If you work with under-18s developing performance skills (along with confidence and all those other useful transferables) then Samantha Marsden’s new book is likely to be very helpful.
Marsden, who set up her own youth theatre in 2012, already has Teach Drama: How to Make a Living as Freelance Drama Teacher (Drama Fountain, 2016) on her CV and often writes for The Stage.
The point about her new book is that it mostly rejects the sort of generic drama games which you might play at Brownies, Scouts, at a children’s party or in a generalist class room. There’s nothing wrong with those, of course, they’re fun and they help children bond and grow. But here, Marsden is entirely and systematically focused on activities which develop acting skills in pursuit of an uninhibited truthful performance and her book owes a lot to the work of the great practitioners such as Stanislavsky, Meisner and Uta Hagen.
Written as a dip-in resources book, 100 Acting Exercises for 8-18 Year Olds starts with relaxation and focus in a safe space in which everyone comes to trust everyone else. Marsden writes of the “protective shields” behind which children hid their true selves and gently works towards “de-shielding” them so that they can become themselves.
She includes vocal work (“Good Evening, Your Majesty”, for example, invites them to disguise their voices and have fun), movement, actions, physicalising characters and working with text among other things. I liked the activity, for instance which involves creating given circumstances for a fairy tale character and the one which helps them to get to know a text – and then to add pauses. Yes, there’s a great deal of handy, teacher-friendly material here. It isn’t always original but having it all in one place and targeting this age group is likely to be extremely useful.
100 Acting Exercises for 8-18 Year Olds is published by Methuen Drama which is part of Bloomsbury.