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Theater-acting-teaching kids

Theater & acting

Drama teaching background

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  • Ivoryton Playhouse (Ivoryton, CT): scene study, improvisational tools (2005)
  • New London, CT: teacher at Broadway Kids (2003)
  • Madison, CT: volunteer coaching of a 4th-grade production of Macbeth (2003)
  • PS 138 (Brooklyn): improvisational drama for grade school children (1995)
  • Brandeis University: building a character, scene study (1982)
  • San Quentin Prison (CA): improvisational drama (1978)
  • Acting school (London): building a character, scene study (1971)
  • Colleges of Further Education (London secondary schools): improvisational drama (1970-71)
  • Teaching in general: use of role-playing to help students identify with alternative viewpoints
  • Hertfordshire County (UK) Department of Education: workshop for county teachers on classroom use of improvisational drama (1971)
  • St. Albans (UK): acting workshop for teenagers (1971)
Core philosophy for teaching acting to children

For all ages, good acting is good communication: it requires good reacting—listening carefully to what someone is saying, engaging with the person, and responding honestly.   Acting classes for children are about more than acting: sound acting interplays basic principles of being a constructive member of society with feeling personally competent and fulfilled.  Role-playing—trying out different personae—and expressing their own feelings in the relatively safe setting of fictional presentation helps free children from inhibition.  Theater games—improvisational exercises and scenes—are particularly valuable for developing such skills, including:

  • Having something to do while on stage
  • Trust among actors performing together
  • Physical communication (e.g., struggling with a stuck zipper, folding a blanket with another person)
  • Staying focused and in the moment
  • Creating context for a scene (e.g., why are you saying what you're saying?)

The classroom should be a safe place to take risks.  In a tone of non-judgmental collaboration—that we’re in this together and want to be effective in what we do—a group leader can discuss what worked and didn’t work in a particular exercise.  “Mistakes” become part of the process of getting better.  And praise, when it occurs (and it should occur with each achievement) can be experienced as genuine.

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