Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Teen-Led One-Acts

On Wednesdays I have a group of families over to my house for classes. I do an English 1 class, others do Geometry, Origami,  Waldorf-Style Preschool, and the teens are doing a One-Act class. The class is designed with ten or so participants are writing their own play. I am their adult sponsor, but I am "hands off", letting them to all of the work. 

What I'm actually doing, unknown to the teens,  is watching the group dynamics.

Cast of Characters:  
Tall boy
Quiet blond
Dr. Who
The Cure

  • 2:15 - I started the class by telling them that they are, basically, on their own. I let them know that they are responsible for the group, for setting goals, creating, encouraging all to participate, and all production. We all know how this is going to go. The "quieter" kids are going to be quiet. The rambunctious kids are going to overrun the class, making it impossible for anyone to get anything done. The others, not wanting to look uncool, will allow the "dominant" and louder teens to run rampant. There will be many hours of side talking and off-topic conversation. I plan on keeping track of the dynamic.
  • 2:25 - I'm sitting here, now, writing this as the group is talking, all at once. Lots of talking, lots of shouting "shut up". Ideas are being tossed around. Two of the kids, Izzy and Indie, are very quiet and haven't spoken at all. Some ideas are being tossed around. A "Lord of the Flies"-type idea is being tossed around, which I find ironic. One person, Dr. Who, said, "I have an idea!" Everyone quieted down, saying "shut up", and she spoke.
  • 2:30 - Tall Boy said, "Stop saying 'shut up', it's annoying"!
  • 2:45 - There has been at least thirty minutes where the group is still tossing ideas around, most of them incredibly gross or ridiculously silly. A small group of kids appear to be, internally, forming a small group of people who are interested in being productive. Boys are wrestling, talking silly, tossing things at each other.
  • 2:47 - kids talking to me, hoping I am not annoyed and hoping I'm not noticing their language use.  I assured them that I'm barely paying attention.  Tomboy offers me a great deal of attention and affection. 
  • 2:50 - a neighborhood boy walking by outside and captured their attention. They're now shouting out the door, running out the door, talking to him.
  • Tall boy says, "GUYS! We need to get serious now."
  • Tom boy and Tall boy disagree on what is funny. Eight others barely speak. Cool keeps offering silly ideas designed take the group totally off track, and it works.
  • 2:55 - Indie suggests that the ideas don't make sense and are not "plausible". A fairly interesting conversation ensues, although it doesn't much relate to a play. Actor dominates with silliness. Cool enjoys the sillier times better than the productive times, as evidenced by his volume.
  • 3:00 - Apparently they have decided on there being a lobster in the play. Dr. Who is shouting "QUIET", and they do quiet for a moment. The Cure makes a suggestion. Definition of "nerd" is discussed. Quiet girl is asked if she has any ideas. She says she doesn't. Is progress on their goal being made? Maybe! It seems that, with the "Lord of the Flies" idea, there are nine characters being sketched out. Some ideas are pretty clever. One character is called "Heat Stroke Water Guy". Barry Manilow is being discussed as a character. Now we're making progress!
  • 3:05 - Dr. Who is making notes, Tall Guy is standing and talking. Izzy asks some good question, quietly and Tom Boy says, "Hey! Izzy has something to say!"  Dr. Who, as the group member with a laptop, seems to be leading the discussion. The discussion of characters becomes very productive, with lots of silliness.
  • 3:15 - I bring in the promised snacks and they are devoured. Seriously.
  • 3:15 - Milly talks with a huge smile of her face. Eating. Characters are now listed, named, and given brief description. Actor frequently shouts out random, non-related words and phrases. The reading of the characters elicits laughter, new ideas, and, finally, a GOAL! Each person will create their own character's back stories and names.  
  • 3:20 - Cool starts naming characters and creating relationship information. Quiet blond sits with her hand on her cheek. Indie smiles and laughs silently. Tomboy squeezes between two closely-sitting people on the couch. All laugh.
  • 3:25 - more food, all are quiet and munching. And giggling. I notice some texting going on. Indie starts reading aloud all of the written information. Everyone listens and laughs at their favorite funny parts.
  • 3:30 - characters were set and a plan for next week:  figure out the plot!

Interesting and funny!
Turns out that I was WRONG!  These kids, through what looked like and felt like chaos to me, they were able to create characters and some semblance of a plot.
I've been SCHOOLED!

Did you think they would get anything done?
Have you ever written a one act play?  Any advice?


  1. When I think of the stultifying boredom of my English lit classes at school, I really wish there had been your option to take up instead!

    1. LOL...I agree! That's why I'm doing it!
      It's SO thrilling to discover and to see them discover...
      I completely understand the allure of teaching for a living.


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