Thursday, March 4, 2010

Playwriting Workshop

A few days ago, we had a professional playwright come into our classroom to do a Playwriting Workshop with the students. My class is no stranger to plays. So far this year, we have put on a Thanksgiving Play ("Little Eagle Feather" from Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures by Nancy Blanning and Laurie Clark) and a performance of the Nutcracker. The Music teacher is currently working with the students on their end-of-year production of Stone Soup, the musical. We have had special guests come to the school to perform Hansel and Gretel (the opera version by nineteenth-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck) and Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night's Dream. We also visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian to see a Native American storyteller perform El conejo y el coyote/The Rabbit and the Coyote by Victor Rasgado (Native American Children's Opera).

All in all, my students have a lot of prior experience! Here were the two exercises that our class did as part of the Playwriting Workshop. The leader stood in front of the classroom and went around the circle of children, calling each one in turn to contribute to the development of the character (which we did first) or the story (which we did second). All ideas were accepted. Here are the steps in Character Development:

Character Chart

1. Name
2. Age
3. Color hair
4. Color eyes
5. Best friend
6. Parents
7. Hobbies
8. Kinds of music, art, reading material preferred
9. Dress
10. Favorite colors
11. Description of home
12. Most important thing to know about character

These things sound simple, but if you answer them all -- especially number twelve -- you will have a very well developed character by the end! You can then go on to write a short story about your character or you can move to thinking about a play. Here are the steps in Play Development:


WHO - character names, nickname, physical description, emotional description

WHAT - what do they want? why do they want it?

WHERE - where is all this taking place?

WHEN - what time period are we talking about, today, yesterday, 100 years ago?

After all this was decided, he would ask the next student in the circle, "The curtain comes up. Tell us who is on stage and what is the first line of the play?"

Then he would ask the next student in the circle, "What is the second line?"

And then he would just leave the children there, to go on and write the rest of the play themselves, with all these ideas springing out of them!

Thank you to Frank for sharing these great organization ideas with us!

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