Intro to Drama: Tension

Dramatic readings, role play, and performances are a regular feature of my lesson plans. This connects to some objectives in both the Junior and Leaving Cert syllabus, for example:

“students should encounter opportunities for frequent practice in… interpreting orally and attempting performances” (JC English Draft Syllabus for Consultation (Rebalanced Syllabus), p. 16).

“Students should be able to… approach drama scripts from a theatrical perspective… [and] engage in interpretative performance of texts” (LC Syllabus, p. 14)

The performance of a texts serves many purposes: an interactive encounter with the text through active learning can engage students with the text in a meaningful way, the language is understood more easily (and allows for word decoding), and there is greater potential for enjoyment and appreciation of the text.

Furthermore, performing the text (or simply reading it aloud) offers the opportunity to demonstrate expression/intonation. Expressions can be influenced by punctuation and phrasing, and during the performance of a text this can also be influenced by a character’s body language, how they feel during a scene, and so on. Learning about this can develop students’ awareness of how dialogue is spoken when they are reading individually/silently.

The drama section of the 2001 JC Ordinary paper provided an excellent text for such use in class. Each student is given a copy of the text to read, then seven students are chosen to act out the scene.

A Street in Prague - Tension (2001 JCO paper)

What makes this text challenging (to students of all years) is the tension which must be created in the performance.

A few points for students to keep in mind during their performance:

  • The stage is “dimly lit” and it is “after curfew”. Combined with the information we are given about the play, we know that there is a tense atmosphere.
  • Body language is key for the entrance. For the “four teenagers with a ladder” to convey this tension, they must “enter sneakily”.
  • As expected, the teenagers need to be quiet. If students wished to portray urgency, they could speak the lines quickly and quietly- for example, Jan’s line “Oh no! Where? Where?”.
  • Given the setting and the circumstances, how accurate the performance of the stage directions “They freeze, afraid to look” and “Panic. All scatter” will be important to portray the scene’s credibility in the eyes of the audience. Likewise with the confrontation with the officers (all the while Anna is atop the ladder!).
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Posted on 02/02/2014, in Drama and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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