Remember when I posted about the infamous "sophomore slump" that inevitably occurs with a second night's performance? (See 8/15/07.) Of course you do! Well: It's more of a guideline than a rule, actually. Today we had a great day of teaching, in our every class. It would be foolish to try and attribute the success to any one general factor. Suffice it to say that whatever else may have contributed, we knew better what we were about today, and so did the rest of the school, and that seemed to grease the wheels just enough to allow everyone to relax and enjoy more.
In Shakespeare we latched on to the improvisation tenet, "When you get stuck, do something physical." Using it as a kind of theme for the day's (read: 43 minutes') work, we warmed them up quickly, played a quick game, and then ran them through three variations on developing strong physical characterization. Typically, we spend at least three workshops of 2-3 hours each on this part, but we wanted to at least point out the tools for them to return to if they are so motivated in future work. We had them walk the room on a grid, taking away the burden of decision-making a bit, then guided them into different postures using body-center specifics, animal forms and appetites to help them discover interesting shapes, pacing and rhythm. They took to it beautifully. My only regret was that we ran right up against the bell, leaving no time to review and process in stillness. We had also hoped to review their texts with them for physical cues and clues to their characters today. We've decided to attack some vocal work (in the large auditorium) tomorrow, and then integrate both days' work into the text Thursday, instead.
Physical Education was much the same for our first period as it had been yesterday, and today was another day for taking our time to lay a groundwork of physical awareness. Neither period had the immense numbers of Monday's third-period class. In the second period, however, we had our first freshman/sophomore group. They did very well indeed. In fact, it was easier to hold their attentions, by and large. It's clear to me that when we see them again on Friday, we'll need to take it slow, make sure everyone is both supported and challenged. Tomorrow is our big challenge in P.E., however, as we'll only see those two classes the one day. With period three today, we demonstrated some of our acrobalance to give them an idea of what we were training them for. It was well-received, and I think we'll start both classes with that tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, we'll get to partner-stretching sooner so we can go farther with it and offer them some of the insight the classes who have us twice this week will receive.
Finally, the acting class. We had a much better day today. Our strategy for incorporating more game play certainly helped, but I think also the students had simply come to trust us a bit better over the twenty-four hours between. We began with a very quick warm-up, then played "Grandma's Footsteps" (otherwise known as "Red Light/Green Light"). That got them alert, and we brought them in for group counting up, wherein one person counts one number at a time, listening for their turn, trying to get up to a certain number. This was a nice way of reincorporating them as a team while maintaining a sense of play. From there we moved into some of our standard exercises for learning about rhythm, comic threes and stops, or doing one thing at a time. Still in a circle, we did spit-takes, trying to find a distinct beat in each moment (drink - process - spit) and then a rhythm as we continued around the circle. After that, we did the dollar-bill exercise, wherein the students are asked to cross the room on their way to somewhere, discover a dollar bill on the ground, and make off with it. We spent some time on this, and they accepted adjustments very well I thought, neither fighting them nor cowering from repetition. We ended working on staged trips, and trying to make them spontaneous and an event. They did very well and seemed to enjoy the technique work. Tomorrow we see about working that into the improvisation groundwork.
I'm exhausted and, frankly, expect to be every evening this week. We're having some callbacks for background players for The Very Nearly Perfect Comedy of Romeo & Juliet tonight from 7:00 to 10:00., for which I need to be both acute and participatory. I'ma go nap now . . .