Many students take drama class not because they want to, but because they have to. They might need an arts credit to graduate, or there aren’t any other options for them to have a full class schedule, or they are looking for a class that they think is easy. So how do we engage our potentially less than enthusiastic drama students?
Something that might help your students is learning about how drama skills, particularly those learned while studying acting, are used in everyday life. Drama skills are transferable skills that are used in everyday life, particularly in the working world. Let’s look at a few of them:
Students will inevitably be in situations where they need to receive instruction and training. From copywriting to piercing and tattooing to cattle farming, every job has equipment to learn how to use, rules and regulations to follow, techniques to execute the job responsibilities correctly, and policies and procedures in place to ensure the work is done right. Students need to listen, follow directions, receive and apply corrections, and perform in a consistent and safe manner — often under pressure. These skills are all taught and practiced in drama class. Students listen to their scene partners and their director, execute blocking and character notes given by their director, make adjustments, and perform (especially if they’re working on an extracurricular show that presents multiple performances). Change director to manager or trainer, and lines and monologues to employee manuals — it’s pretty similar.
Lots of jobs require memorization and presentation of information. Restaurant servers must be able to tell customers about all the different meals and drinks they serve and the daily specials. Ride operators at theme parks need to memorize safety spiels and oftentimes are performing whilst operating the ride (the Jungle Cruise ride at Disney World is a great example of this!). Politicians give speeches all the time. In the corporate world, business executives create and share presentations to land clients, introduce new products and services, and improve their financial results. Being able to memorize and present information in a clear, confident manner is an important skill to have, and is something that is practiced frequently in drama class when students are memorizing and presenting lines and monologues. Not only that, but students need to present the information that engages their audience (or customers/clients/guests) and makes them listen and understand.
When something inevitably goes wrong during a performance, the actors need to remain calm, figure out a solution on the fly, and make sure the show continues. Every job requires problem solving and quick thinking. What does a retail employee do when a customer angrily returns an item that they think is subpar? What does a model do if their shoe breaks midway down the catwalk? What does a professional wrestler do if their opponent falls out of the ring instead of executing their next move? Outside of the work world, people need to problem solve all the time. What does a parent do if their child begins to melt down in public? What does a homeowner do if a pushy door-to-door salesperson rings their doorbell? For all of these situations, the answer is: figure out a solution, or at least fake it ‘til you make it! Students may also have to use their acting skills to appear calm and confident in situations that make them feel escalated, stressed, or angry.
Have your class brainstorm a list of jobs, careers, and everyday situations that require acting skills. For each one, have students think about what acting skills they would use and in what context. Have students stand up and improvise that situation in pairs or small groups. For example, have them improvise a scene with a customer, a retail associate, and a manager. How would the customer work up the courage to return an item? How would the retail associate de-escalate an angry customer? How would the manager train or coach the retail associate, before, after, or in the moment? Have different students improvise the same situations and see how their experiences differ. Think about moments or experiences in drama class that were similar, and how they could be applied or adapted to situations in everyday life.