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How to Direct an Amazing Homeschool Play and Build Community at the Same Time

How to Direct an Amazing Homeschool Play and Build Community at the Same Time

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The benefits of incorporating theater arts into homeschoolers’ education are immeasurable—regardless of whether you choose to do a big production or a small skit.
The benefits of incorporating theater arts into homeschoolers’ education are immeasurable—regardless of whether you choose to do a big production or a small skit.

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Published by: The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine on Sep 19, 2012
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How to Direct an Amazing Homeschool Play and BuildCommunity at the Same Time
 
Dr. Marci Hanks
The benefits of incorporating theater arts into homeschoolers’ education are
immeasurable
regardless of whether you choose to do a big production or a smallskit. Our homeschool group did a production of 
Robin Hood 
. The play was wonderfulon so many levels
from what it did for each child all the way up to how it knitthirteen homeschooling families with twenty-five children closer together. Two yearslater, our play is still the buzz that our homeschool group is talking about. Whatmakes a play so memorable?Homeschool plays are memorable because they build community. Plays provideunique opportunities for homeschool families to work together, and new relationshipsform among children and among entire families. Opportunities to connect with otherhomeschoolers are important because without them, some homeschool parents andstudents might feel lonely or depressed.
Homeschool plays build children’s self 
-esteem, confidence, and communication skills.Children enjoy acting and using their imaginations. Participation in a homeschooldrama production gives children an opportunity to learn how to work in a groupenvironment. They also will get to practice speaking in front of a live audience.Preparing for a homeschool play can be a lot of fun. You can direct an amazinghomeschool play even if you do not have any prior acting experience or theaterbackground. Here are some tips to help you.
Scripts
You can find scrip
ts through your public library or by searching online for children’s
plays. If possible, use a script that the author will allow you to make changes to.Changes allow you to accommodate varying age levels and acting abilities, and if necessary, you can cas
t more children by splitting a character’s lines. You can also
write in new characters. Add non-speaking parts for children who do not want tospeak in front of an audience but still want to be a part of the play, and simply delete
lines that you don’t lik
e.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, have children write a play together in the fall,
followed by a performance in the spring. Ask the children which characters theywould like to play, and . . . go for it!
Venue
Check with local churches, community centers, schools, or university theaters to seeif you can use their stage. With some creativity, plays can be done in a backyard.Hang sheets up on a clothesline and ask everyone to bring lawn chairs with them forperformance night.
Rehearsals
 
The number of rehearsals you need depends on the length of your script. Two orthree months is a good amount of time to prepare for an hour-long production.During the first few rehearsals, have the children sit in a big circle to read their linesout loud together. Let them get comfortable with their lines. Direct them to payattention to their cues, which are the lines spoken by a few of the characters beforetheir turn. You may even suggest that they highlight (in their scripts) their cues inone color and their speaking parts in another color.Talk about the characters. Have the children explain what their characters are like.Once children are familiar with the script, have them stand up and read their lines.Encourage the children to experiment with exiting and entering the stage and actingthe scene out on their own the first few times. Then offer suggestions for staging andblocking.Both the children and the directors should record entrances, exits, and actions in thescripts. In the beginning, concentrate on one scene at each rehearsal, alternatingscenes each week. As you get closer to the performance date, run through the entireplay, which will allow the cast to work on making smooth transitions.
Make Rehearsals Fun
Start rehearsals with fun theater warm-up games that teach important acting skillssuch as projecting your voice, facing the audience, and not blocking other actors
from the audience’s view. You can find books on theater warm
-up games throughyour public library.
Provide Snacks and Refreshments
Children will appreciate a break in the middle of rehearsals for snacks andrefreshments (and their leaders will too, of course). As families take turns baking orbringing snacks, a sense of community and bonding is developed.
Memorizing Lines
Set a deadline by which all the children must have their lines memorized, and informthem that after that date the use of scripts will not be allowed. Children may call
 “line” if they forget their lines, but they must remain in character and not disrup
t theflow of the scene.
Dress Rehearsals
Children love dress rehearsals! Plan to have at least two dress rehearsals.Costumes and props help children bring their characters to life. By this time, if someone drops lines, the children will need to practice adlibbing their way out of therough spots. Have a cast party at the last dress rehearsal to show the children thatyou appreciate their hard work, time, and effort.
Props
Designate a Prop Master. Then take a list of needed props to rehearsals and place itwhere parents can easily read it. Ask parents to write their names next to props they
 
will bring, and at rehearsals, place a check mark next to the props as you receivethem.Call upon families to apply their creativity to make, sew, or build whatever is notprovided via the sign-up system. Participating students should research the timeperiod in order to make the props as authentic as possible. Ask your local universitydrama department if you can borrow some of their props; often, they will be happyto share their resources with another production team.During dress rehearsals and on performance night, keep track of all props by usingprop tables. Use masking tape to divide the tables into sections. Then write thename of a prop and the character it belongs to in each section. The use of proptables allows you to quickly determine if something is missing.
Set Building
Designate a Set Designer, and during the rehearsal period designate three or four
 “set building days.” Invite families to co
ntribute supplies to the drama project.Parents have a lot of fun building and painting together on these days.
Make sure the set is ready for use by the time you’re ready to start having dress
rehearsals. Wonderful sets can be built out of cardboard. Check with your localappliance stores about how to get a few of their large refrigerator boxes.
Cost
I recommend that you charge a minimal fee, such as $6 per child or $12 per family,to help cover the costs of the various aspects of production. If everyone workstogether, plays do not have to be costly.
Use Teamwork
The more homeschool families you have involved in your production, the better it willbe. Trust me
many parents and grandparents will enjoy offering their time andtalents to help the children make snacks, props, costumes, and the set.Having more than one co-director increases the level of creativity exhibited in theplay and makes the workload more manageable. We had three co-directors for
RobinHood 
. I was blessed to work with Amy Biegler and Laurie Marzofka during thatproduction, and I included many of their wonderful ideas in this article.
Theater Classes
An alternative to a big production would be to have weekly theater classes that meetfor a month or so. At the last class, you can include fun theater games and do ashort skit for families.Whether you choose to do homeschool plays or theater classes, may you be blessedwith laughter, fun, and learning. I pray that the Lord will guide you in all of yourdecisions. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom so that you can provide what thechildren need
through your efforts, their efforts, and the support and contributions

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