This month we’re focusing on helping different types of students in your drama class succeed. First, let’s start with the drama enthusiasts. Imagine the Disney Channel movie High School Musical. These are your outspoken Sharpays and your talented Ryans. These students live for school productions and drama is their favourite class. They’re often highly skilled and/or experienced in theatrical techniques and they may participate in related activities outside of school, such as dance training or vocal lessons. On one hand, they can be a blessing. They’re eager to answer questions and lead theatrical discussions, they’re up to date on all the hottest shows and theatre news, and they’re fearless about trying new exercises and drama games. They aspire to study drama in university or college, move to New York, and take Broadway by storm.
On the other hand, drama enthusiasts can take all these wonderful traits too far – they can be know-it-alls and intimidate less outgoing students with their fervour, they may feel entitled to bigger roles and greater responsibilities because of their continued participation in the drama program, or they can alienate other students by taking themselves and their commitment to drama too seriously. It’s easy for drama enthusiasts to take their love of drama too far, and cause drama off the stage.
The trick with your drama enthusiasts is to encourage their passion for drama class while ensuring that they aren’t taking over the class. While you don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm, these students need to learn that they aren’t the only ones in drama class.
Try these suggestions to help your drama enthusiasts succeed:
- DO encourage them to take on leadership roles, such as leading a warm-up game.
- DON’T always allow them to go first, answer every question, or monopolize discussions. If necessary, go in alphabetical order or use another method of taking turns. Reassure them that their thoughts and opinions are valued, but that other students need a chance to share as well.
- DO use your drama enthusiasts’ knowledge to keep up to date on what’s cool in the theatre world. They’ll be the ones to know all the best new plays and musicals, Broadway gossip, and what shows your students are into at the moment. They’ll appreciate your taking the time to listen to them.
- DON’T allow them to act like divas. Your drama enthusiasts might have a “me first” attitude. Just because they’ve participated in every production or they pursue performing outside of school doesn’t entitle them to special treatment. Discourage gossip, catty behaviour, and off-stage drama if it arises.
- DO help them become team players by emphasizing an ensemble mindset.
- DON’T encourage them to pursue only performing roles. Challenge them to try all kinds of theatrical endeavours, such as technical and backstage roles, playwriting, stage management, choreography, and more. This will help them develop an even greater knowledge base and appreciation of the work that everyone does, and will help them in their future studies and employment in the arts.
- DO remember that drama enthusiasts can be hiding insecurities. The arts are often overshadowed in schools by academics or athletics. Your drama enthusiasts might feel that drama is the only thing they’re good at. Drama class is their small place to shine.
- DON’T forget to let your drama enthusiasts know how much you appreciate their love of theatre and drama class. These students can truly be the backbone of your program, and when their passion and enthusiasm is focused, they can be great assets to your classes and productions.
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.
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