Monday, April 18, 2011

Theatre Production as an ESL Course

     Often drama activities with ESL students involve improvisational activities and individual monologues or short scenes. New York University professor Maria Guida suggests that this doesn’t have to be the case. Her article Creating Theater in the ESL Classroom discusses how to build a course around the production of a full-scale play.

     Guida suggests four guidelines for selecting an appropriate script. The first guideline is that the scripts must concern subjects that are relevant to the students’ lives. However, she also states that the script should contain many scenes for two characters and that the dialogue should be easy to navigate (these are particularly important guidelines since scenes may be too difficult to rehearse if there are too many characters or have complicated dialogue). The final guideline she states is that plays should be filled with quality vocabulary, as the script itself is the textbook for the class.

     The following plays, she writes, are particularly useful:

            The Glass Menagerie and Summer and Smoke, by Tennessee Williams
            A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller 
           LUV by Murray Schisgal 
           Rocket to the Moon by Clifford Odets 
           A Loss of Roses by William Inge 

     Guida is quick to note that it’s not only the play that helps students to learn English, but that it is the improvisational language games she includes in each class meeting, and the discussion of the topics, language, and plot of the play.

     Though the approach Guida takes is unusual, her class is popular and successful with students. At the end of the paper, she includes an excellent quote from one of her students who says, "I thought that acting was a kind of lie, but now I think it's the best way of understanding other people.”

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