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Ideas & suggestions for producing a creative, fun school play
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This page (Page #6) has creative ideas for directing a fun, successful play or musical.  Check out these examples used in ArtReach popular titles: The Velveteen Rabbit, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Sword in the Stone.  Don’t forget, a Teachers Guide will come with your School Play Package and contain many other ideas and inspirations!

It's All About the Experience
It’s all about letting kids explore their imaginations

Maybe you know a kid who shies away from the experience of performing in a play because or she is afraid of the responsibility of learning lines, standing up straight and looking good before an audience.  As director you may be primarily concerned with teaching everyone where to stand, when to come in and making sure they keep their faces toward the audience.

But at ArtReach we believe that kids need a chance to perform, act out and pretend.  It’s time to use funny voices, walk like crazy people, scream and laugh and dance like nobody’s looking.   As director you feel you must keep control of your cast and be concerned with whether or not the audience can see the action.  But since these are kids, just getting their feet wet, it’s quite all right to let them test their wings – and fall – if they have to.  What if Captain Hook isn’t the best you’ve ever seen?  What if the audience isn’t exactly thrilled with the performance?

"Give them roots and wings – and confidence!"

Students rehearse ArtReach's The Velveteen Rabbit -- Fleetwood Community Theatre, Exton PA

What matters is the child performer has a chance to experience Captain Hook, try on the clothes, hobble on the peg leg and enjoy being something they never dreamt of.  Give them roots and wings – the confidence to try something new and a safe place to land if they don’t exactly fly.

Failure doesn’t need to be pointed out or even worried about.  It just isn’t part of the experience.  Giving kids a chance to have fun and feel free to explore something outside of the ordinary – that’s what it’s all about. 

Give yourself the freedom to value the process over product – and you’ll have the time of your life!

Emperors New Clothes Jazzes it Up with an Orchestra
Add creative fun with percussion instruments

Danny Da Drum, Zella Bella, Horatio Hornblower, Ting-A-Ling, Tim Whistle and Huey Kazooie.  What do these characters have in common?  They are the members of a fun and silly orchestra for ArtReach’s play THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES.

Raid the music room!  Look for kazoos, triangles, drums, chimes, tambourines, rhythm sticks, slide whistles, bells, cymbals and anything that makes noise!  Bring these to your first rehearsal and ask the kids to play with them during scenes to see if they enhance the performance.  Show your cast an example:  Peter rams his head against the castle door to open it.  Use the cymbal for the crash and then a slide whistle as Peter circles his head around, dizzy from the crash.  Ask them to think of similar sounds for other moments throughout the play such as the Empress’ entrance, Peter’s travels etc.  Set aside a little time each rehearsal session to review ideas for sounds and decide which will be included in the play.

Jazzing it up for the Emperor!
The Emperor's New Clothes Play for Kids to Perform
Campanile Center for the Arts, Minocqua WI - Orchestra

The script for EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES calls for the storytellers to also be the music/sound makers, but you may apply this idea to any of the ArtReach plays.  Even if storytellers don’t stay stationary at the percussion stand, they may carry small instruments in their pockets or on chains around their necks.  You can also eliminate literal props by having the orchestra make the sounds such as sawing, creaking hinges, a blacksmith’s tapping etc.

"Storytellers are also the music/sound makers!"

Campanile Center for the Arts, Minocqua WI

Example: Here’s a trick I used often.  When your Prince Charming hero enters have him smile big.  Have someone "ting” a triangle at just that moment.  It seems to make your hero’s teeth glint in the sunlight.  It never fails to get a laugh and establishes your hero as a super good-guy.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW are great scripts for percussion instruments but the idea may applied to any play with narrators.

From The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Study Guide for ArtReach's Sword in the Stone

What's the Story?

There is magic all around. At least, that's what the magician Merlin believes, even though his country is in the midst of a terrible war. As the play begins, Merlin devises a way to save his beloved England, that is, as long as everything goes according to his plan for a baby named Arthur.

Several years later, Arthur is a young man, helping his older brother Kai prepare to become a knight by practicing his swordsmanship. Even though Arthur is younger than Kai, he is also bigger and better at just about everything. Kai's not so fond of getting beat up on by his younger brother, so he decides to throw in the towel for the day and head off for swim and then a nap. Arthur, however, has other plans. He wants to keep practicing.

"Magic is in - the earth, wind, water and fire."
Young Arthur learns Arthur battles the dragon
Mount Hood Community College, Gersham OR - ArtReach's Sword in the Stone

As Arthur practices, Merlin appears and tells Arthur that he is a magician. Arthur wants to see some tricks, but Merlin insists that magic isn't quite like he might have imagined. Magic doesn't involve pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but instead is found in everything around us-the earth, wind, water and fire. Arthur is skeptical, but Merlin proves his point in his very first lesson. The young squire will first learn about the wind, as Merlin turns them both into birds and they take to the sky.

As they fly, Arthur is amazed to see the kingdom from so high above. They fly over the forest and his father's land, and then they fly over what appears to be a large group of men. Arthur thinks it looks beautiful, but as they get closer, he realizes that it is a war. Merlin explains that, like many of nature's creatures, men believe that the strongest should rule. However, the strongest are not always the best rulers.

For Merlin's next lesson, the two become fish in a moat outside Arthur's family castle. As Merlin is teaching Arthur how to swim and how to avoid the moat's biggest predator, the pike named Spike, they realize that Arthur's brother Kai has accidentally been transformed as well. The fishy Kai doesn't want to listen and swims too close to danger. Merlin takes the opportunity to teach another lesson, and he leaves the young squire to find a way out of the situation. Arthur uses cunning and bravery to save himself and his brother from Spike, learning that it isn't just strength that a ruler needs, but also intellect.

"Will he be able to get the sword in time?"
Arthur saves brother Kai Merlin in Camelot
Mount Hood Community College, Gersham OR - ArtReach's Sword in the Stone

After their adventure, the two boys return home and find a stranger, the princess Guenever. She has arrived because her father has arranged for her to marry Kai, but that is certainly not what she wants to do. Arthur tries to comfort the young lady, and in doing so, seems to gain a new admirer. Merlin appears with yet another lesson, this time about fire. He teaches Arthur that fire isn't only found in the breath of dragons, but also in the heart of a man in love.

Kai soon arrives with some bad news-he has been called to battle. Arthur must fulfill his duty as Kai's squire and assist his brother in preparing to depart. He helps Kai get into his armor and gather his supplies, but wait-Kai's sword is missing! Desperate to find his brother a sword before he leaves, Arthur comes upon a sword lodged in a stone.  Will he be able to get the sword in time?

Words to the Wise

A villain has evil plots and motives and is the bad guy of a story. Merlin provides Arthur with Excalibur, a legendary sword that only a king can carry. When Arthur pretends to be a knight, he celebrates great triumphs, or great victories and achievements.

"Valor is great courage in the face of danger."
Merlin the Magician Creative Play script for kids
Mount Hood Community College, Gersham OR - ArtReach's Sword in the Stone

Kai needs to learn to joust, a sport in which men attempt to knock each other off their horses using long wooden weapons called lances. Someday Kai will become a knight, a job for men who serve the king as brave soldiers.   Arthur believes his destiny is to become a squire, an attendant or helper to a knight. You might shout "Confound it!" if something didn't go your way, sort of like "Darn it!"

In Arthur's time, a hermit was a person who lived all alone, totally separated from everyone else. Chivalry is a knight's code of conduct and includes qualities like honor, courage, courtesy and readiness to help those in need.   Valor is great courage in the face of danger. A knight is gallant if he shows chivalry, and is brave, grand and heroic.

Something that is majestic shows great beauty and dignity. If something occurs miraculously, then it happened almost by magic as if supernatural powers are involved. Virtues are morally good and desirable qualities.   To proffer is another way to say to offer something. Kai thinks turning into a fish is absurd, or a crazy, wild and unreasonable thing to do. If something is ghastly, it is awful, frightening and terrible.

Sir Ector's castle has a moat around it, or a large ditch filled with water that is a form of protection for the people inside the castle. Spike is a pike, which is a kind of fish with a pointed snout and large teeth.  In Arthur and Guenever's time, a dowry was money or gifts that were given to a man from his bride's father.  It's not very nice to call someone an imbecile, which is like calling them dumb or stupid.

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