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Creative Dramatics

mask in New York City for Phantom Never Dies
mask on Broadway in New York City for Phantom Never Dies

Two weeks ago I started a little dramatics group for my daughter and her friends. Some background on this theater group: my daughter had been asking me about drama classes. All the drama classes in our area are a distance away, and I knew that even if I could get her there, we would have problems with Saturday performances. Since I had taught drama way back when (in the early 1980’s!) and had taken one class in creative dramatics in college, I thought: I can do this! My daughter asked all her friends, most were interested, but only a few could actually come.

We are working on scenes from Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Clearly. If you have read any of the Ramona books, feel free to share your favorite chapters or scenes in the comments.

Here are a few drama exercises:

  • Stop! Game – two players create a scene without talking. After three minutes, third player yells freeze! Both players freeze. Third player taps on the shoulder of one of the two, and that one must leave the scene. The third player then creates a new scene with the other player.
  • Common Difficulty Activity – without speaking, act out a common, frustrating activity, such as putting on boots that are too tight, pulling up a stuck zipper, or combing knotty hair.
  • Gibberish – sell something to the audience using gibberish (nonsense talk).
  • Pleasant mother routine – ask the kids, how can you tell if your mother is in a good mood? One player is the mother in a good mood, and the other is a child asking permission to go outside and play.
  • Worried parent – how does a parent look worried? Act this out.

I hope these posts about drama (I set up a whole new category called drama on this blog) and theater exercises can be helpful to parents or teachers who want to try some acting with their kids. These exercises can be excellent therapy for kids; what a release to be able to talk about (or act out) feelings and relationships after a whole day of book learning.

When I was in college, we used Viola Spolin’s book Improvisation for the Theater. My old copy is still guiding me as I set up this class for my daughter and friends.

Mrs. S. says

What a great idea!

My daughter says that one scene she remembers well (although she doesn't remember which book it comes from) is when Beezus and Ramona fight over who will be the first one to sleep in their newly-built room. But when Ramona is given the privilege, she is scared of sleeping alone...

Leora says

Oh, that sounds a little like a scene from the movie. It's not from Ramona and Beezus or Ramona and her father; those are the two we own. I'll have to read the others by taking them out of the library.

Jew Wishes says

Very nice post, informative with the exercises.

Leora says

I hope someone tries them out besides us!

Ilana-Davita says

This is great: both for your daughter and your readers.
Last week I asked a (small) class to read Paul Auster's short story "Auggie Wren's Christmas Story" and then they had to act out the scene. Most of the text is in reported speech therefore they had to invent the words. I do realize, however, that this would be too hard for younger kids but you may be able to do this with another story.

Leora says

It's basically like that - Ramona and Beezus is a book with lots of dialogue. Originally, I was going to type up the whole play, but then I realized I don't have nearly as much time as I did when I was 20 (putting it mildly). I just xeroxed a chapter and put B next to Beezus' dialogue and R next to Ramona, M next to Mom, etc.