Every now and then a skit happens in a Drama class that is just so unbelievably funny, other students are literally falling off their chairs in laughter.
Today a group of Year 9 students performed a simple exercise demonstrating an early understanding of satire as a legitimate form of comedy. Their task was to create a five-minute skit that ‘sends up’ something. So what did we get? Five minutes of Bold and the Beautiful in an outrageous soapie style!
We had characters with very, very thick American accents, soapie actors (or was it their characters?) who were behaving like ‘blondes’ without brain cells, deliberately repeated dialogue in the space of only a few minutes, the customary intro theme with frozen stances and caricatured faces, over-exaggerated physicalisation including uncontrolled head and body swaying, not to mention the ridiculous plot line! A more in-depth study of daytime TV soaps may have been just as accurate in performance, but in this case, the soap was a choice made by the students in order to understand satire properly. And boy, did they get the satire spot on, the very first time they had been formally taught the genre/style.
You could of course argue that sending up soaps isn’t that difficult. Granted. But successfully demonstrating an understanding of satire in a Drama class the first time, is a fair effort for a group of 14 year olds. If they can produce work like this at the start of Year 9 in a skit that was only meant to be a demonstration exercise, then what sort of quality material will these girls produce in a few years time when they hit senior Drama? I can hardly wait…
My lesson for today….nurture the younger Drama students and care for them every bit as much as you care for the well being and skills of your Year 12 students. Get them loving Drama early. The younger students are your stars of tomorrow. As most of us well know, senior Drama students don’t just acquire their skills and passion overnight. These are carefully nurtured during the junior and middle years.
On that note, I recall the biggest casting risk I have ever taken in a school play. One year I cast a very talented (but also very young) Year 7 boy in a principal role in (of all things) Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The Good Woman of Setzuan’! Tough assignment for a 12 year-old. But as far as play casting goes, it was the best thing I’ve done in all my years of school plays. The following year, gone was the usual thought of ‘oh my God, all my talented students have now left school, so who am I going to cast this year?’ to be replaced by ‘now I’ve seen what a Year 7 student can do in a lead role, it’s one down and five more years to go’!