Key resources 3 - Using conventions (drama techniques) to structure and develop drama
Conventions approach to working with play texts
The following conventions are particularly appropriate for trainees to use with pupils for an active exploration of play texts including Shakespeare
Trainees could consider how a selection of these conventions might be used to enhance the desk based study of a specified Shakespeare play at KS3
Alter-Ego: This involves a student other than the one playing the character as an extension of that character. The alter-ego’s main function is to express the feelings of the character. Very effective when used in conjunction with Hot Seating.
Choral Speak: a monologue or speech, is divided up and vocalized and physicalised by small groups. The groups come together for class performance that allows all to particpate in the monologue or speech.
Collective Character: A character is improvised by a group of students any one of them can speak as the character. In this way the whole class can be involved in a dialogue for instance by half the class taking on one of the characters involved.
Mapping the Play: The drama space is carefully marked out into different locations or times in the playtext. A key space in the play such as a particular room is reconstructed using available props and furniture.
Documentary: The events of the play are translated into a documentary format. Or characters are established through documentary evidence c.f. Citizen Kane
Flashback: The realtionship between the dramatic present and the past is reinforced by showing ‘flashback’ scenes whilst the present scene unfolds. Or at a crucial moment a character is confronted by images of the past
Group Sculpture: The group, or an individual from the group, creates a shape using members of the group and any other, usually of a non-representational nature, which expresses a particular aspect of the theme or issue in the play.
Hot-Seating: Characters are questioned about their values, motives, relationships and actions by other members of the group. This is a very effective rehearsal technique that helps an actor to flesh out and discover new facets of their character through the responses they make to the questions. There can be added tension if the character is questioned at a moment of stress, or at a turning point in their lives.
Iceberg: A reflective device in which a diagram of an iceberg is drawn. Students have to consider what is text and what is sub-text in a scene and then to note text above the waterline of the iceberg and sub-text beneath the waterline.
Interviews, Interrogations Characters are interviewed by 'reporters' or interrogated by an authority figure in order to question their motives, values, beliefs or to elicit more facts about a given situation.
Private Property: A character is introduced, or constructed, through carefully chosen personal belongings - objects, letters, reports, costume, toys, medals etc. The private property forms a sub-text to the characters words and actions.
Re-enactments: In order to examine a situation in more detail a scene or an event, that has ‘already happened', may be re-enacted.
Role on the Wall: A record of a character is kept in the form of a large outline of a figure in which students might write key lines, phrases, ideas or feelings about the character. The outline is kept and re-edited as students discover more about the character.
Soundtracking: Sounds are used to create the atmosphere of the ‘place’ in which the drama takes place. These can be pre-recorded or live and are usually, though not always, created by the participants.
Space Between: Students arrange characters so that the space between them represents the distance in their relationship to each other (how near and far apart, who is close to whom). The students can also consider the change in the space over time - will characters draw closer together or further apart? they can also try to name the distance - betrayal, fear, power etc.
Tableau: Participants create a 'photograph' using their own bodies to represent a moment from the drama.
Thought Tracking: The inner thoughts of a character are revealed either by the person adopting that role or by the others in the group. This is a particularly useful way of slowing down and deepening a drama especially it used in conjunction with Still Photographs. A further development of this is to have the participants draw the distinction between what a character says; what it thinks and what it feels.