FREE RESOURCES: Directing Tips [ Page 5 ]
Ideas & suggestions for producing a creative, fun school play
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Kids are Your Best Source of Creative Ideas
Stumped for ideas?  Ask your kids, it’s not cheating

Let your students help with ideas for set, costumes and even blocking!

Sometimes during after-school rehearsals your head goes – uh, duh&ldots;  Your lead character looks at you for direction and your ideas just aren’t there.  Why not ask the kids to help you out?  When you hit a low tide in the artistic flow, look around!   You have lots of imaginative minds just waiting for a chance to share!  Ask for their ideas!

Teachers often call me and want to know if the School Play Package includes lots of costume ideas.  I always answer, yes, of course!  But I always add that the kids who are actually playing the roles are your best source of ideas.

Kids are Your Best Source of Creative Ideas!
What can be more fun than playing pirates?  These kids love ArtReach's TREASURE ISLAND: YOUNG PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN!
What can be more fun than playing pirates?  These kids love ArtReach's TREASURE ISLAND: YOUNG PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Garden Island School, Hawaii, Peggy Ellenburg Director

As soon as the students have had a chance to read the script and their parts, take a few moments to speak to each child and coax out whatever visual mental images they may have of their character.  Often they will think of things that are around their house like hats in a closet or keepsakes in the attic or garage.  Ask them to describe what they are thinking of and have them simply ask a parent if they can wear it during the show.  Ask also if the object can be embellished with sparkly art supplies to jazz it up for the stage.  This makes your life so much easier and it gives kids a chance to do more than just perform.  After all, costume design is a creative part of the process. 

Why just assign this fun, artistic adventure to their parents or volunteers to sew on a sewing machine?  Let the kids create their characters in every way and they will feel much more invested in their performance.  Active participation in every artistic decision will give your kids a deeper experience and yield a more expressive performance.

Letting kids decide takes the pressure off of you and makes your job a joy!


ArtReach Halloween Plays are for Kids
How to Minimize the Scary and Maximize the Fun

If you are of a certain age you may remember the first time you saw the movie, The Exorcist.  That movie and Hitchcock’s Psycho scared the bee-jeebies out of me when I was a preteen.  I remember how hard it was to turn out the lights at night for fear of demons and crazies in the shadowy corners.

Spine-Tingling Halloween Spookiness!
Large Cast Halloween Play for Kids to Perform - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Edgar Allan Poe Play for Kids! - Poe! Poe! Poe! Frankenstein play for kids to perform!

We all mature at a different pace.  For me, it was quite a while before I could watch a scary movie and realize it was just make believe, therefore not actually something to be afraid of.  So it’s tricky when producing Halloween plays for kids.  Just how scary should it be?

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow takes its cue from Washington Irving’s original work.  Give that story a close reading and you will see that Irving meant the whole thing to be hilarious, not terrifying.  The comedy comes from Ichabod’s fear of ghosts and never tries to frighten the reader.  In ArtReach’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow your young audience will scream at the first sight of the Headless Horseman and then laugh their heads off at Ichabod’s reaction.

We offer the life of Edgar Allan Poe in the play Poe! Poe! Poe!  Since it is offered as reader’s theatre, this play emphasizes the literature and life of this great American writer.   Though stories such as the Masque of the Red Death are dark, quite dark, the audience is left with an appreciation of the writing, not the scariness of the story.

In our newest Halloween play, Kid Frankenstein, Frankie and Irving are science nerds who have an unusual idea for the upcoming Science Fair.  When Doctor Frankenstein's ancient secret book arrives from Transylvania, the friends are whisked into a sci-fi fantasy of time-warped, weirdly scary and lively adventure.

However the kids feel about scary movies these days, ArtReach’s Halloween plays are perfect choices for young audiences.


How to Dress Your Dragon
Creative tips on how to make a fun dragon costume.

There are many dragons in our culture.  You can find them in hundreds of medieval paintings that depict the age-old myth of ‘St. George and the Dragon’.  You can find them in old and new children’s books.  You can even find them on the Disney Channel and in the movies!

Here are some excitingly clever costumes that recently graced the stages of The Rose Children’s Theatre in Eugene, OR, and Bremerton Community Theatre Jr. in Washington State!

 Train your dragon in three easy steps!
The Reluctant Dragon Play for Kids! The Reluctant Dragon Train your dragon in three easy steps!
Wonderful Elaborate Dragon Costumes

It’s a great idea to leave the actor’s face open to the audience.  Seeing both faces, the audience will quickly meld the two giving you the best of both worlds: A dragon face and the human expressions of your young performer.  Also, don’t forget your poor sweating performer – make the costume as comfortable as possible.

Don’t let dressing your dragon scare you away from presenting this lovable beast on your stage!  You will be surprised how effective a simple headpiece and tail can be.  Here are some examples of simple costumes that will serve beautifully for comic and informal performances: 

 
A little work can go a long way for clever performers! 

Never forget to talk to your actor when making costume decisions.  You’ll be surprised how many ideas they already have in their eager, creative heads!  They may actually know of something at home that they can fashion into a costume.  That makes it clever, easy and wonderful fun for your young cast!


How to Create Amazing Costumes Kids Love to Wear
Let your all-kids cast do the creative work for you

We love all the great costume ideas we’ve seen lately, especially for our new Christmas Musical, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT.  Check out Robbie Robot on below on the right.

Christmas Musical for Kids to Perform The Velveteen Rabbit and his Nursery Friends!
Innovation Arts, Lexington, KY --------- PACE School, NYC

You can make your directing job a lot easier by asking kids to participate in the creativon of their own costumes!  Tell your young thespians to think about how their character acts, talks and walks.  Then have them go home and look around for household objects that might be used in bringing their character to life! You’d be surprised how their imaginations are always turned on – a great resource for you to tap!

 

Get inspired by robot costumes by Élena Nazzaro of French Toast Girl!


Glossary of Theatre Terms
Theatre Stuff for Directors!

Aesthetics: The branch of philosophy that deals with theories of art and beauty.

Arena: Stage in which the audience sits on all four sides (theatre in the round).

Audience: One or more persons who observe actors in a scene or play in a classroom or a theatre. In theatre education, audience is sometimes loosely used to mean the reflective performer as well as classmates, other students, faulty, or the public.

Black Box: Adaptable playing space.

Blocking: Stage movement including sitting, standing, entering, exiting, and crossing.

Character: A person, animal, or entity in a story, scene, or play with specific distinguishing physical, mental, and attitudinal attributes.

Character Analysis: The exploration of internal and external traits, including character histories, based upon given imaginary circumstances.

Characterization: The process of exploring the physical, social, and psychological aspects of a role in order to create a believable character.

Choreography: Planned movement/dance in a play or musical.

Conflict: The opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action.

Costume: An actor's stage clothing.

Costumes: Fancy or plain, it's your choice!
Large Cast Play - The Princess and the Pea Costumes for Plays Costumes for Easy Play for Kids

Costume Plot: The organizational layout of costumes required for a play.

Cross: An actor's movement from one part of the stage to another.

Cue: A signal from the stage manager to actor, stage crew, props manager, or lighting technician that some predetermined action, such as an entrance, sound effects, scenery change, or lighting change, is required. Also used by actors to mean the line immediately before their own.

Curtain Call: An opportunity for the actors to acknowledge the audience.

Curtain Speech: Opening announcements that inform the audience of pertinent information such as safety protocol and audience etiquette.

Dialogue: Words spoken by the characters in a play to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Directing: The process of guidance, both external and internal, incorporating the development of leadership skills; the unification of a production from its basic interpretation through all the acting and technical phases up to the time of performance.

Drama: Literature written in dialog form and intended for the theatre. Although plays can be read for enjoyment and instruction, they come most alive when acted on stage. The term drama also refers to any serious, as opposed to humorous, play.

Dramatic Activities: Such activities as pantomime, creative movement, improvisation, creative drama, storytelling, choral speaking, story dramatization, theme oriented drama, story theatre, readers' theatre, role playing, theatre games, and puppetry.

Elements of Drama: Six major elements of drama according to Aristotle: plot, character, theme, dialogue, music, and spectacle.

Emotional Recall (Memory): Emotional perceptions elicited from past experiences which can be used in understanding, portraying, and reflecting on the human condition and human behavior.

Ensemble: The dynamic interaction and harmonious blending of the efforts of the many artists involved in a dramatic activity or theatrical production.

Ensemble:  Everyone works together!
Team work plays for kids

Flexible Staging: Any space in which a play can be performed other than a theatre (i.e. gymnasium, cafetorium, outdoors).

Focus: The concept of guiding the attention of the players and audience to a particular place or person at a given moment.

Improvisation: A spontaneous scene or episode created by an actor or actors without a script.

Lighting: The illumination of the stage by means of artificial light.

Lighting Plot: A diagram of the location of lighting instruments and their areas of focus.

Makeup: Cosmetics used to change the appearance of the face and other exposed surfaces on the body in order to emphasize characteristics appropriate to a role.

Monologue: A speech within a play delivered by a single actor alone on stage.

Motivation: The actor's justification for doing or saying something; answers the question, "Why?"

Nonverbal Communication: Communicating without words using facial expression, gestures, and body language.

Objective: A character's goal; answers the question, "What does a character want?"

Pantomime: Telling a story through body movement, gesture, and facial expression; action without words.

Period Play: A play from an earlier time played in the style, costumes, and sets representing the period it depicts.

Playwriting: The act of creating the plot, theme, characters, dialogue, spectacle, and structure of a play and organizing it into a script form.

Plot: The structure of the action of the play; it is the arrangement of incidents that take place on the stage as revealed through the action and dialogue of the characters. Plot structure usually includes a beginning, a middle, and an ending with a problem, complications, and a resolution.

Projection: Control of loudness so that even those in the last row can hear and understand every word in the play.

Projection:  Speak up so everybody can hear!
Plays for Children to Perform Theatre Terms for Plays for Young Audiences

Prompt Book: The stage manager's copy of the script in which the blocking and technical cues are noted.

Props: Properties; objects used by actors on stage (e.g., fan, wallet) or objects necessary to complete the set (e.g., furniture, plants, books).

Proscenium: A stage in which the audience sits in front as if looking in a picture frame.

Puppetry: The animation of objects, ranging from hand puppets to marionettes, creating characters in dramatic situations.

Reaction: Response to stimulus presented by character, event, or environment.

Reader's Theatre: A performance in which a play is read aloud with expression rather than memorized off book.

Rehearsal: A session in which the director and actors prepare a play for performance.

Role: A part in a play; the character played by an actor in a play.

Scene: The division of an act or of the play itself; the division may be dictated by a change of time or place in the play.

Script: The written dialogue, description, and directions provided by the playwright.

Set: All the scenery, backdrops, set pieces, and props used to create a stage environment for a dramatic performance; the performing area created by those elements.

Set/Scenery:  Paint something wonderful or just go with a black drop!
Fancy set for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Painted backdrop for Alice in Wonderland Black background works great for Wizard of Oz

Setting: The time and place in which the dramatic action occurs.

Stage Business:  Movements made to strengthen the personality of a character the actor is portraying including props and/or costumes.

Subtext: The unspoken meaning or intention behind the actions and dialogue of a text or performance, which is implied largely by nonverbal behavior and subtleties in vocal qualities.

Technical Theatre: A branch of theatre that includes scenery, costumes, special effects, sound, lighting, and props.

Theatre Games: Group acting exercises frequently used for warm-up, motivation, and exploration of character and subtext.

Theatre Management: The administrative aspects of theatre (e.g., stage management, budgeting, public relations, box office, house management).

Theme: The central thought or idea of a play.

Thrust: A stage surrounded on three sides by an audience.

Warm-up: An activity in which the student focuses attention on limbering up the body, voice, imagination, or intellect.


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