I’ve actually launched two separate theatre programs here in China, the most recent being for Alcanta International College (High School) in Guangzhou, which is an IB World school for years 9-12 in preparation for university abroad. Although we do have a number of foreign students, most of them are from mainland China.
The Drama program I started was for grades 9&10 as well as the “Intensive English Program” (IEP). Next year, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Theatre program will begin for elective students.
I’ve uploaded highlights from my students’ final performance project to Youtube. This project which was the culmination of work done throughout the year on fundamentals of acting: voice, speech, movement, breaking a scene into steps, actor’s focus, basic staging for an audience, textual analysis, plot structure and original narrative writing, Realism as a style, and drawing from personal passion and interests in order to select and develop a original text for performance.
Very few, if any of these students had ever taken a Drama class before. Many of the mainland Chinese students were quite unfamiliar with the approaches and expectations of a Drama classroom in a school setting. Over the entire year, all had significant gains in focus, confidence, self-expression, and creativity. It was a pretty cool thing to witness.
Grades 9&10 went through the process in this task first of researching the context of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology (the author, society & relationships at the time, free verse, epitaphs, etc.) and presented their findings in word, visuals, quizzes, and demonstrations for the entire class.
After this, they individually selected a character from the Anthology they felt connected/interested in and had to explain why.
Once their choices were approved, they went through the process of looking up every word and seeking to understand the context of the individual character’s epitaph/monologue. In one-on-one discussions with me, they had to grasp the context and meaning of the monologue, or go back to research more and grapple with the monologue until deeply understood.
Once approved at this stage, the students began to develop a unique character through voice, gestures, movements, and postures using various workshops to help free up their exploration. Basic staging through props, furniture, movement and positions was addressed, as well as entrances, exits, and timing.
On the day of the performance, students submitted their script (covered with blocking and textual notes) and their Drama notebooks (filled with notes on given circumstances, motivations, action, etc. and sketches of their staging).
Following this, students completed a final reflection on the process of rehearsal and performance.
The IEP students, who were seeking to develop their English in this year of school, used their knowledge of plot structure to write dramatic non-fiction narratives about something they cared personally about, and then well through a similar process of character development and staging in order to bring their personal monologues to life before an audience.
Overall, I was quite happy with our results.