One of the techniques used most often by theatre high school teachers is role-playing. The reasons that this technique is often used are numerous. When students read a text silently some of the nuance contained in the meaning can be lost. This is particularly true when dealing with a play, or anything containing multiple characters. Reading the piece aloud can help them to understand the connotation as well as the denotation. In the theatre, how a passage is spoken will determine the feeling that it carries with it. Lines of dialogue can suddenly become funny or sad once given inflection.
This is the prime reason role-playing is used. The prime time that this technique is employed is when teaching the works of Shakespeare. The usual set up for a role-playing exercise is as follows: first the teacher will have the students read the text by themselves, then he/she will define any strange or outdated language used in the text. Often with Shakespeare students find the use of the King s English confusing and therefore do not understand the piece. Once the terms used are understood, the teacher can ask students to read sections aloud that they may hear how the words flow together.
Then two or more students are chosen to act out the section with some minimal movement. This added blocking creates the idea that the dialogue motivates the actions. When doing this type of activity it is best to employ a combination of two different teaching philosophies. One of them is Pragmatism and the other is Idealism. Idealists value the mind and concepts over all things. In this exercise, it is important to keep this sort of attitude. Students may not always understand the full meaning of the text. Often their young lives do not contain enough experience to comprehend the decisions, or actions that characters make.
That is why it is more important that the class grasp the idea of motivated action. The intended meaning of a line will determine how the other characters perceive and react to it. This also lends itself to the idealist precept that life should be guided by thought. The Pragmatism inherent in the exercise comes in to play when dealing with the conclusions reached in class. All of the conclusions reached are subject to change with the individual reciting the piece. That is why theatre teachers often show more than one performance to the class.
The teacher can offer guidance by suggesting how a student might say a line, but in theatre, there are no absolute truths. The Pragmatist also believes that students learn best by working together in-groups within a democratic setting. Theatre is a wonderful example of what can be achieved through a group effort. This type of understanding and open guidance in necessary for the project to go smoothly. This type of exercise also requires the idealist notion of the mind. This exercise works best under these conditions. It can be performed using greater strictness but I feel that students would not benefit as much from the experience.