“An actor’s development parallels his growth in self-awareness,” - Julian Schlusberg.
Every year, my Freshman acting students face the same challenges to be overcome before they can even begin to develop acting techniques. The biggest challenges include working together cooperatively, and expressing themselves in writing. This curriculum unit addresses these challenges by turning the theater classroom into a theater production office. The students will first identify their own unique talents and experiences, and then bring them to the group in an office work setting. Integrating production and curriculum, as the students work together on one imaginary and one real production, will use democratic education to forge an appreciation of multi-cultural diversity.
The history and origins of theater embody multi-culturalism. From Asian and European origins to the complexities of theatrical production, many ethnicities contribute to the living art of theater. Each participant, whether a creator or a spectator, is bound to one another in many ways. Theories and practices since the beginning of humanity exist to help a person explain their connection to a larger group. Religion, philosophy, theater exercises, professional trainer games, social development classes for teenagers, and more, attempt to assist a person’s search for self, and connection. In the theater classroom, a group of students must work cooperatively, embracing the diversity of each student. In this unit, the goal is for the students to realize themselves, and then the group.
Ken Wilber, in his book
, illustrates a technique of recognizing connectedness to whatever exists outside of what a person may call self. He draws lines of demarcation, to identify what is self, and what is outside of self, and proceeds to erase those lines as being mostly arbitrary. He argues that anyone’s consciousness belongs to a higher or super-conscious. His ideas present a very useful concept in achieving an ensemble in the freshman acting class. Modifying his concept to suit my students’ needs, in this unit each student defines himself in terms of experiences and current values, delineating himself from all others. Each then shares and incorporates these experiences into group work processes. Once they can describe who they are in terms of their experiences, and recognize the creative usefulness of diversity, together the students can identify a pool of resources, and begin to work as an ensemble. This unit, written from the premise of liberatory pedagogy, promotes social change (in the classroom,) through a transformation of the individual student recognizing the necessity of their own magnificent uniqueness contributing to the success of a magnificently unique group of classmates.
The writing components of this unit demonstrate the power of labeling, and the importance of language. The students need to express themselves in writing, and to appreciate the nuances of words chosen specifically by any playwright. They also need to understand the powerful impact of what they say and how they say it, both onstage and while working in the classroom.
Beginning with value assessment, this unit presents a list for each student to prioritize their personal and work values. Then each student writes a resumé encompassing academic and work experience, extra-curricular and volunteer activities, and special interests and training. Next, they begin the role-playing portion of the unit, engaging in meetings and written communications to negotiate plans and expectations for an imaginary production. The next part of the unit provides a job classification list for the students to peruse. Each learner then writes a brief play, showing what may be a typical happening in the day of one of the vocations chosen from the list. As a culminating project, the group determines and produces the worthiest play, with each student acting and assuming production responsibilities in the aspect of their choosing.