Group of Four is engaging in some Shakespeare again, this time it is Much Ado about Nothing. At our house we began by reading through the Charles and Mary Lamb version of the story to give everyone an idea of what to expect when we watched. B7 and A11 sketched the characters as I read to help keep the relationships in order. When Group of Four met last week we watched the movie version directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring both Branagh as Benedick and Emma Thompson as Beatrice. It is a very enjoyable version which amused and inspired the young actors.
Earlier this week, the group participated in a workshop run by the Company of Fools for a group of thirty or so homeschooled students. The workshop ran all day and covered many aspects of acting, zeroing in on Much Ado about Nothing for several of the activities. The workshop was run by two of the “fools”, one an actor, the other a designer. I was very impressed by the way they worked with the children and the activities which kept everyone engaged all day.
They started with warm ups for voice, body and imagination. Following this they were taught a technique for learning lines by giving every word an action. Every word, not just the big words or the “easy to think of an action” words. Using this method they all learnt a section from Titus Andronicus. In pairs they then used the same method to learn and present a line from Much Ado.
Getting into character was the next focus and time was spent on facial expressions, body movements, walking styles and a little dialogue. The only costumes used all day were hats and the group spent time looking at a large collection of hats, working out why a particular one suited a particular character from Much Ado. Then of course they wore the hats and became the characters. After lunch the activities were a little longer as the children used scenes from Much Ado to create tableaux, posters and skits.
At Group of Four next week all the children will be acting in one or more scenes which the moms have cut and pasted together. We have chosen those scenes which really amused or impressed the children or classic scenes which just must be done. Our house will be filled with Shakespearean language once again as lines are practised and inserted into all sorts of conversations.