Advice to a new drama teacher

Here’s an excerpt from an email I wrote to a woman about to be a drama teacher to high school students:

One word of advice: my students *hated* blocking. It can be a very boring and frustrating experience for any actor, let alone a high school student. But it must be done. Prepare students ahead of time for how lengthy the process may be but how it is vital. It will require their patience. Make sure they understand that the director is IN CHARGE during that time. Whether the director is you or a fellow student, the actors need to know that constant suggestions from them can be very distracting for the director. Different directors have varying degrees of tolerance for suggestions, but sometimes the students get so argumentative it’s very agonizing for everyone.

All the rest of the time, my students had lots of freedom to play with their acting and sometimes even modify or add lines. We threw in a new character with almost no lines simply because he created a comical sidekick to another boy. They had fun, which is all that many of them every wanted out of the class.

But none of this productive work with the script and characters and humor could have happened until we blocked the major movements on stage: entrances, exits, crosses, arrangement on stage, sitting, combat, etc. I wish I had stressed to them beforehand that blocking is one time when the director’s absolutely in charge. That was the hardest part of the whole year, blocking our school play. A lot of my students were upset with me because they thought I was being a malevolent dictator out of nowhere, and therefore they concluded that blocking was stupid and pointless. Other students thought it went just fine and saw the necessity of blocking. I should point out that this was further complicated by having a large cast of 20 students.

My two cents.

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

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