Lesson Objective: Students will create a new musical theatre scene by cutting/adapting their scene and selected song to fit together and beginning memorization.
Materials: Segment of a contemporary scene (I used The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged), Segment of a Broadway Song (I used Brush Up Your Shakespeare), Memorization Tips & Tricks Handout
Announce that song choices are due! Have students bring up their song choices. Partnerships will be given 10 points if they have their song choice and 15 points if they brought their music (either a minus track or sheet music). Make note of what song each partnership is doing with their scene (I would list both song title & title of the show it’s from)
Explain that learning to cut a script is an invaluable skill for a theatre practitioner to have (actors use it to shape audition monologues, directors use it, etc…)—this skill is particularly necessary when piecing together a scene like they’ll be doing this unit. We’re going to practice this first as a group and then each of you will get to apply this work in your partnerships.
Activity: Cutting a Scene
Have students take out a pencil. Give everyone (or at least every partnership) a copy of the Complete Works scene and the segment from “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”. Project the scene at the same time on the projector. Assign 3 students to read a role from the scene–read through the scene as class. Ask students what’s happening in this scene? What are the main conflicts? How do you know?
Ask students: what do you think was the most “meaty” moment in the scene? (what was the moment of greatest tension [character being stretched to breaking point, moment of highest drama], greatest discovery [character realizes something about themselves or another] or greatest vulnerability [character puts everything on the line] for the character?) Why might it be important to identify the most important part of a scene before cutting it? How might this matter for your scenes—especially when thinking about adding a song to it?
Project the song segment from “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” Model how this song could be implemented into the scene (ex—could be last ditch effort DANIEL & JESS make to convince ADAM to finish the show and do Hamlet—ex-if nothing else, do it because the ladies love Shakespeare, they won’t be able to resist you if you do Shakespeare). Highlight the idea that there are numerous ways to shape/cut the scene so that the song could fit into it.
Ask students to read the Complete Works text individually now, this time looking for and underlining what they consider to be the “meat” of the scene (discoveries, conflicts, tensions, moments of vulnerability, etc…) As they do this, ask them to consider the different ways they could cut or adapt the text to get the strongest, most coherent scene that the song could feed directly into
With the “meat” in mind, give students 5 minutes to cut the scene according to what they think is most important
When time is up, have students quickly get into partnerships and take a couple minutes to share their scene cuttings. When students are done, ask 2-3 volunteers to share their cuttings with the class.
Briefly discuss the different ways students were able to cut/adapt scene to best implement the song.
How many of you had a similar cutting to your partner’s? (or, how many of you had similar versions to those read by volunteers)
How many of you had a very different interpretation/cutting than your partner? (or the volunteers)
What other interpretations could be created?
How might this exercise help you choose how to shape your scene?
Have students get with their partners and spend 15-20 minutes figuring out how to cut their scene so that it fits their song choice and has a clear beginning, middle, and end. Circulate the room as students work offering help and insights.
When time is up, check in with students. Ask what the experience has been like for them so far—what questions they have. If they are working productively and/or need a bit more time, give them 5-10 minutes more.
Wrap Up: Memorization Discussion
When work time is up, briefly ask students: What’s the big deal with memorization…why is it so vital? Highlight the idea that now that their script is cut, the next step is to get it memorized. The sooner they can get off book—especially in a scene that also has a song in it, the faster (and more effectively) they will be able to work in future class periods.
Give each student a memorization exercise worksheet. Go over some of the exercises listed on it with them. (Depending on time—you could actually have them apply an exercise to their scenes, or if running low on time—demonstrate/explain some of the techniques and encourage them to use the suggestions listed on the sheet in their individual memorization efforts at home)