by Suzzanne Pautler
The culmination of the Cycle #1 Young Actors’ Workshop was dramatic and engaging as the thespians dominated the stage of the Courtyard Playhouse in Al Quoz. They were in costumes and stage make-up, ready to engage the audience. The lights went down, followed by an hour of monologues and short plays staged for the audience’s enjoyment. In fact, the members of the audience were overwhelmed by the actors’ emotions, ranging from a humorous skit from Once Upon a Mattress to a tearjerking monologue from a teenage girl’s point of view.
The Cycle #2 Workshops began shortly thereafter. The young actors meet twice a week in two different locations: Al Barsha and the Green Community. The group in Al Barsha is learning techniques for on screen production work, while the group in the Green Community is focusing on production work for the stage. Both groups are exploring the theme of the UN’s Rights of the Child.
The on screen class works with a green screen, spotlights and a camera. The work is directed, filmed, acted, researched, and scripted by the students. The students are creating advertisements and public service announcements. The group creating an ad for UNICEF shared facts and statistics, such as 50 million children around the world are at risk from conflict/crisis. They were reminded that they couldn’t just listen and remain frozen; they had to react to the facts. The students had to come across as believable and authentic in their reactions, otherwise it would appear as if they didn’t really care about the global issue. Using the stages of tension, students developed their responses through their verbal language and body language.
Another group is developing a public service announcement for the NGO Village Heart, focusing on its efforts to bring safe drinking water to the children of Tanzania. How does one best share information about this topic to an audience who has access to an abundance of safe drinking water? How can one grab the audience’s attention on such a topic? The group debated about the best approach. They chose to focus more on facts and statistics, not on images of poor children from a developing nation. The thespians felt this would keep the message positive and effective, rather than an often duplicated approach of appealing to the audience’s emotions through visual imagery.
In addition, our students also spend hours hour learning how to apply makeup for screen vs. stage performance.
Meanwhile the second community of thespians is trying various techniques for how they will spread the message of the Right of the Child through live performance. They practiced body percussion techniques while interjecting lines from a poem about this theme. Then they created a silent performance where they acted to the beat of a drum. The group acted as villagers suffering and falling ill due to the lack of clean drinking water and medication. An aide worker joined the scene to teach the villagers how to build a well. This piece turned into a written script of the same story. Another technique was using one’s body for dance and rhythm, stopping every few minutes for a short monologue featuring one of the Rights. The creativity and authenticity of this group’s work is inspiring.
The culmination of the Cycle #2 Young Actor’s Workshop is sure to be equally dramatic and engaging. Their work through the 12 week cycle will certainly expand their knowledge of the Rights of the Child as well as their overall development in theatrics.