Becoming Uninhibited: Voice (puppetry) and Body (pantomime)
Students will demonstrate their understanding of characterized voice and mannerism by presenting a puppet show and pantomime.
Theatre for Children by David Wood Socks, Paper bags, markers, crayons A puppet theatre, or large cloth Top Hat Small slips of paper with emotions or reactions such as: disgusted, frightened, sad, etc. Small slips of paper with the instructions to go under their seat. Slips of paper with their old ideas for scenes (see lessons two and three)
Place a top hat on a table in the front of the room. Write on the board the instructions, “Look under your desk.” Under each seat tape a small piece of paper that says: – Think of the character you are playing in your fairy tale. What does his/her voice sound like? Is it raspy, gentle, low, or high? Now go pick ONE slip of paper out of the hat on the table and get in a large circle. Sit in the back of the classroom. As the students start to gather in a circle, join them.
Step Two: When they get into a circle ask them to memorize what’s on their slip of paper (the emotion or reaction). Take the top hat and gather all the slips of paper. Put the hat in the center of the circle and ask the students to focus on the hat or close their eyes. Give them these prompts: Think about your character again. Think about their voice. What would their voice sound like if they felt the emotion you had on your slip of paper? What’s their volume? How high or low does their voice go? Etc. Tell them that in children’s theatre, characters become larger than life. Ask them: What do you think this “larger than life” quality does to the characters voice? In what ways can the voice become more expressive? Etc.
Step Three: Ask them to think of a line from their fairy tale that their character says. Explain that everyone will step forward and say their line with the emotion they drew from the hat. Then the line will travel around the circle with each character saying it with that same emotion. Go first (pick any line or emotion). Encourage the students to be extremely expressive with their voice. When everyone in the class has gone, ask them to sit down.
Step Four: Explain to them that they will perform a small portion (1 minute maximum) of their fairy tale with puppets, focusing on their voice. Give them the option of using socks, paper bags, or their own hands. Invite them to split up into groups to prepare. Give them rubrics. Give them 5-7 minutes. While they are practicing, set up a puppet stage, either by draping the table with cloth, or setting up an actual stage.
Step Five: As each group performs, ask the audience to talk about what they heard. What kind of things did they do with their voice to make it more expressive? What kind of emotions did we hear in this scene?
Step Six: Ask them to sit in a circle. Ask them these questions: What other things must an actor do to be larger than life? Is there something more then the voice that expresses? What can we do with our body to show the emotions we are feeling or our reactions? Pass around the top hat and have them pull out a different slip of paper. Have them stand up and follow the same activity, as before, except this time, there is no sound. Have each of them go around and show their emotion or reaction as large as they can, and everyone in the circle repeats the emotion they see.
Step Seven: Have them split into their fairy tale groups again and explain to them that they will be doing the exact same scene they did before, but silently. Give them rubrics, and then give them 5 minutes to prepare.
Step Eight: As each group performs, ask the audience to talk about what they saw. What kind of things did they do with their body to make it more expressive? What kind of emotions did we see in this scene?
Step Nine: Discuss with class why it is important to be bigger and more expressive in both body and voice when performing for children. If there is time, have students draw scenarios from “the Magic Hat” and improvise scenes focusing on creating a voice and body language that is larger than life.