Today was our first practice, and I WAS AMAZED by my class' immense talent. This group is really going to draw in the audience. They are going to hit it out of the ballpark, no exaggeration. Before we practiced, I told them four important rules of being a superior actor or actress:
- Respect all fellow actors and actresses at all times. Never show them guff or interrupt them (or talk while they are speaking their lines).
- Know that with all the group's efforts, the play will be excellent and only... excellent.
- Prosody is important. Understand your character's traits and actions to make your role believable.
- Practice self-discipline. For example, if you feel the urge to burst out laughing at an accent a fellow actor or actress uses, hold back from interrupting, particularly the night of the play.
Here is a short summary of some of the larger roles:
- Ponce de Leon: His character shows some conceit through the play, and he speaks authoritatively at times. He acts like the first person who ever discovered new lands, though he obviously was not. He barges in on the natives' land, and he proclaims it for Spain within seconds, focusing on "his" Fountain of Youth as well as his country's fame, glory, and moola. Cha-ching.
- The talk show host: He is probably the second-most conceited character in the play because he only cares about his show and enjoys witnessing conflicts (particularly between Ponce de Leon and the natives he encounters). For example he says, "Well, if you're still angry, we can schedule a... second appearance." (Insert grin here) He uses suspense kind of like Ryan Seacrest does with American Idol.
- Indian #2 is agitated and furious about explorers from Spain barging in on her land. She is the one who "pierces" Ponce de Leon in the thigh with a reed arrow (in Estero Bay, near Fort Myers). She speaks with immense confidence and shows him who is boss! Though the Indians do not "win" in the end, they do "win" against Ponce de Leon. There is also a humorous surprise sequence at the end of the play during the talk show where she and Ponce de Leon return.
- Sir Francis Drake is hilarious to watch (the boys I have had the last few years have been superior, and the student I chose this year is quite talented). He is fierce, demanding, and driven. He bosses people around and "throws" rapid commands in his crew's direction. The two on the crew are wonderful, too... they use perfect British accents and contribute quite a lot of humor to the play.
- The "student" who shows up in every scene, too, can be humorous and a little sarcastic. She has a few funny remarks to move the action of the play along. The play is actually built around her role because it is HER experience! A friend constructs a time machine for her, and she gets drawn into the action of the Ponce de Leon/native conflict, French and Spanish conflict (where the French get shipwrecked as their Fort Caroline is attacked by the Spanish), Sir Francis Drake's looting and burning of St. Augustine in 1586, and the Castillo de San Marcos being constructed.
- Other explorers are Jean Ribault (French) and Pedro Menendez de Aviles (Spanish). Their shining moment is when the two groups are heading in opposite directions and the Spanish defeat the French fort (Fort Caroline) while they are not even there.
- There are also warriors, other native Americans, Thomas Edison, Henry Morrison Flagler, other students, the teacher, and of course, the narrators. The girl playing the teacher has a surprise coming (I informed her today)... she is going to be a major part of our intermission show.
What does this experience teach my students?
#1: That history is fun and more than a banal textbook experience.
#2: That storytelling is an interesting thing to do. Storytelling helps them to develop stronger prosody and "draw" the audience's attention to them.
#3: That teamwork is not easy at all, yet if they all work together in achieving their goal, the benefits are PLENTIFUL.
#4: The play presents what they need to know for the day they go on the St. Augustine field trip. They are exposed to a plethora of vocabulary every time they read the play, and I don't shirk when it comes to the complexity of the words. Here are some vocabulary words: "La Florida", "the land of flowers", newfangled ideas, self-centered, demanding, defeat, equipped, grueling, Spaniards, coastline, trample, conniving, two-sided, manipulating, conquistador, European, settlement... you get the idea.
More will come (photographs and some video as time progresses). I am going to try to capture some video of them as they practice the next two months (particularly the bloopers because there are always wonky aspects of play practice).
I forgot to mention, also, that I am doing this on my birthday like a few years ago, and I think our cast party (as well as our curtain call) will be QUITE fun!
Here are some photographs from the past (2009, to be exact):