As students busy themselves preparing for their end of year showcases, Simply Theatre’s Head of Drama, Richard Tunley, who has many years of experience as an actor, director, producer and teacher – gives us an insider’s view of choosing the best materials for our students. “Choosing the right Acting Showcase scripts for our students takes time and a great deal of preparation. I am lucky that we have a terrific team of Drama teachers in Geneva and Zurich and we start to discuss the scripts for performance for the following year even before the run of Showcases are over at the end of the current year!
We always start by evaluating the success of the material for each stage and then formulate suggestions for the next year. Firstly we try to ensure that the piece chosen will offer a contrast to the pieces that were performed the year before. We do this to offer our students a wide range of experiences and the opportunity to work on a variety of texts. The scripts for each stage need to be carefully considered.
With Mini Drama we need to make sure that the story is clear and accessible and contains a certain amount of repetition for ease of learning. We also try to include music and movement so that the performance is not totally led by lines. Picture story books often provide us with great inspiration for our mini actors!
At Stage One we remember that our students are becoming much more sophisticated in their theatrical taste and their acting abilities are really starting to develop. We would no longer choose a storybook source material as the Stage One students would think this too childish. At this stage, students are more capable of learning lines and their level of characterisation can often be quite impressive. The students are also capable of exploring a range of theatrical techniques and often enjoy experimenting with style and form.
Stage Two students are much more confident in performing. Their understanding of character, plot and theme is often impressive and they can work fairly quickly. We try and choose material which is engaging and relevant to them as young performers. They can also handle different theatrical styles and staging techniques. We ensure that these young actors are stretched and challenged while still having fun.
Our Stage Three actors are busy young people with a full school life and many are committed to a variety of enrichment activities. We take this into consideration when selecting material for this stage. As actors, they are well developed and can handle plot, theme and character with sensitivity and maturity. At Stage Three we select material to contrast with the previous year and to provide an opportunity for the students to apply the work they have done in class through the year – for example, the advanced work they do on theatre style and theatre practitioners.
With all this in mind, we start to find the right material for each year group. My drama team are wonderful subject specialists and are superb at giving me detailed feedback about their students. They are instinctive and are experienced in identifying appropriate material and ‘throwing out’ ideas that will not work for a particular stage of students. They also research for ideas and exciting material.
The biggest challenge we have when putting scripts together is that very few published scripts have enough or equal parts for our class sizes. The scripts have to be adaptable to suit both a large and small class. Also, some brilliant material may not be available in script form. The answer to this problem is to adapt or write our own scripts. That way we can make sure that the plays:
- Are the right length
- Have enough parts
- Fit each teaching group
- Contain a selection of theatrical techniques
- Are fun!
We also ensure that the scripts offer clear opportunities for ensemble work. This is a central to our acting classes at Simply Theatre and a vital element to our theatre work.
Our Showcase performances are an important part of the Simply Theatre calendar. Our work throughout the first two terms gives our students the opportunity to explore and develop skills that will be utilised in the final Showcases. It is a joy to see how our students grow through the year and our teachers work hard in rehearsals to ensure that each one of them reaches their potential. Choosing and preparing material for Showcase is not a quick process but it is one that pays off when we see how much parents enjoy watching the pieces and, more importantly, how much the students enjoy performing them.
If you live in Geneva, Zurich or Zug and are interested in Performing Arts or Dance classes for your child head to www.simplytheatre.com to look at our range courses and summer camps.