An Introduction to Vaudeville
Originating from turn of the 20th Century, vaudeville is a theatrical style that features travelling performers with a variety of odd skills and abilities. The main objective of a vaudeville performer is to entertain the audience, regardless of what that may require.
The following exercises will focus on this element of vaudevillian performance.
The teacher starts this exercise by dividing the class into halves, and sends the first half outside of the space. The remaining half of the class constructs a marketplace scene - each student performs a skill that they may have, or acts out a skill that they want (juggling, handstanding, etc). The other half enters the room again and moves about the space, watching and interacting with the marketplace performers. The groups then switch over and swap roles.
Honey, I Love You
Each student begins the exercise by selecting a partner. In pairs, one student begins the exercise by saying, ‘Honey, I love you’ to which their partner replies, ‘Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile’. The first student is then required to perform an action that will make their partner smile or laugh (it is recommended that students refrain from using words to allow a more in-depth exploration of physicality and other elements of performance). Once this is achieved, the partners swap and continue. For full exploration, allow each pair 2-3 turns. Following this, a discussion on the actions and gestures that succeeded and failed is recommended for positive reflection.
The exercise begins with the students seated in as audience. One student is selected and receives a job title from the teacher without the audience hearing. This can be done by selecting a card with the job title written on it or simply told to the student out of earshot of the audience. The student then performs the role for the audience without using words, for the audience to discuss and guess the job.
Once this has been repeated for a few rounds, the exercise is then extended to the students dividing into pairs. Each student decides a job role to perform and work on a short scene to perform for their audience to guess what job they are performing and where the scene is taking place (for example, a clown and a policeman at the circus).
Roleplaying in Ensemble
Each student pair from the previous exercise is instructed to find another pair to group with, making groups of four. From this, each student maintains their roles from the previous exercise, with the exception of one student, who assumes the role of the narrator. In turns, each group will present a short story as improvised by the narrator and enacted by the remaining students as the story progresses.