Today I had another exercise, this time designed to root out unpreparedness. Many of my students were just floating along, showing up for class and saying their lines but not doing one bit of work on their part from one day to the next. This needed to stop.
A bit of background: yesterday, I explained to my class that an actor can always be working, even when he or she is not onstage, and gave them a list of things they could be working on (breath, resonance, movement score, memorization, etc.) when they weren’t in a scene. They all said “yes, ma’am,” and nodded, but spent most of their offstage time chatting (as I had expected).
So, at the end of class, I called my students together and asked each of them to show me what they had accomplished when I hadn’t been working with them. They looked at me and giggled.
“Um…” one began.
“I memorized my lines,” another said.
“Great!” I said. “Let’s hear them.”
He blushed. “Actually, ma’am, I did not.”
So today, after we spent another twenty minutes learning how to warm-up in synchrony, I wrote a short verse (in English) on the whiteboard. I gave a brief lecture on how specific physical and vocal actions can be used to add meaning to a text (whispering a particular word, for example). Then I asked them to prepare this text using three strong physical actions and three strong vocal actions. I told them we would be performing the text after five minutes.
As I had expected, four or five students got up and began working and the rest sat in the corner and chatted. I let five minutes pass. In fact, I let ten minutes pass, because the students who were working wanted the extra time. (The students who were chatting didn’t notice either way.)
Then I called them back together and said it was time for the performances.
A few of the prepared students went, and then I made a few unprepared students perform, and then I had the last of the prepared students go. Ideally, this would have shown the students clearly the difference between prepared and unprepared work. However, once the students realized what was happening they changed the game. They started applauding the unpreparedness and laughing at the preparedness.
So I said “Is there anyone else who would like to perform?”
An unprepared student stood up.
“No, I’m sorry,” I said. “I watched you, and I never saw you rehearse, so I won’t let you perform.”
He was almost shocked.
“Is there anyone else? Anyone who has rehearsed?”
Afterwards, one of the prepared students came and told me that I should have let everyone perform because not letting everyone perform made some students “feel bad.” I couldn’t believe it. I told him that if feeling bad made the class work harder next time, I didn’t mind. ^__^
But today, after the rehearsals were over and I asked my students to show me what they had accomplished while they weren’t in a scene, more than half of them had something worthwhile to show. The other half still spent their time chatting. This I will have to fix tomorrow.
(BTW -- the student from the other day is still refusing to participate. I'm ignoring him completely. He'll give up, or he won't, but I'm not going to enter into any dialogue about it. This is, after all, exactly what SRK did. ^__^)