Workshop ideas for students
Pyramus and Thisbe
This lesson will introduce students to the world of Renaissance theatre. They will look at the resurrection and importance of the classic play Pyramus and Thisbe to people of this period. Students will analyse the unique language of Shakespeare and explore various theatrical devices such as metatheatricality: a play within a play.
Start with sort of tongue twister round. Have three or four of them prepared and do them together as a class. If the class is enjoying the activity get one kid to play conductor and bring in one group at a time. You could use any of a zillion, but a favourite amongst teachers is "Whether the weather is cold, whether the weather is hot, we'll be together whatever the weather, whether we like it or not."
Introduce your class to the history and conventions of the Renaissance theatre. Look at several diagrams and discuss what it was like for a play-goer of this period. Separate the students into smaller groups of two or three and give them butchers paper. Ask them to brainstorm any similarities and differences they can note between a performance at the Globe Theatre and a Shakespeare in the Park Festival.
Responding to stimulus
Lead a discussion about Ovid and his story of Pyramus and Thisbe. It is beneficial to explain that the 1587 version by Arthur Golding, was the translation that Shakespeare would have used. Follow the following link to the modern translation (http://www.thanasis.com/thisbe.htm)
Talk about the theatrical convention of a play within a play. Why did Shakespeare include this in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Then, read the play as a class. Pick three volunteers to look at a sentence from the play that they like. Ask each to recite the sentence, placing the emphasis on a different word. Discuss how the meaning of the sentence changes when the emphasis shifts. Talk to the students about the importance of cadence: general inflection or modulation of the voice.
Great time to introduce your students to the Shakespearean language here. The language that Shakespearean characters use is key to understanding their motivations, preoccupations, and desires.
Once again divide the students into groups of three or four. Ask them to create a series of five frozen pictures depicting what they think are the main events of Pyramus and Thisbe. Have them share their pictures with the rest of the class.
This is a great opportunity to explain that Shakespeare’s performers must clearly portray the action of the story especially in today’s society where less people in the audience can clearly understand Shakespeare’s unique language.
Ask students to reflect on the session and what they learnt.
Lovers at war
This lesson will use Augusto Boal’s physical training to explore the acting style of Shakespearean theatre. Students will also be asked to look at the poetic rhythm- lambic pantameter (five measures). They will workshop scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an attempt to better understand the relationships and power struggles present in the play.
Three Irish Duels - three exhausting yet exciting duels that come from Boal’s, Games for Actors and Non-Actors p82. Follow this link to the physical warm up for the class - (http://books.google.com.au/books?id=AE2aBAQZKKYC&pg=PA82&lpg=PA82&dq=Three+Irish+Duels&source=bl&ots=2KnN0I5Tey&sig=YOlFSSPmBjYlTQEBlcPwEppByQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=Three%20Irish%20Duels&f=false)
Shakespearean Insults - after introducing Shakespearean drama through discussion and class notes, provide students with a handout of Shakespearean insult words from http://eureka.mhsl.uab.edu/lp/si/insultwordlist.html. Have students create an insult by combining three words from the list (two adjectives and one noun). Students should know the meaning of all words they use. Students should then write their insult on a sentence strip. The teacher begins by insulting a student who then turns and insults the person behind him or her. Continue on around the classroom until everyone has been insulted and has insulted someone else. The last person gets to insult the teacher.
Now that the students have done some work on language, this is a good time to explain Shakespearean rythme - Lambic Pantametre (5 Measure).
Responding to stimulus
Divide students into pairs and then assign them an excerpt from A Midsummer Nights Dream (Act II, Scene 1: vs 45-153). The scene is an argument between the fairy King Oberon and the fairy Queen Titania over the future of the young Indian boy. Ask students to stand facing their partner on opposite sides of a rope then take five steps away from the other person. Then reading out the text aloud they have to use physical actions and expressions to try and win the argument. Have the rest of the class sit out and comment upon the action. If the class thinks that person B made a good choice then person B will take a step closer to the rope. First to make the other person cross over the rope wins.
This might also be a good time to discuss the acting style of Shakespeare.
In the same pairs hand the students another script excerpt (Act III, Scene 2: vs 162-346). This is an argument between Helena, Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander, the four lovers. This time hand the pairs a strong rope and have them play tug of war while reading out this section of the script. Have them choose to play either the two women or two men.
Have a discussion about the workshop. How did the activities make them feel?
Responding and performing
In this lesson, students will be asked to create a self devised side-scene. They will explore the world of fairy and finally be encouraged to analyse and comment upon both the process and the outcomes.
Start with a warm-up that your class enjoys. A lot of time is needed for latter parts of the lesson so if you choose a new exercise make sure it doesn’t take long to explain and demonstrate to the students. A game such as grandma’s keys is always a winner.
Responding to stimulus
Ask the students to use this time to create a five minute glee performance in groups of four or five, based on how they think fairytale influences modern society.
This would be an appropriate time to discuss interpretation, historicisation and deconstruction with your class. Introduce these terms to them if you haven’t already.
Have each of the groups present their glee performance to the rest of the class. Then let the audience students ask questions of the members of the performing group.
Ask the students to reflect on the playmaking process. How did they find working in their groups? What did they learn from the other groups performances?