Last week, the 2012 AGS drama students had their first performance. My teaching partner, Christina Riggins, and I wanted our students to focus on basic acting techniques such as goal, obstacle, tactics, beats, characterization, vocal energy and intention, and physicality. We also wanted students to dig their heels into a text. In this case, we chose Shakespeare's *The Tempest.* Shakespeare is challenging; however, AGS students are truly gifted, and they demonstrated that giftedness in how quickly they understood the text and gained command of the language. We gave them the added challenge of performing at an outdoor site of their choice on Hendrix's beautiful campus. They had to not only use the site as a backdrop but consider how the architecture could contribute to their blocking choices. On the evening of the performance, Christina and I led the audience from site to site, making our way through chronological scenes from the play, each performed by a different group, and unified through common costuming colors and pieces as well as physical and vocal choices for common characters. In the end, this turned out to be a very useful exercise for our students, and I loved the malleable nature of the text. It lent itself to gender-blind casting so well. This project is a keeper!
Above Prospero explains to Miranda why he conjured the tempest.
The victims of the tempest discuss their dire straits.
Ferdinand and Miranda swear their love for one another.
Caliban tastes liquor for the first time and declares Stephano, the provider of said liquor, his god.
Prospero finally approves Miranda and Ferdinand's relationship.
Prospero makes amends with everyone, including the audience, in the end.
In May, I finished up an in-school residency at W. T. Cheney Elementary School in Pine Bluff. Though the hour commute got tiresome, the teachers, students, and administrators were so supportive I would work there again in a second. The project focused on creating a performance about the Battle of Pine Bluff with fourth graders. To contextualize the battle, I facilitated three drama-based instruction lessons on Arkansas slave life, how Arkansas joined the Confederacy, and then the battle itself. Then we worked on the performance. The students were very proud of themselves, and I felt they learned some important history in a fun way.
About the Author: April Gentry-Sutterfield is a director, deviser, educator, and mom who uses theatre as a tool for social justice, education, and community engagement.