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Teaching students how to rehearse in theater theater room

Imagine this scenario: you are in drama class with your students. They were divided into small groups, each group has a scene to work on, and you gave them the instructions: “You have x number of minutes to rehearse your scene.” The first few minutes go smoothly, but then everything starts to fall apart. Students sit around, giggling and gossiping, fooling around or staring off into space – anything but rehearsals. So frustrating!

This is common with young, inexperienced students, but even senior students are sometimes guilty of overrehearsing and claiming their scene is perfect, but when they present their work, it’s less than stellar. You know I can do a better job. But they may not have been taught How to repeat in class. Simply reviewing cues or repeating the block over and over isn’t helpful—it just puts unpolished work into students’ muscle memory.

Here are three techniques to help students get the most out of their rehearsal time in class – you might think of them as the 3 F’s of classroom rehearsal:

1) Give students a specific concentrate for repetition.

If you have multiple rehearsals planned for the scenes you are working on, have students focus on a specific acting technique during each class session. Let’s say students have four rehearsal sessions starting on Monday with presentations on Friday. Students might first focus on scene and character analysis and subtext on Monday; then staging the basics (like cheating and avoiding judging their scene partners) on Tuesday; volume, diction and vocal inflections on Wednesday; Thursday’s physicality; and then present their scenes on Friday. This helps students narrow down what they are working on and use their time more efficiently each day. Feel free to rearrange, add, or omit the techniques you focus on depending on the needs of your students.

2) Create a fixed focus schedule for rehearsal time.

If your students are rehearsing and presenting on the same day, you can use a similar technique to the above, only on a fixed, hyper-focused schedule. Let’s say your students have 30 minutes to rehearse before the presentations start. Using the techniques in the previous section, create a schedule for the 30 minutes. For example: 5 minutes for analysis, 5 minutes for staging the basics, 5 minutes for vocal work, 5 minutes for physical, and 10 minutes for review and practice. Post the schedule with time increments in a visible place and use a timer or ring a bell when it’s time for the groups to switch focus.

3) Have a student act as director and give opinion to the group.

One opportunity for interested students is to act as group director and provide feedback as they work. Instead of participating as an actor, the student director will help the rest of the group stage the scene and give them feedback to refine it. Either way, it’s helpful to have a student on the outside because they’re better able to see what’s going on and help the rest of the group polish the scene than if it’s self-staged by the group. They may also be responsible for keeping other group members on task. Having a group leader gives students the opportunity to practice leading and following directions, listening to each other and giving and receiving effective feedback.

Click here for a free student self-assessment rubric and exit questions.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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