An Overview Lesson
Grade level: 9 th
Rationale or Purpose: This lesson creates a pathway for students and teachers to follow as they make artistic choices, rehearse, polish, and perform their Living Newspaper script.
Please note: this overview describes the process for creating a fully-staged production. If you are creating a different type of performance with your students (staged reading, reader’s theater, videos, etc.), feel free to adapt the activity as necessary or work with Humanities Institute staff to adapt this lesson to suit your needs.
The lessons mentioned in this lesson plan are all available in the “Performing a Living
Newspaper” (Unit 4) section of the Resource Guide.
Materials: Living Newspaper scripts
Lesson Duration: variable, based on the time allotted for the unit
Theatre Arts 117.64 -.67 (1F), evaluate the interdependence of all theatrical elements
Theatre Arts 117.64 (3E), participate collaboratively to create a unified public performance
Theatre Arts 117.65 (3B/C/D/E/F), apply design, directing, and theatre production concepts and skills demonstrating responsibility, artistic discipline and creative problem solving
A standard rehearsal process can be divided into six relatively equal segments. Whether you are putting together your show in a day or over the course of many weeks, following these steps will help you move steadily toward performance. This sequence can be used if the entire group is developing one performance collaboratively or if small groups are each working on their own project.
Assign roles and read thru the script. No acting or movement at this point – just sit together to speak and hear the text. Discuss and clarify any confusing aspects of the script and any apparent challenges in bringing the script to the stage. Pay close attention to anything you think will be difficult to realize in performance and make extra time for these aspects in the following steps.
If necessary, divide the script into small “units” that can be rehearsed separately (your episodes
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may already serve that purpose). This is an excellent time to continue revisions of the script as needed. This is a also a good time to develop a spirit of ensemble and creativity using the Group
Contract, Give and Take, and Mini-Episodes lessons.
Read thru each episode or unit separately “on its feet” (with the actors moving around the stage space). Set blocking for each episode. Use ideas generated from Mini-Episodes, Great Game of
Power, and Staging with Images. Make sure the gestures, movements, and stage pictures tell the story clearly. Ideally, an audience could still understand the progression of the story even if they were to watch the blocking “ with the mute button on.”
Review and practice the blocking and the lines so that everyone knows what happens when and what their performance responsibilities are. Memorize lines. Work on making characters, relationships, and dialogue clear. This is a good place in which to use the Creating the Character lessons. Pay attention to vocal projection and articulation. Generate ideas about any technical elements you want to incorporate using the Transformation of Objects and Multimedia lessons.
Run each scene “off book” (memorized). Stage and set transitions between scenes so that the entire piece moves fluidly. Run the entire play, allowing for stops and starts to fix or polish any moments that need it. This is a good time to use the Critical Response Method lesson.
Finalize and add in any desired technical elements: costumes, set, props, sound, lighting, visual media, etc. If students who are not performing have been assigned these duties, this step can happen concurrently with Step 4. This is an ideal place to use the Transformation of Objects and
Multimedia lessons if you haven’t already done so.
Run the entire play from beginning to end without stopping. If mistakes are made, encourage students to find a way to keep going and make it work while staying in role, even if they have to improvise dialogue. Rehearse in the actual performance space if at all possible. Run through the play at least once without technical elements and at least once with all technical elements in place. If the technical elements are complex, allow time for an additional rehearsal to get everything running smoothly. This is another good point at which to use the Critical Response
Closure: After the performance(s), lead the students in a discussion about what worked and what still has room for improvement. Encourage students to be specific in citing positives about the whole performance, the group, other individuals, and themselves. Encourage students to phrase less-than-positive comments as wishes (e.g., “I wish we had memorized our lines better” or “I wish the lights hadn’t blacked out in the middle” rather than “Grace forgot her lines” or “I messed up the lighting”.)
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Student Product: Student performance of their Living Newspaper project.
Assessment or evaluation:
Student self-evaluation : After the closure discussion, ask each student to write down at least two things they are proud of about the production and at least two things they would want to improve. Also ask them to evaluate the group process of collaboration (how well did they work together to accomplish the final goal?) and their individual contribution to the process; this can be narrative, a simple 1-10 scale, or a grade with an explanation.
Teacher evaluation : You can evaluate each student individually by assessing their level of participation in the process, their ability to identify their responsibilities and follow through, and their use of voices, bodies, and technical elements to communicate clearly and expressively. The group as a whole can be evaluated on how prepared they were, how well they worked together, and how clearly they told the story in performance.
Extension: Take the show on the road! Ask to be a guest in another classroom in your school.
Hold a public performance for other students and parents. Work with the Humanities Institute to identify a community venue in which to perform. Find a community group for whom your chosen human rights issue is relevant and offer to perform for them, perhaps opening up genuine dialogue about the issue.
From p. 129 of the Living Newspapers Across the Disciplines Resource Guide by the
Humanities Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, http://humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu
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