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Many drama coaches like to start workshops with fun ice-breakers in which people learn each other's names. However, the following exercise is of much greater importance. Do it in addition to or instead of the ice-breakers, but do it on the first day.
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Any group of thespians who want to work together need to develop group awareness and respect. There are a few activities that I use at the beginning of any drama workshop to prep my students to work safely and with respect for each other.
The first is "Standing Still." To lead students in this activity, separate the class into two groups, A and B. Have them form two straight lines, As facing Bs. Everybody takes a few steps back. As sit down -- they are the audience. Bs are onstage.
Instruct Bs to simply stand there. Relax, but don't move. Do nothing. And, like any polite and respectful audience, the As are to simply sit and watch. Expect there to be some giggling and nervousness. As the teacher, remain relaxed and hold your ground. Wait patiently for the giggling to subside.
When As are calmly watching, and Bs have become quiet and seem more comfortable just standing there being stared at, look at the clock. After about two minutes have gone by, As stand up and Bs sit down. Do it all over again. Remember that when the As have settled down and stopped giggling nervously to watch the time for two minutes. Then, the exercise is over.
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How Does it Help?
This simple activity has a huge impact on how your students will behave in class. You have just primed them to:
- Be respectful when other people are working.
- Pay attention to each other perform.
- Feel comfortable and safe with the class watching them.
- Have a sense of camaraderie and group experience -- even though you just started.