Today, Emerson College hosted part of the Massachusetts High School Drama Festival. Actually, Massachusetts has a pretty prominent and competitive High School Drama Fest. The one that happened at school today, however, was mostly just for local high schools to be seen by their peers and get responses from some of our faculty.
I signed up to be an improvisation workshop leader with a couple classmates. We were to run two 45-minute long workshops, and they both went swimmingly. It never ceases to amaze me how bright and hilarious young people are. Somehow, the two other facilitators and I were all able to successfully and efficiently run part of the short period--we started with an offer and acceptance line, where each kid offered another a relationship and a problem, and the two then improvised a "scenelet." Then, I ran a short physical warm-up, in which the kids were asked to walk through the space and exaggerate their normal physical movements. Finally, I asked them to transport themselves to Hollywood and to walk like several celebrity stereotypes (the actress who's had botched plastic surgery, the new kid in town, the grizzly old musician, etc.). They did beautifully with all the physical prompts.
We ended the workshop with an activity called Press Conference. We had each kid pick another celebrity stereotype out of a hat (Old Diva, English Priss, Flamboyant Costume Designer, 11-Year-Old Oscar Winner, etc.) and to draft a brief history. Then, we called them up to the front, in pairs, as if they had just won Oscars. I was impressed with all of the commitment to their types and even with the rest of the group who were able to engage in the activity as part of the press. All in all, both workshops went really well, and I was so pleased to have been a part of the day for the students I met.
The rest of the day was taken up by each school presenting 20-30 minute pieces, getting feedback from two of our faculty, and then a brief award ceremony at the end of the day. Actually, this part was particularly nice because each high school was assigned ANOTHER to present an award to and to present three tableaux of the work they'd seen by that other school. Plus, the two Emerson faculty presented stand-out actors, writers, directors, and ensembles with certificates.
One of my professors had assigned that we attend at least one presentation and act as "adjudicators," who are usually a big part of the HS Drama Festival competitions. Basically, I watched a piece and had only the 20 minutes between pieces to write a specific and constructive review of it. It was a challenge but one I enjoyed, especially because the presentation I reviewed was full of students who had been at my workshop. And they wrote it themselves.
Mostly, it was just satisfying to get my hands a little dirty with kids again. They're pretty magical.
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