Teacing Children Drama

By Sarah Pachev

We love to have drama class in our homeschool. Somedays I let them pick their own play and get into the dress-up box. I give them some time to put it together and watch the production. Other times I provide more coaching and get more involved in the play. 

One summer we decided to put on our own play in our own backyard. This was ALOT of work...fun..but next time I would get some other mom's and other kids involved. Here's how we did it:

  • I picked a story with only a few characters that we could easily take care of with my three children.
    • The story we chose was Rumplestilskin
  • After rewriting the story we held practices almost every day for a couple of weeks.
  • We picked two days for the play and handed out flyers to everyone in the neighborhood.
  • My friend made curtains for me.
  • The children and I got huge boxes from an RC Wiley and painted them to  look like castles. Then I rigged a strong cord up between the boxes and hung the curtain on it.
  • We painted large piles of "straw" on one side of a big piece of cardboard and then painted "gold" on the other side so we could easily turn the straw into gold after Rumplestilskin did his magic for the miller's daughter.
  • I wrote a song and used my keyboard's demo music for background music and for in between music.
  • We went to the thrift store and found costumes. My youngest daughter had the part of the "golden dancer". She danced in between scenes when the curtains closed and we flipped the straw into gold behind scenes.
  • On the day of the performance we made water balloon yo yo's and popcorn balls to sell for 25 Cents each.
  • We only charged 25 cents a ticket because I couldn't bear to charge my neighbors more...I think we came out about even.
  • We had about 20 people come between both nights...which is more than some amateur theaters I've been to on opening night.
  • All in all it was really fun and something my kids learned a lot from and hopefully will remember fondly.

Another idea for teaching them about drama is to get them involved in community theater. Have them try out for a play. Some small theaters allow even small children to participate if the parents are willing to come and supervise at practices. In March of 2006 my oldest to children, Benjamin and Jennifer, then 7 and 5 were in a professional production of "The King and I" It was the perfect play to audition for because they needed lots of children. It would obviously be harder to compete for only a couple of parts but still worth the experience I'm sure.

My children were scared of the experience but I coaxed them into it with the promise of a small treat...I figured they would love it once they started. 

My little girl Jennifer adored every aspect of practices and most aspects of performance..she was shy at first but adjusted after a few tries and then was WONDERFUL. Some of her fellow actors thought she should try out for another part in the next play they were doing. I was expecting baby #5 soon so I had to decline. Since the baby's been born she's been begging me to let her be in another play.

Benjamin dragged his feet about a lot of things and we thought about taking him out of the play. Eventually we decided that since we'd made a commitment we would stick it out. Next play, however, will be  up to him. It's too much work for mom if he really doesn't want to do it...but this time I just couldn't resist the opportunity to get them involved in a "real" play.  The fun part about him being in it was when he wrote his biography for the playbill. He said "Sometimes I feel like I'm really a prince and that when I grow up I'll be in charge of an army" So, he really did get into his part and have a pretty good time.

I loved my children getting some free acting lessons and I loved that they were out in the community meeting people and seeing how a business is run.

I don't know if I personally will chose this route again because we had to do lots of late nights. I would try to find a theater that does children's theater and is sensitive to children's schedules.

It is fun to look at the playbill that we saved from this play and see my little actor's and actress's names listed as participants in the Center Street Musical Theater's production of "The King and I".


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