It’s automatic. It exists the second the author writes the words. It doesn’t require registration, it doesn’t require the © mark, it doesn’t require much of anything except a creative being “fixed” in a tangible way.

The big caveat!

Only the original work is in the Public Domain. Any creation based upon or inspired by or translated from the original work is most likely under a form of copyright protection.

Postcards from Shakespeare is a fine example of this. It’s based many of Shakespeare’s plays, all of which are in the Public Domain. But the new work is protected by copyright.

Project Gutenberg  is a wonderful source of Public Domain translations of classic works like Molière and The Greeks. But John Barton’s The Greeks is protected by copyright.

Public Domain is NOT

You know what Public Domain is, here are some things that it is not.

Works posted online. The fact that a work is posted online (even by the author herself) does not place it into the Public Domain. There are hundreds of copies of Star Wars posted on the Internet. It isn’t Public Domain. It’s just heavily pirated.

Anonymous works. Just because the author has used a pseudonym or is anonymous doesn’t mean that it’s free to use. We have a play by an anonymous author, for example. It’s still protected by copyright. The term of the copyright is different for anonymous works but it’s still protected for many years.

Work for which you can’t find the author or the rightsholder. Also known as orphan works. These are still protected by copyright for the same duration as mentioned above.

Work released under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a fabulous evolution to the world of copyright and intellectual property. It’s a very forward-thinking and open look at copyright. For that reason, many people confuse CC-licensed work as totally free to use. But CC in and of itself isn’t a license to have free reign with the work. Each work is licensed with certain terms and restrictions. A discussion of the various CC licensing schemes is well beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say that CC licensed work is still covered by copyright.

Want more?

Interested in learning more? Consider joining the Drama Teacher Academy – professional development on demand for drama teachers.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this article.

Sense Scenes

Have fun with the five senses!

Students write a different header on five different pieces paper:

  1. Sight (objects)
  2. Sound
  3. Smell
  4. Touch (Textures)
  5. Taste

Go through the headers with the class and give them an example for each.

Then have students create an their own examples for each sense.

For Sight, come up with five objects. (e.g. car, stapler, trash can, sandbox)

Sound is self-explanatory as is Smell – five sounds, five smells.

For Touch, have students come up with five textures. (e.g. fuzzy, smooth, rough)

For Taste, they can use food or drinks. But also encourage them to think outside the box. Perfume, for example, has a taste.

Once you go through each sense once with your students, give them a few minutes to come up with their own. Five minutes tops.

Next, tell your students they are going to be writing short scenes (10-15 lines). Each scene will have two characters and take place in one location. Brainstorm with your students on different types of characters and different locations. Put these on the board for students to choose from.

Students start with the Sight page. They write their first scene using the objects example as inspiration. All five of their examples must make their way into the scene somehow.

Students move on to the Sound page. Write a short scene using the sound examples.

Next the Smells page. What kind of scene can they write inspired by smells?

And then the Touch Page. What kind of scene can they write inspired by the textures examples? What do those textures represent? Are they characters? Are they indicative of a location?

Lastly the Taste page. Write a short scene inspired by the taste examples.

Discuss the writing afterward. Which sense was easiest to incorporate into a scene? Which sense was hardest? Would it be easier to combine senses rather than to limit a scene to just one sense? How does exploring the senses help in your future writing?

Click here for a downloadable PDF of this exercise!

Episode 110: Devising and Physical Theatre

Episode-110

Pilar Orti talks about how you can devise (create theatre from an idea) using physical theatre. How do you find stimulus for a piece, explore that stimulus physically, and (most importantly) how to fail when you create. “If you don’t fail you don’t discover.”

Play

Show Notes

Episode Transcript

Welcome to TFP – The Theatrefolk Podcast – the place to be for Drama teachers, Drama students, and theatre educators everywhere.

I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk.

Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening.

Welcome to Episode 110! You can find all the links for this episode at theatrefolk.com/episode110.

How are you this week? Are you getting back into the school swing? I’ve been out of school for twenty years, twenty-plus years, and, you know, I still get a little knot in the pit of my stomach come September. You know, that back-to-school worry. How about you? Are you knotted? Maybe you’re in a panic about grades? Or are you one of those types who just eases into the school year nice and slow? Because there’s lots of time to get things right, right? Maybe?

You know, getting something wrong in the classroom, especially the Drama classroom, is a tough thing for students to overcome – that it’s not a bad thing, that getting something wrong is exploratory – because, for them, if you get something wrong, if you fail, that means you get a bad grade. But, to fail in Drama when you’re trying something out, maybe if you’re creating a movement piece or creating a new script or doing an improv, if you mess something up, instead of going, “Uh, that was wrong,” and stopping, it’s an opportunity to explore a different path, right?

And I think, particularly if you’re creating a play in your class, it’s important to celebrate failure and to encourage students to, “Okay, try again.” And this is just one of the things I talk about with Pilar Orti in this week’s podcast about devising theatre. It’s a great talk so I think we should get right to it.

Lindsay: All right. Hello, everybody! I am thrilled today to have a guest on the podcast.

I am speaking to Pilar Orti. Hello, Pilar!

Pilar: Hello, Lindsay!

Lindsay: How are you?

Pilar: Great to meet you.

Lindsay: Yeah, great to meet you, too! Well, and it’s a very special sort of across the pond kind of conversation we’re having here. Tell everybody where you are in the world right now.

Pilar: I’m in London.

Lindsay: Are you from there originally? Where do you come from?

Pilar: Well, I was born in Madrid many years ago, but I came to the UK in 1990 and have been here since then so this is my home now.

Lindsay: Awesome. Okay. So, we’re talking today with Pilar. She has a book out, a second edition of a book called Your Handy Companion to Devising and Physical Theatre, and these are two things which I think can go either way in the high school classroom, can’t they?

Pilar: Yeah.

Lindsay: Yeah

Pilar: Yes, unfortunately.

Lindsay: They can go very, very well or they can go pretty wrong. So, we want to focus on how to make these particular two topics, we want to make them go well.

Pilar: Yes.

Lindsay: Let’s just talk a bit about your background. So, where did your interest in devising theatre come from? Do you have a background in it?

Pilar: I think I blame my mother.

Lindsay: “I blame my mother for devising theatre.”

Pilar: Yes, for the good things in my life.

I grew up in Spain, like I said. My mother used to take me to.very theatrical stuff. Instead of taking me to traditional plays, she would take me to some of the more alternative scene and she enrolled me in mime classes, movement classes, which were always cancelled really quickly because my friend and I were the only ones attending.

So, I grew up seeing stuff on stage that I couldn’t see in real life and I saw people using their bodies in strange ways, using language in ways that I didn’t come across every day. So, I think my interest is more in physical theatre and devising because I didn’t really come across the word “devising” until I came to the U7K. I think it came from what I was being exposed to. And then, when I was eighteen, I came to do a Biology degree, so I’m very interested in the body.

And then, I went to Drama school and I went to Mountview Theatre School in London for three years doing classical actor training and was incredibly lucky to come across really good physical theatre directors and practitioners – some of whom had studied with Lecoq in France – you know, king of devising of physical theatre for this century. And that exposure just reinforced what I already knew – that I liked to do theatrical stuff; that language goes very well with movement; that theatre is about collaboration. For me, you know, you can still do theatre without it being extremely collaborative, but for me, it’s important. And that, as actors also – I trained as an actress – I also want to

have ownership of the piece from the beginning. I think, as an actor, it’s great to come into a good script and, at the end of that creative process, but it’s also really exciting to be there at the beginning and give it shape and decide where you want to go with it. So, that’s my interest.

Then, I set up a theatre company with a friend and then started to see how we taught physical theatre and that’s really where I started to learn what my practice was about when I started teaching others.

Lindsay: Well, I think these two particular things – devising theatre and also physical theatre – I think they have quite the place in a high school classroom. You know, the whole notion of devising.

So, let’s dive into that. What’s your definition of devising theatre? What does it mean to devise a piece?

Pilar: For me, it’s to start a piece from scratch. Well, from scratch as in maybe with a stimulus, so maybe an idea. So, you have an idea and then you create. Creative theatre is what I would call it. So, devising for me is you have an idea or the group has an idea or the group are given an idea and they create a piece. So, they decide where the story is going, the group decides the form which is very important. So, it could be that you devise something that has naturalistic dialogue – you know, that’s still devising. For me, it’s more interesting to put surrealism into it. But that’s, for me, my definition of devising is when a group creates a piece of theatre from an idea.

Lindsay: I know it as a collective creation kind of thing.

Pilar: Yeah.

Lindsay: And it’s just this whole notion, particularly in schools, we’re looking at building skills, right? So, the whole notion of communication between a group of students who have to work on a piece from scratch, the whole notion of working as a team and just working with each other when there is no script to fall back on, when they really have to build a piece, and the pride that comes at the end of something like that I think is pretty phenomenal and I think very impactful at the school level.

Pilar: Yeah, it’s a real learning experience. It means you have really learn to listen, it means that you have to learn how to take the initiative, and that doesn’t just mean that you have lots of ideas but the initiative of, “Look, let’s start working. We have to finish the script by day X and we don’t have a teacher that’s going to tell us. We need to do it. We set our schedule. We meet our deadlines. We make sure we turn up on time and start working. We make sure we make the most out of our time together,” and I think that’s really important.

Lindsay: Well, I think that hits right on one point where devising can go awry and that a schedule is actually very important. Like, it seems that, “Oh, it’s improv,” and there’s an exploring and experimenting stage and a creation stage. But, actually, the schedule of putting the piece together I think is one of the pillars of devising theatre.

Pilar: Yes, because you need that roadmap, and especially because you’re starting probably with very little restrictions, very few restrictions, you need to start guiding yourself and you have to put some limitations for yourself and some milestones or else, like you say, you just start creating.

And one thing that I think is very important is to set time for rehearsing because I think many students, like you were saying, it’s great fun to create and experiment but, “Oh, do we have to go over that again?” and the discipline of repeating stuff and fine-tuning, I think that is very important, especially if they want to go into the performance arts.

Lindsay: So, let’s talk about the stimulus. You talked about how devising theatre usually starts with an idea or a stimulus. In a class, is this something that you think that the teacher should come up with? Or do you think it should just stem from the students?

Pilar: A bit of both.

In a way, I think the teacher has to take responsibility for some stuff, for some of the things when a group of students is creating, and one of them could be setting the stimulus, more than anything, because she knows the students – she or he, of course – they know the students, they know what might interest them, or also what might stretch them.

So, for example, they might know that a film might be a better stimulus than a painting for some. Or a novel. Or a newspaper cutting. Or he or she might throw it at them and say, “Right. Next term or whatever, we’re going to be looking at creating your own piece. Do you want to start coming up with ideas of where the story could go?” I don’t know.

So, it’s a mixture. I think it really depends. But I think the teacher should make the decision of who’s going to give them the stimulus.

Lindsay: It could be something too that, you know, if you’re going to do it in a month or so, or six weeks or so, like, “Okay. For a couple of weeks now, everyone’s responsible for coming in with one painting or one current event or one thing that interests them,” so that there’s a methodology to coming up with ideas. So, when they get to Day 1 of their devising project, instead of throwing it at them and saying, “Okay! Ideas?”

Pilar: Yeah, that’s great, and it also will get them into the state of mind where they’re looking around them to then create this piece. So, to also get to the artist inspired by lots of stuff around us that we don’t even expect is going to influence us. So, that idea of starting to look out, yeah.

Lindsay: Yeah, like when I talk about playwriting, I’m always emphasizing, like, observation. “Look around you. Start gathering. Gather what’s going to inspire you instead of just sort of waiting for amuse to hit and make it a practical application.”

Pilar: Yes.

Lindsay: Three things you talk about in your book that seem to work well as common stimulus are fairy tales, paintings, and current affairs. Are those three things that just seem to commonly hit home?

Pilar: I think that’s the stimulus I’ve seen teachers use. Also, I think, with fairy tales, for example, it means that immediately you have the group on the same page, more or less. Of course, there’s variations, but at least it’s quicker, maybe it needs less research. The painting is something very visual so we all know what we’re looking at and then we can have ideas. And with current themes, I think, sometimes, with students, creating their own work, it’s easier if it’s in the now. If their hook at the beginning is now, it’s a world they understand. So, I think that was my reasoning behind using those three.

Lindsay: I find that what’s going to hook a student more than anything is something that’s in their world, right?

Pilar: Yes.

Lindsay: A current event that’s going on in their world.

I really liked a couple of suggestions you had like, for example, if you have a painting where there’s no people in it, to get students to create a population – you know, like, come up with the character that would live in this painting. Or, for the fairy tale, to create characters who, like, are the minor characters who you don’t actually see in the original fairy tale.

Pilar: Yeah, I think it’s good to remember that these are stimulus and that’s the thing – that it’s something to get you going and then you can move away from them as much as you want or you can.

Lindsay: Okay. That’s a really interesting point to come up because I think that devising really requires students to try things out, to fail, to try again, and that’s hard. That’s hard for students to grasp.

So, how do you circumvent the students who don’t want to fail? What would you tell teachers? How to encourage students to try and try again?

Pilar: That’s a very interesting question because the other thing I do at the moment is I work in organizations with adults.

Lindsay: Who don’t want to fail either?

Pilar: Yes, and actually, nobody wants to fail. It’s difficult to take risks. But, if you don’t fail, you don’t discover. I think, really, you can’t really bring this in just for your devising unit. I think it’s something that has to underpin all practice in your Drama classroom – that every time someone gets it horribly wrong, you laugh with them, you say, “How was that? Yeah? Why was it like that?” You know? But how great because, if you hadn’t stumbled over, we now wouldn’t have a comedy scene!

Or, “Are you having problems with that line? Okay. What might that tell us about the character?” and really make every time that somebody does something that they might think of as wrong, show that it’s part of growing – it’s how you deal with that – and, also, that there are things that we might learn when we get things wrong. And then, that means that, by the time they come to devise, they’re used to making mistakes and also not to take yourself too seriously.

Lindsay: You know, I kind of like that as a bit of side coaching for teachers to kind of just say, when a mistake happens, say, “That was great!” To really switch that around and when, oh, they’re just so afraid of being wrong, isn’t it? It’s hard.

Pilar: There’s a game I came across. I didn’t make it up myself. You throw a ball and every time the ball drops – you’re throwing it in a circle and you’re trying to make nice patterns or whatever but every time someone drops the ball, everyone goes, “Hurrah!” and that’s the beginning of celebrating getting something wrong.

Also, getting things wrong when you’re devising, it just means you open up other possibilities. So, it’s also about thinking in a different way about what it means to get something wrong. You know, turning up late is getting it wrong.

Lindsay: Yes, right! Not following the schedule is getting it wrong.

Pilar: Exactly.

Lindsay: Fascinating. Okay.

So, for a devise piece, you sort of put together a couple of stages. So, it seems that things out with research. When you’re telling a teacher or a class to research a stimulus, what kind of things are they looking for?

Pilar: Well, it depends what they’re doing.

If they’re setting it in a specific time, then they would research that time. If they are setting it now, for example, then once you have an idea for a character, you can look into their world. So, if they have a profession that you’ve never heard of, you will look

into that.

You can also research visually. So, you can look for images and, again, when we’re devising, we also need to think about what the show is going to look like so we might want to look at what colors inspire us.

So, it’s about looking into what can you bring into the rehearsal room that will feed the process, and it could be something quite random. You could just say, “You know what? I was looking at this painting,” or, “I came across this story or this photograph. I’m not sure, I just wanted to bring it into the rehearsal. Let’s see what we can do with it.”

And there’s also the academic part of that. If you’re following a curriculum, you will need to support what you’re doing with theatre theory or drama theory.

So, for example, if you’re looking at physical theatre, you might want to research into Lecoq and to companies in your city or your country that are doing a similar style. If you have a painting as a stimulus, you’ll want to research that painter, et cetera. So, it’s about understanding pretty much what context you’re working in, just like if you were studying a playwright.

Lindsay: Yeah, excellent.

Pilar: What’s influencing you.

Lindsay: Good. Excellent.

And then, we move on to the experimentation stage. How long would you suggest that students experiment with their stimulus?

Pilar: I think about 50 percent, yeah.

Lindsay: Okay.

Pilar: If we say that about – I don’t know – 10 or 15 percent at the beginning is just getting used to working together and knowing what is this that we’re doing, then 50 percent of experimenting, creating material, because experimenting is about creating your own character as well – trying things out, seeing what works, what doesn’t. And then, the last quarter or so, a bit more, then you start to nail down, “Okay. This is what we’re doing.” But that experimentation phase is about you understanding your own process, also about you understanding how you’re collaborating with others, and really understanding the world of the play.

Lindsay: What are some activities that would be good for experimentation? Would they use a lot of improv?

Pilar: Yes, again, it depends because, if you have somebody who is quite a good writer, you can have people improvising a scene where they’re talking and somebody writes down what they’re saying, or it could be improvisations around the world of the character. So, for example, if we have a couple – say we have a couple in this piece – and they are about to break up, we could have improvisations around how they met. So, we’re using that experimentation to improvise the world that the audience might never see and I think that’s very difficult for the students to understand.

Lindsay: Usually, I find that too with student playwrights, they get very focused on the world of the play that happens from word one to word last and yet that experimentation of what’s going on with characters outside the world of the play can be very informative.

Pilar: Yeah, and the thing is – sorry on that, Lindsay – that you can have very strong ideas in your head of how your character is, but until you improvise or are just in the space with another of your friends playing and improvising, you’re not going to really discover anything beyond your own experience also.

Lindsay: So then, what happens in the creation stage? Do things become a bit more formal? We’re talking about the creation of the actual piece.

Pilar: I think that’s about giving it structure. The piece, in the end, needs to have structure. So, we need to see, “Okay. How are we going to start this piece? What order are the scenes going to follow? Are we going to have short scenes? Long scenes?” and really nailing down the script in whatever way that comes out. So, it could be, if it’s a movement piece, we need to know what’s happening, more or less, in each scene.

Lindsay: It’s not necessarily a particular written script which we’ll talk about in a second with physical theatre. It could just be “Here’s the description of scene one. Here’s the description of scene two.” It’s all about the schedule, isn’t it? And the structure.

Pilar: Yeah, and when you don’t have dialogue, you have to remember that you might still have technical support. So, somebody might need to follow some sort of script.

Lindsay: Yeah, if you’ve got a guy who’s doing your sound, if you just are like, “Oh, we might be doing this and we might be doing this,” that’s of no help to them.

Pilar: Yeah.

Lindsay: And there’s always an audience. If you’re going to put this in front of an audience, you can’t have a mish mash. It’s got to follow a procedure.

Pilar: Exactly. So, I suppose, from that point of view, what you’re saying, “The creation piece is okay. Now, we’ve got to present it to an audience. How are going to communicate everything we’ve been working on? What’s the best way?”

Lindsay: And then, lastly, you talked a bit about how the rehearsal process is that you’re just sort of going over and over again. How do you stop students from getting into a rote where they sort of nail down one way of doing things and then they never vary?

Pilar: It’s very important to get them trained in a way to observe each other and to observe other groups because I think that, by seeing how different groups or different people are working on their own pieces, you can have “a-ha!” moments of, “Oh, they’re doing this! Isn’t that interesting? Oh, okay. Oh, we’re not doing this. Oh, could we do that differently?” and also get input from other students.

And then, also, just don’t be afraid. I think the teacher – although they have to be hands-off – you can still come in and look at something and make suggestions. “That is very heavily scripted. Do you think you could come up with a thirty-second movement sequence that would sum that up? Wouldn’t that be more exciting?” So, yeah, I think you can come in and make specific suggestions.

You can also give them exercises that will unlock them. So, for example, I think it’s something I suggest in the book is that people swap characters.

Lindsay: Oh! What a great idea!

Pilar: Yes. So, swap characters. When you have something like a script, give them to someone else to do your scene and watch and see what they do with the material and that might unlock something different. Or go away and do it really fast – this is something we used to do in rehearsal. Do the piece really, really fast or do the piece without words or put extra words or do it as if you were Shakespeare, et cetera. So, just really play with it and that might just go, “Crrrk!” and shift something to then carry on the other side.

Lindsay: You also have an exercise on your log for the book. It was the old women exercise. So, you imagine two old crones and, if they were talking about your show – so not your actors or not you as actors or not you as the act of it, but – what would they say about your show? So that you are honing in on knowing exactly what the show is presenting and maybe what you want for the show. When students get awry that they don’t exactly clearly know what they want to communicate.

Pilar: Yeah, it’s very difficult.

Lindsay: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Okay. So, one of the things that happens in devising theatre – as I’m sure you know but for our listening audience – is that, once you have the stimulus, you also want to decide on a style and about what kind of style. It could be a musical theatre style, it could be a realism style, it could be in the style of a particular practitioner like Brecht, or it could be in the style of physical theatre.

So, what to you is your definition of physical theatre?

Pilar: To me, it’s where text and physical expression have equal weight or where physical expression has more weight than text.

When I used to the run the theatre company, there was always this spectrum of physical theatre which is from doing Shakespeare but stylizing it heavily using chorus, et cetera, to right to dance theatre which is right at the other spectrum.

But, for me, it’s when what the actor is doing physically is as important as or more important than what they’re doing vocally.

Lindsay: I think that’s one of the hardest things to instil in a student performer – the physical body – because a lot of them, they have so much issue with their body in life that, you know, things are changing, things are growing, they’re becoming themselves. All they want is to be as inside themselves as possible.

Pilar: Yes. Plus, you don’t get that much stimulus to this kind of theatre also because there’s a lot of television, there’s a lot of film, and there’s sometimes access to musicals. But there is not that much exposure to this kind of theatre so it’s difficult to imagine sometimes.

Lindsay: How to do it, you know?

Pilar: Yes.

Lindsay: You’ve got a quote – I believe I heard this on your site, but I think it’s in your book too – from Christian Darley which was that imagination is in the body and I just think that’s the best image when we’re talking about how do we physicalize, instead of using imagination with words, to use the physical to be imaginative.

Pilar: Yeah. And that, again, is something that we can lay down the foundations during all the Drama lessons to really be aware of space – the fact that we have space behind us and to our sides – not just in front of us. The space above us and how we relate to this space makes us look different and feel different. We can move in different ways. We can move across but also to the sides and down and up, and getting used to that – the fact that just moving differently gives something different to an audience.

Lindsay: One thing you say is that, in physical theatre, you’re using the body in ways it isn’t in real life and that is a concept that I think is hard for them to grasp. But, oh, if they could, right? How do you get them to use their body in ways it isn’t used in real life? Well, that’s another podcast for an hour!

Pilar: Yes! It’s difficult sometimes because sometimes I used to come across, especially teenagers who will say, “Yeah, this is all very well, but when are we doing proper acting?”

Lindsay: Yeah.

Pilar: If they can have exposure to Jacques Tati or Charles Chaplin or something. So, you can take them to a place where you know this is a style. I’m not saying that this is the only way of doing theatre, but look, by doing this, you can have comedy, you can have sadness, and you can transport your audience wherever you want.

If you want to set a place in the moon, but you can’t change the way you move, how are the audience going to believe that? Or, if you want to set a play – I don’t know – for example, in rural Spain in the 1930s – like a lot of Lorca is done, you have to change how you move because a person moving in the middle of the countryside in 40 degrees heat is not going to move the same as you in your Drama studio.

I think it’s getting them to observe also. Look at how people move outside. Watch different films set in different countries. You know, people move differently so you need to learn to move differently so the audience can believe you, really.

Lindsay: Do you use video a lot with students? Do you think that’s a good practice to get them to sort of understand what physical theatre is?

Pilar: I didn’t use to because, being in London, it was quite easy to – well, usually, the groups would – watch some of this theatre and I used to teach in a sixth form and we’d bring my own theatre company in.

Lindsay: You’ve had access to yourself.

Pilar: Yes, I had access to myself.

Lindsay: Okay. So, what about those teachers in the middle of nowhere who doesn’t have access to it?

Pilar: I think videos are really good. I think something like DV8 videos or any experimental theatre videos you can get on YouTube, anything to show, “Look, we’re not just doing this in the classroom. There are people out there who are professional actors who work in this way.” If you can have access to any Frantic Assembly videos, they’re a British company of theatre; the Complicite – again, I only know the British companies.

So, it’s about giving the art form the respect it deserves by saying it’s not just something we do in the classroom. It’s done outside. It’s proper theatre.

Lindsay: How important are warm-ups when you’re working in physical theatre?

Pilar: For me, they’re important for every kind of theatre!

Lindsay: Ah, well, that’s true, too.

Pilar: Warm-ups have lots of different functions and the most obvious ones are getting the body ready. Usually, in everyday life, like I said, maybe we don’t move our fingers much or we don’t move our elbows a lot. So, if you’re going to get ready to work in a physical way, you have to remember you’ve got these appendages and that you can move them. So, that’s the very practical.

Again, we’re doing something that we don’t really want to succeed at. We’re just warming up because we need to do it and we do it together and we look silly while we’re doing it because a lot of warm-ups don’t make us look very glamorous. So, we get used to that. We get used to being silly and we get used to coming together to do something together and we practice things like failure. If we do games, we practice getting it wrong and then it just eases into the practice.

Lindsay: It’s sort of a training ground for everything that you need in all theatre where, when things go wrong, it’s a good thing.

Pilar: Games are really powerful and they’re still seen just as the little thing you do at the beginning of a rehearsal or the class. But I think you could teach theatre through games and then leave the proper acting till later because they teach you a lot.

Lindsay: If you’re using warm-ups to sort of get everybody used to the notion of working together, the ensemble in physical theatre is really important, isn’t it?

Pilar: Yes, for me, it’s key. Again, it’s a matter of taste and opinion. But what I really like about devising is that it really is a piece that the group has created and, when people watch it, they go, “Wow! They’re working so well together.” Again, that’s beautiful to see because you don’t see it every day!

Lindsay: I think that’s another issue, too. Students sometimes hear the word “ensemble” and they’re used to a musical theatre world where ensemble means lesser and it’s like, “No, the ensemble is the full cast. It’s everybody all together.”

Pilar: Yeah, it’s everyone and making sure that everyone knows that every time they are on-stage or watching a rehearsal, they need to be contributing in some way.

Lindsay: Yeah, and that’s my favorite use of the word – that every theatre company is an ensemble and that everybody needs to work together.

Okay. So, as we wrap up here, when we’re doing physical theatre in a classroom, what are three key points that teachers need to make sure is happening with their students? What are three key points to make physical theatre really come to life?

Pilar: One is something that actually applies to all Drama and it’s make sure that people are looking at each other.

Lindsay: Ah, looking and listening, right?

Pilar: Yes, that people are making eye contact, that they’re giving space to other people. That’s very important. That underpins all theatre where it’s not a monologue.

The other thing is that space is being used in different ways and that we change our relationship with space. Every time we show our work to the rest of the class, we are always there on that bit of wall and we all sit here with our chairs. Change that.

Lindsay: I love that.

Pilar: Yeah, because then it gets the students thinking about space because part of devising and physical theatre is also thinking about where am I going to perform this and how. So, those are two.

And, the third one is, just as soon as people are not laughing or enjoying themselves and getting all passionate, then there’s a problem. So, watch out for low emotions. I think high emotions are great – even if at some point they are angered, it doesn’t matter. But, if people are coasting along, something’s wrong.

Lindsay: Awesome.

Okay. So, Pilar’s book is Your Handy Companion to Devising and Physical Theatre. I have read this book. I really enjoy it and I really think that students and teachers will enjoy it because, first of all, it is not – and I say this with love – it’s not fancy pants. I don’t want to read theory. I want practical and I want exercises and, when I read this book, I’m like, “I want to go devise theatre. I want to go do physical theatre,” and I think that that’s really important for particularly high school teachers. We’re not talking about pedagogy. We’re talking about stuff you can do in the Drama classroom.

I’m going to put Pilar’s website – devisingandphysicaltheatre.com – in our show notes and I think you should all go to her Twitter @DevisingTheatre – #decourse. There’s a whole bunch of Twitter tips that Pilar’s got for devising theatre which I think is awesome.

Also, one more thing that I got from her website, you talk about how important it is to journal the process and you have an online journal there and I’m going to murder her name horribly but Danielle Hind.

Pilar: Yes.

Lindsay: And she has a whole blog about her process. Now, was she working with students? They looked quite young.

Pilar: No, I think she’s a student herself. I just came across her in the website.

Lindsay: Fabulous!

Pilar: Yeah, absolutely fantastic.

Lindsay: And I think that there are some videos on daniellehindtsdevising.blogspot.co.uk that really eliminate what you’re talking about in terms of physical theatre. There’s an inner outer character exercise that just shows what you’re talking about, how it can work, and how it can just take students in a whole new direction.

Pilar: Excellent.

Lindsay: Thank you so much, Pilar! I really enjoyed this discussion and I think that our listeners are going to enjoy, too.

Pilar: Well, I hope so. Thank you very much, Lindsay! And thanks for reading the book, too.

Thank you, Pilar!

So, the links for this episode can be found at theatrefolk.com/episode110.

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Music credit: ”Ave” by Alex (feat. Morusque) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.