George seems a perfect fit with the environment in which he works.
Salt Lake City stretches out below the university and spreads westward to the Great Salt Lake. The Wasatch Mountains
tower over the east side of the city and form magnificent background to the warm brick buildings of the University of Utah.
The setting is at once welcoming and expansive. That spirit flows through the atmosphere of ELI and George's work.
I caught George as he was wrapping up his Theatrical Production course. It was the last week and he was moving toward
an outdoor performance for the end-of-year barb-be-cue and Class Awards Day.
George says that his main mission is to "get students to express feelings through these foreign words" and to do that,
his Theatrical Production course is a speech class that evolves through several levels.
George starts with idioms. But before he works with idioms per se, he gives his students a talk about how acting is related
to ESL and how stress and rhythm are related to emotion. Then come the idioms and George selects idioms related to love and
anger. What better?! Here's his list.
1. look after
2. can't take eye's off someone
3. flirt with
4. have a crush on
5. have designs on
6. wind around one's finger
7. get along with
8. confide in
9. sweep a person off their feet
10. be infatuated with
11. have an affair with
12. make a pass at
13. live together
14. propose to
15. make love with
16. throw out
17. fall in love with
18. get together
Armed with these idioms, students can create brief scenarios into which they place the idioms and act out the scene
to make dramatic the meaning.
Likewise, the following are next worked with.
ANGER LOVE Idioms
1. cope with
2. drive someone out of his/her mind
3. get on one's nerves
4. not to think twice
5. be fed up
6. pick on
7. complain about
8. get out of bed on the wrong side
9. hold in
10. have it out
11. feel like
12. put up with
13. stand for
14. calm down
15. not to lose sleep over
16. cut out
17. object to
Again, the meanings of these idioms can be discussed and then the groups working with them will act them out in a suitable
context. One can see how they lend themselves to fluid emotional work and need the integration of proper stress and intonation!
So too, is emotion, stress, and intonation an important part of the next exercise. Students need to find the stressed
words, mark them, and read them accordingly.
SCENE FROM 'TABLE SETTINGS' By James Lapine
WOMAN: Look, I'm just trying to get things out in the open. I'm a little bit older than you. I've been married.
Things are different for me. I'm working on opening up -- talking things out.
MAN: So talk things out.
WOMAN: I don't love you.
WOMAN: I mean I do love you, but I'm not in love with you.
WOMAN: Which makes it very difficult for me to see you.
MAN: Why does that make it difficult?
WOMAN: Because I'm a person that really needs to be in love.
MAN: Yeah, so?
WOMAN: So, you're not the kind of person I want to be in love with.
WOMAN: Besides, you don't really want me falling in love with you.
MAN: I don't?
WOMAN: No, you don't. Whenever I fall in love with someone, I drive them out of their minds.
MAN: Me, too.
Now, that's a charming exercise to put your students through. Try it out!
Also, for showing students how the subtext and circumstances underlying a dialogue can change tone and intonation, there
are many rather neutral scripts for students to supply the imagined background. George usues these.
A: Well, hello.
B: Oh, hi.
B: So what?
A: Do you know what time it is?
B: Not exactly.
B: What do you want?
A: Calm down. (pause) Ummmm. What did you do last night?
A; All right, forget I asked.
B: Yeah, forget it.
B: Oh, hi.
A: How are you doing?
B: Not too well. A little headache.
A: Want some aspirin?
B: Look, don't try to be helpful, okay?
A: Okay. I just thought that you might...
B. Look. Leave me alone. Okay?
A. I thought you might want to talk.
B: Don't you get it? I don't want to talk to you.
A: All right. I'll leave you alone.
A: I won't talk to you anymore.
A: You can just go to hell for all I care.
Students need to decide who they are (what characters are saying this), what the circumstances are behind the exchange,
and where it occurs. No doubt, sparks fly! And the emotions generate plenty of tone!
It's here also that George has students work on character development, experimenting with different voices and tones
and practicing getting their pronunciation just right. The pieces are short, but effective ways to practice pitch, pronunciation,
and work on vocal range.
Blended with the exercises above, George also has students work with pantomime exercises to develop physical
freedom and control. These exercises will pay off later when he involves his students in a larger production.
Alongside of all of this, George also has his students working solo on a monologue of their choice. Here's the assignment.
Each of you needs to choose a monologue of about one to two minutes in length. Go to Colin's Movie Monologue website
to choose one or two possibilities. Mark them up for stress, rhythm and natural English (reductions, linking). Bring them
with you on the day we have class in the lab. Record the monologue to disk in the lab to hand in. Try to watch the movie the
monologue comes from if possible over the weekend. It could be available in the library. I will schedule a meeting with each
of you individually to help you with your speech and you will perform them on (date).
THEY MUST BE MEMORIZED!!!!
For support exercises in the lab, ELI uses the book and program, Pronunciation Power. Students select exercises
relevant to their problems for special practice.
George neatly tunes his student's interests to the work of developing their speech. Not only do they involve themselves
with group and pair activity, but also have room to work on their own regarding their monologues. And the demand for memory
work is not to condone a rote process, but to make sure that each student will have practiced their delivery to the point
where they begin to make some change in their articulation habits. That takes time.
From this preparation through individual, pair, and small group exercises, George proceeds to another
level: the Video Project. For this, George has his students generate proverbs. They all write some out with which they are
familiar and discuss them. George's precise instructions are as follows.
Theatrical Production -- VIDEO PROJECT
The steps and schedule for making your video should be as follows (suggested schedule)
TOMORROW: Discuss the proverbs with your group. Decide on one with a clear and universal message. Decide how
to show your proverb with a story in a modern situation. Choose characters and create a scenario. (short outline of story)
THURSDAY: Break your story into scenes. List scenes and give them numbers. Decide what is needed for each
scene -- Actors, props, costumes, location. Assign dialogue writing. Plan director, exchange phone numbers and schedules.
Practice with cameras (if time.)
MONDAY: Go over dialogue with group. Learn to use the camera(s). Create shooting schedule: when and where
-- try to use the campus as much as possible. I can help some mornings and some afternoons.
Hand in scene list, dialogue and shooting schedule for comments.
TUESDAY -- Try to start shooting. Remember to keep track of the order of scenes on your tape and which "take"
is the one you want to use. For example:
1. Scene 12 -- Susan comes home. Take 3.
2. Scene 12 -- Susan comes home (from different angle) Take 10 (intercut with take 3 above)
3. Scene 5 -- Susan leaves home. Take 4.
Also, decide any special effects, music and titles that you need to add to your finished film.
Finish videotaping your play!!!! TODAY if possible!!!
Step One: Go through your tape and number each scene and take. Decide where you will cut, which take you will
use for each scene. Keep track of the order on the tape.
Step Two: Discuss the music you would like to use and any voiceover recording you will need. Gather CD's or
tapes of the music. Have scripts of voiceovers ready.
Step Three: Create the title and credits. Paper copies okay. Be creative.
Step Four: Choose an editing team from your group -- at least two people who will be in charge of the editing.
They need to schedule an editing seesion with me. Could be in the morning before class or in the afternoon...They will bring
all music CDS, voiceover scripts and voiceover actors, title and credit papers with them to the session.
Step Five: Edit! This sometimes takes longer than expected. Be prepared for technical difficulties. It's fun
to see the movie come together. You have worked hard -- Let's make a good movie!!!!
WE WILL HOPE TO HAVE THE WORLD PREMIERE OF OUR MOVIES ON MONDAY. I'll bring the Popcorn!!!
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
Such is George's assignment for the video project. One can see how it thrusts responsibility squarely on the
students to work together, plan, and produce! And look at the side assignments for the week.
1. Idiom search -- interview Americans to find out the meaning of the idioms in your group. Report on
your results on Thursday.
2. Pronunciation practice -- individual practice on your pronunciation problems in the lab. Record the
sentences by Thursday. (disks due)
3. Possible field trip to see "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" -- a romantic comedy -- Details to follow.
4. Begin planning for final performance.
Upcoming events -- "Joseph and the Amazing Technocolor Dreamcoat" (Salt Lake Community College) -- May 18th
matinee??? Or the week of the 20th
Short-Shorts Festival of One-Act Plays by Wasatch Theatre Company and us!
This is a collection of very short plays that will be performed in June. We need
your participation. There are twelve actors (I am one!) and four directors (I am one!). We need -- set builders (weekend of
June 1 and 2) AND we need performers during the run to change the set between plays in an amusing and theatrical WAY!!!! (performances
are Thursdays through Saturdays, June 6 -22 (7:00 - 10:30 each night - plus rehearsals before) Come join the fun -- Be in
a show! Interact with Americans.
* * * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
I've included George's assignment handout here in its entirety to convey the total thrust of his program
and his approach. He surrounds his students with theatrical possibilities and opens all kinds of doors to dramatic opportunities.
Students find a rich and fertile ground to develop their linguistic skills while at the same time they enlarge their theatre
knowledge and appreciation.
Back in the classroom, alongside the video project, George has his students doing scenework. They write, rehearse,
and perform short scenes for the class. And, there's also improvisation. Using acting games and on the spot drama creations,
the student-actors learn to think on their feet. Below, are improvisational scenarios used.
CONTENTLESS - SITUATIONS
1. DIFFERENT SEXES:
A. You are a young married couple. Last night, after an argument, "B" left the apartment.
It is now the following morning. "A" is washing dishes. "B" returns.
B. You are classmates who have been romantically interested in each other for
some time. You meet in the Union cafeteria by accident and "A" sits down next to "B."
2. SAME SEX
A. You are roommates. Both of you have been involved with the same man (or woman)
during the past few weeks, but have been trying to keep this secret from the other, but are very suspicious. "B" comes into
the dorm room after being gone all night. "A" is getting ready for school.
B. You are old friends since grade school and are sharing an apartment. Last night
a third friend called "A" and said that "B" was seen at a gay/lesbian bar dancing and holding hands with someone of the same
sex. "B" comes home in the morning.
3. DOESN'T MATTER:
A. "A" is a parent and "B" is a teenager. The scene takes place at the breakfast
table: "B" is eating a bowl of cereal as "A" enters.
B. You are siblings. "B" has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital after
a suicide attempt. After "B" has stayed out all night, "A" finally finds "B" in the waiting room of a bus station.
C. You are friends. "B" has recently been released from a psychiatric hospital after
attacking a friend suddenly with a knife. "A" accidentally meets "B" in a deserted place.
To quickly summarize then:
George starts with the focus on emotion and how emotion is conveyed through stress patterns, intonation, and
phrasing. He then unites this in physical work that connects the emotion-speech-movement dynamic to character development.
He then allows his students to create from this base and develop what they know through the use of video performance: at once
writing, rehearsing the acting, and developing the technical aspects as a team. Finally, they are ready to tackle an even
larger project -- a forty-five minute adaptation by George of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," renamed "A
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Dorm."
For this theatrical project, George has rewritten the Plautus text so that the cast numbers coincide
with his class numbers. George says, "There's a responsibility to cast depending upon ability that leads to a script." In
this case, it's his fresh rendition of the Roman play. Everyone has a role...not only in acting, but collecting
props and costumes, preparing music, erecting the portable set, and stage managing each other.
I arrive as George starts the final rehearsals. He explains: Monday is a run through with props, Tuesday is
dress rehearsal, Wednesday is another dress rehearsal, and Thursday is the performance -- outdoors. So, accordingly (and rightfully
-- the weather is brilliant) the rehearsals are outdoors in the quad outside the ELI buildings. This is the first run through
with the set.
George arrives in a harried mood. He says that he will show everybody all the props that he has picked up
-- for everyone to get used to today. Rehearsal will be with lines, costumes -- those that are available now, and properties. He
knows it's a lot to handle.
He calls "places" and tells people where to go for there entrances. One person is not here. "Betty." George
will read her lines. "If you forget your lines, just say, "line," says George.
He explains the set places: the women's dorm, the men's dorm, the forgetful professor's house. The
run through begins.