Friday, July 15, 2011

Sculpture Garden: A Lesson Plan for Teachers from "Marty McGuire" by Kate Messner

Surprise! I found a performance technique in Marty McGuire, a chapter book by Kate Messner about a third-grader who just wants to catch frogs and play with the boys. Much to Marty's dismay, she lands the part of the princess in the school play, and she didn't even audition.

The lesson idea: Sculpture Garden (58-68)

In "Sculpture Garden," students take on various roles and create a garden of sculptures by freezing in place.
1. Group students. In MM the group has eight students.
2. Students take turns striking a pose and announcing who (or what) they are and what they're doing. 
3. Students remain frozen in place until cued to "come to life." At that point, students move as their "character/object" would move. "I want you to do---and say---whatever your character would do and say in this situation, given everything  happening on the stage right now," says James, the drama coach in Marty's class (66). 

Suggestions for Varying Sculpture Garden:

I see Sculpture Garden as a variation of tableaux vivant. Teachers could use sculpture garden as a form of assessment. Have a list of characters and objects from a short story, a chapter in a novel, or a scene in a play. Next, have students draw a role to play, have them take turns posing for the part, and have them present the part when cued. In MM the drama instructor claps to cue the students. Of course, other cues work. I like counting down: "Three, two, one, action." 

Another variation might be to have students work in groups to create a sculpture garden. They choose parts from a short story, a chapter, or a scene. Students work together to present their poses based on what makes sense in terms of the work. Finally, they create the scene through performance. Those watching the scene could then describe the characters and action as a follow-up whole-class discussion. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Book Is Just a Book---Except When It Isn't: Editing Matters

"That's a play Shakespeare never wrote."
--Professor Jay Halio, editor of the Cambridge Shakespeare

When Barbara Mowat, co-editor of the Folger Shakespeare editions met with attendees of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library (2008) to offer insight into the editing process, she included her rational for conflating The Tragedy of King Lear to include lines from the first folio (F1)as well as lines from the quarto (Q1).

Professor Halio parts company with Dr. Mowat when editing Lear and bases the Cambridge Lear on the first folio  as the copy text. So while Dr. Mowat eloquently explained the editing of Lear, Dr. Halio responded in a friendly aside, "That's a play Shakespeare never wrote."

It was a light-hearted moment between two academics who enjoy a friendly debate about Shakespearean texts editors find universally troubling to edit.

Now teachers and scholars can learn from Dr. Mowat in a series of YouTube videos.

In the first one, Dr. Mowat offers a general overview of the issues confronting the Shakespeare editor.

Teachers of Macbeth may find Dr. Mowat's discussions of the play that shall not be named fascinating.

Editors must often deal with nonsensical issues, words, and spellings in a play. In this video Dr. Mowat credits eighteenth century editors for their contribution to modern editions.  She also discusses emendations and other textual problems.

What do editors mean when referring to "the Weird Sisters" problem? Dr. Mowat discusses Lewis Tybalt's contribution to solving the diction issue of whether to use the term weird or wayward.

Sometimes editors face problems with iambic pentameter. Dr. Mowat discusses how editors address these issues that often have a profound impact on dramatic action.

When it comes to Shakespeare, "the play's the thing." But the thing is, not all plays are the same.