Theater

In Search of Theater for Teen Actors…just my thoughts

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Okay, so where does director of faith-based theater go to research and find good material for H.S. students? After piling through sketch and play sites and a few other resources, I am considering the following: We need writers for high school aged actors (sketches and plays)… ones that will commit to writing the stories that matter to them! I need to write. Today, high school people are more sophisticated and wiser (worldly-wise) than ever before. My experience, after being back in the classroom is this: They won’t do corny.  They won’t do obvious. They won’t do things that seem immature-childish scenarios, story-lines, sketches or plays.  “Not-ever-going-to-happen in my lifetime…” as one teen informed me. They will do funny, if it’s truly funny. They will do serious work if they find it addressing a story that is true enough to be lived out by them or other teens around them. They don’t mind being the messengers.  They will work. They will show up and rehearse.  They’ll open up their own stories for the telling. I find it more than interesting that young adult fiction books (series)—read and enjoyed by teens—have become successful movies over the last several years: “The Fault In Our Stars” (John Green), “Divergent”, “The Hunger Games”. I personally have been moved by these stories and movies. The characters are brave and courageous—heroes and heroines—in their living and in their dying. Also, interesting to note, is the futuristic reality of Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant (Veronica Roth) and the Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins). As a parent of a teen, a teacher and a theater arts director of teens, I am asking the question—“What is speaking so loudly to their hearts, minds and souls in these works?”… “How can I enter this dialogue and could I be a part of helping them tell the stories that matter to them?” The best way to do this, if teens are in your life, is to ask questions and create an open dialogue. Ask them at a time when they are open. “When’s that?!  The door is always closed,” you might be thinking. I find some of the best time is in the car on the way home or to places, after dinner or a dinner-out time, the last moments of the day before they retire. Let them talk… tell their story. This is not your time to philosophize-criticize-moralize…interrupt. Simply listen and open your ears. Ask open-ended questions. And make sure you are ready for some questions to come back your way. If you want to write for them, you must get inside their stories and find out what is hard, challenging, crazy, hopeful, joyous, important, etc., to them. With their permission, hurry to your laptop, journal, yellow pad and write as many notes as you can remember… And then when you get to the place of writing, ask them to be a part of the critique team.  They love that—critiquing us! Call or write me about your thoughts on writing for teens…...

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Re-Story Theater 2014-15 & Your Art-filled Summer

Posted by in Connection, Creativity, Storytelling, Teaching, Theater | 0 comments

  “Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.” -from a poem by Alan Alda   My H.S. Drama One class has ended and in a great way—a melodrama by Craig Sodaro, “Wait ‘Til The Sun Shines Nellie”! It’s been fun to see timid, apprehensive, quiet students blossom into confident and capable actors and servant-artists.  And for those that possessed drama skills already, there was a refining of them that may have even surprised them. We are all different after this year of Drama One. RE-STORY THEATER 2014-15! Next year, I am bringing my troupe—Re-Story Theater—back to life.  And I have decided it will be a H.S. troupe, supplemented with young adult and sage and crafted actors.  Could there be a better partnering—teens and crafted actors? I am convinced H.S. people need a place to rise above what we think they can do.  At the H.S. level there’s an offering of classes, a musical, the night of one-acts, or a dramatic play, but where do we send H.S. people to train and grow as actors… actors that want to give a sacred message away? I think there is a need for a Re-Story Theater troupe of high school aged actors. My desire is to have a team trained in improvisational theater which will perform shows with their partnering seasoned actors on a regular basis.  As skill and time allows, we will work sketches into these shows. Who knows, we may supplement the shows with other skills and talents such as music, dance, art.  We will see what God brings to our team of actors… My other hope for this team is that we will produce a Christmas play, to be performed in December of 2014.  I don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but when was the last time you watched a production where teens were the main storytellers?  Right.  I couldn’t either. If you are an interested teen or you are the parent or friend of a potentially interested teen (and living in the L.A. area), go to my website page where there are details and full description of Re-Story Theater  – http://rightsideupstories.com/re-story-troupe-membership/. Let’s talk!  Feel free to send me an email or give me a call, too. My contact info is on that page. Homeschool parents are often looking for a Drama elective for H.S. credit.  There is a strong possibility that we, together, could make this work for your son or daughter. The rest of us will wait, with anticipation, for news about Re-Story Theater!  You will be the first to know about it… Make it an Art-full Summer! I hope the summer that has begun will be bathed in stories.  Make a habit of visiting the public library on a regular basis. Look for their summer reading program for children. And libraries have air-conditioning! Why not see a play or a musical, visit a museum, or an art gallery …how about taking an art class,...

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Shakespeare & The American H.S. Drama Student

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“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” –William Shakespeare   Remember way back in August when I shared of how I would be teaching a H.S. theater class, once again?  Every Friday, I teach a group of 15 H.S. students. It’s been a good year, so far! And a very stretching one for all of us. For me, it has been the reusing of old muscles and building back strength.  And for most of my students it has been the building of new muscles. They’re a wonderfully creative group of teens.  Some are timid and shy, some are bold and outspoken, some are in between those two extremes, but all of them are willing to risk self to step into character and story.  They are my favorite blend for a class. They are all growing in their knowledge of theater and they are growing as individuals.  And I am doing my best to stay just a bit ahead of them! Sometimes, I just want say, “FREEEZE!” and stop the class so I can capture the moment. Facial expression is one of my favorite ways that the actor communicates on the stage. Some of my treasured facial expressions, from a teacher’s POV, have been the surprise of discovery, the “I did it!” and my personal favorite—“I have a better one in me, Mrs. B.” In April they will take their skills to the stage and we will do a play within a play kind of show.  The show is entitled, “Shakespeare & The American H.S. Drama Student”.  Dear Shakespeare is mentioned in several of our comedy sketches, some of his best monologues are shared along with other great theatrical works such as Shaw, Twain, Wilder, Hugo, Miller, Williams and a few poets and storytellers thrown in for good measure.  We are hoping Shakespeare will show up (wink-wink)! The information is listed here on my website and tickets for the two nights are available in my store.  The ticket price (very low) includes a delicious coffee and dessert too (Click Here for Tickets). High School students are worth our investment of time as they give away from themselves in sports, speech and debate, music, art, and theater.  It’s always nice to walk across the street, so to speak, and support another school’s efforts in the arts. Come join my students (and me) on April 11th  or 12th  (Buy Tickets Now). God bless the Story you’re living out today!...

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MOVING FROM LABOURER TO CRAFTSMAN TO ARTIST

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He who works with his hands is a labourer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist. —Saint Francis of Assisi   This was the first quote that I wrote on the board for my Drama One students.   It went in their new and empty Actor’s Journal.  It’s a composition book where they are to relate their growth, challenges, ah-hah moments, and general thoughts about being a student-actor. It’s also a place they log their rehearsals.  And, from time to time, I will collect them and check them.  Mostly, to see if they are thinking and processing.   I think their Actor’s Journal will prove to be a great measuring stick for where they were in September of 2013 and where they will have ended up at the close on our class in June of 2014.   I have decided that I need to keep a journal as well, for I am growing as a teacher-coach.  I am spreading my wings creatively.  I am working hard as a teacher.  I had forgotten how much teachers do for their students. The prayers and hopes that go into preparing for each teaching moment are immeasurable.  Teachers are awesome people!   To be honest, not every student is as interested in the subject of drama and really don’t care that it very likely will change their lives.  “Hey, I am just fulfilling elective credits… Seems like an easy A.”  And that’s really okay.   What they don’t know yet is what I know—a theater class changes people.  My H.S. theater class changed my life.  Mrs. Cooney, my theater arts teacher, changed my life.  It was my senior year of college and a required class for the musical.  From then on, theater was a part of my life… and eventually, my ministry and calling.   In fact, taking an acting class, a theater course, an improv or storytelling workshop changes a person. In a 3 hour evening class or a 6-8 hour workshop day, amazing things happen in a person. One leaves a class/workshop euphoric, hope-filled, and bursting with creativity. I know my students have grown some dendrites, made some friends, and for some, they have found the found something powerful—the artist within them.   I am going to be leading a Storytelling and Spoken Word (…for the Artist, Speaker, Teacher, Preacher)  Workshop, in January  25th, 2014, at my studio in Sierra Madre, CA. It you’re interested in this class, could you email me today at melea@rightsideupstories.com and I will get you on the information list and you’ll be the first to know the date and all the forthcoming details.  Come take a creative and artistic leap with me!   And remember: “He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist.” (St. Francis aka Giovanni Bernadone Morosini!)  ...

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Heading Back to School…and Back to the Classroom!

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I said, “Yes.” Yes, to teaching Drama One to high school people, once again. I am excited about this. I am nervous about this. I am qualified for this. Are teachers better teachers years later? Yes. Why? Because of accumulated knowledge and tons of practical experience. I have never really stopped teaching. I lead workshops, coach and mentor artists, direct and produce shows. Plus, I have raised a teen and I am raising a teen. Teenagers no longer bring fear and dread as they once did when I was about 26 and 38 years old. They bring compassion to my soul. And that compassion makes me want to be a better teacher because they are worth it. Really? Really. I may have more gray hairs and few more laugh lines, but I can improv my way out of a paper bag and out-imagine most teens and young adults I know. So bring it! My goals for them: Drop the phone. Make a friend you’d never have outside of this class. Experience learning by doing, rather than facebooking and instagramming it. Dare yourself to play a character outside your age, your choices, your emotions and first instincts and see what happens. I can promise them they will not be the same people in 8 months. I know I won’t be the same because of them. ********************** When was the last time you went backwards to go forwards in your gift, your calling, your passion? That’s what I am doing. I am brushing off files, pouring through books, preparing lesson plans, a syllabus and curriculum objectives, searching for scenes and monologues, developing lecture notes. And it doesn’t even feel like work! And I am lovin’ it. I will check in with you later about all this. And I will let you know when my students start performing. Once I get them going on Improv, they will likely want to join me in a workshop. Which reminds me, a Fall “Improv a Story” Workshop date will be set very soon! As always, the story you live out today just might change someone… Melea   PROFESSIONAL STORYTELLER Website A Network for People Who Work in the Field of Storytelling http://professionalstoryteller.ning.com/ 24-7 Storytelling Station on-line called “A World of Storytelling” http://www.live365.com/stations/storytellingradio .  They kindly feature some of my stories and hundreds of other famous and nearly-famous storytellers from around the...

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Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… An intimate look at the writing of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”

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Last year, I wrote backwards! I started with a play, not the story first. I write stories all the time. I do my best to write one Christmas story a year and have begun writing one this year in the midst of the busyness of directing and producing “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”.  It’s called “The Unopened Christmas Gift” and I like where it’s going. After last year’s successful premiere, I began writing the story of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” and I had high hopes for it being available for this year’s reprise of the play.  I had no trouble starting the story and then I came to the part in Emma’s life where her family passes (oops, I’ve told you something important if you haven’t seen it yet!). It stopped me cold in my story tracks of writing. I was fine through establishing relationships, setting scenes, describing places, and the seriousness began to set in.  Death was on its way and all I could do to stop it was this—stop writing. So I did. In February the Lord asked me to return to the page.  It was raining outside and cold for California. I stayed in my flannels and wrote and wrote. I finished the most difficult part of the story up until that point.  There was a sense of relief and then the grief began to set in. “They’re gone now…” from the story and now my main character must live in a grief few could survive… and so will I. After dinner that night, “my first audience” as I like to call Grace and David (Tim if he is home), heard all that I had written thus far.  I wasn’t a very good storyteller that night.  In fact, I had to stop several times to let the tears flow.  As I glanced from the page to my audience, they were crying as well.  And then I was done. “That’s all I have so far,” I said with apology.  A flurry of compliments and thoughts tumbled out the mouths of my faithful family listeners.  And they begged me to write some more. The story is unfinished, but I have written more of it! I know the arc, the chapters. I know the look of the packaging I would like to have for the book.  I know to whom I will dedicate the book. And I know I will ask my faithful editors—Marcia and Gary—to do what they do so well.  I would like to record it, too. And so I wait for the next portion of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” to pour forth out of me. After this show’s “curtain closes” and all of the play’s set and props are stored away, I will likely return to the story I began this year—“The Unopened Christmas Gift”—and finish it. I am hoping and praying for a special rainy day in January… when I can return to the dress.  One of the dearest compliments from last year’s...

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“Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… (Part 2)

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But first, I must share with you about The Green Dress Velvet Christmas Dress!” I will share with you about “Improv In Our Everyday Living” in a future blog.  I promise.  But for now, I want to share about Re-Story Theater’s upcoming Christmas show December 7th, 8th, and 9th. My beloved theater group, Re-Story, is well into its second season (with one show under its improvisational belt) and has begun rehearsals on the reprise of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”.  And we are  loving the momentum from Molly’s Coffee House, passing it on to the two other actors joining us to complete our cast. Re-Story Theater 2012-2013 is a wonderful group of skilled actors, with some seasoned improvisers and some just beginning their journey in improvisation.  With years of teaching theater, I have come to believe the art of improvisation is different from the traditional actor and script.  The improviser-actor needs a comfortable and accepting environment in order to succeed. As we begin each rehearsal, we start with telling a little of our current story, along with coffee and a little bit of something to eat.  Fears and anxious thought dissipate as we sip and chat. “Bearing one another’s burden” is a fairly scriptural thing, but knowing “an actor has your back” on stage is very important.  It involves trust.  I teach my actors that their desire for the success of their scene partner on stage and their partner’s desire for their success on stage is fail proof! That actor is for you and you are for them. Loving improv, I built into “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” an interactive tea-time with the audience and characters.  The audience is invited to spend their tea-time with characters and ask further details about the character and their story within the play. To prepare for this time my actors develop a lengthier character study than that which I have provided as the author of the play. They get involved with what makes the character live and breathe and their unique part in the play’s story.  Some of our rehearsal is spent in interviewing our characters.  The actors improvise their way through this interview in character.  There is no third-person dialogue, but dialogue with the character and it is equal in importance to the lines they memorize. As a good director, I remind them about their Uncle Harry or their best friend that is likely to come up and try to get them to break character.  My counsel to them is firm: “Don’t break!  Don’t let them steal what you have worked so hard to create.”  And I remind them, “It’s only unscripted conversation and some of the best part of the play happens in this moment.” It was great fun to see the audience interact with the cast last year.  Some of the most thoughtful questions came from the children and teens.  They really absorbed the story and wanted more details! I hope you will join me and Re-Story Theater for a...

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