Wednesday Class…Character Creation

On Wednesdays each week, I meet with a group of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at the Lakeshore Players Theatre in White Bear Lake, MN., in a class called Character Creation. We decided to use the classic Commedia Del Arte as a model for creating a play with strong, easily identifiable characters. We are going to present this play at the end of the six week session. For the presentation, we will use half masks, as many of the Commedia characters did, and we will employ a scenario, rather than a script. The scenario is simply a list of the order of scenes, which is posted backstage. The scenes, are created through improvisation in rehearsal and are open to improvisation in performance, as was the tradition of the Commedia.
In the first week of the session the group of 14 students “brainstormed” a play about two neighboring villages, one filled with 7 people who thought they were very smart, and the other with 7 people who thought they were very foolish.  We worked in two groups of 7 students each, based on whichever village they wanted to reside in.  The play will be set in the time of the classic fairy tales. We also looked at ideas for half masks, and discussed the various Commedia traditions.

THERE WILL BE NO CLASS MEETING ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18, 2009

THE FINAL PERFORMANCE FOR RELATIVES AND FRIENDS WILL BE ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2009

This past week, the second week in our six week session, we reviewed a compilation of the ideas that they "brainstormed" last week.

This past week, the second week in our six week session, we reviewed a compilation of the ideas that they "brainstormed" last week.

As they develop their characters, I have been urging them to write a character monologue, some version of which will be included in the final performance.  This week I divided the group of 14 students into groups of two so that the "brainstorming" would be more productive.

As they develop their characters, I have been urging them to write a character monologue, some version of which will be included in the final performance. This week I divided the group of 14 students into groups of two, one from each "village", so that the "brainstorming" would be even more productive.

The students at this age enjoy exercising their imaginations, and coming up with creative ideas.  It is important to encourage them to avoid being judgemental, and just accept all the ideas that come forth, even though you may not use all of them in the final production.

The students at this age enjoy exercising their imaginations, and coming up with creative ideas. It is important to encourage them to avoid being judgemental, and just accept all the ideas that come forth, even though you may not use all of them in the final production.

Despite the variation in grade levels, these students cooperate and work well together.

Despite the variation in grade levels, these students cooperate and work well together.

Following a discussion of central conflict, sub-plot and incident, we try improvising a few of the scenes they imagined might be in the play.

Following a discussion of central conflict, sub-plot and incident, we try improvising a few of the scenes they imagined might be in the play.

They carry the characters they have been developing into eachimprovised scene so we can observe how these characters might interact in any given situation.

They carry the characters they have been developing into each improvised scene so we can observe how these characters might interact in any given situation.

In the week between class sessions, I will take their ideas and gradually shape them with more and more detail into a finished scenario.  Rather than spending our classtime in the traditional manner, learning lines and blocking, we will practice being our characters in many situations.

In the week between class sessions, I will take their ideas and gradually shape them with more and more detail into a finished scenario. Rather than spending our classtime in the traditional manner, learning lines and blocking, we will practice being our characters in many situations.

To be continued…….

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