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Fourth Grade Improv at San Ramon School

San Ramon Elementary 4th Graders all enjoyed their Drama course with Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs this Spring!  Teachers Ms. Ainsworth, Ms. Dick and Ms. Logue requested a “general theatre and improv” class. This introductory course is designed to teach basic theatre and improvisation technique through collaborative play.

Students learn respect for their instrument (their body & voice), through a series of fun warm ups every day.  The lessons are structured in a rehearsal format with a check-in and warm-up preceding content-filled theatre games.  Every class is spent actively up on our feet, so the elements of movement – size, weight, tempo, tension, focus, direction – is an early lesson to give young actors a vocabulary with which to work for the rest of the course.

Students learn that the stage directions "UPSTAGE" and "DOWNSTAGE" originated from the incline, or rake, common in english theatres from the Middle Ages through to the early Modern era. Upstage was literally up higher in elevation to improve the audience's view of the action!

Some other concepts the young actors learn include the essentials of theatre – from stage directions to the many roles in dramatic production.  The 4th Graders also practice the acting basics: objective, action & obstacle; and Stanislavski’s ‘Magic If’ exercises are an imaginative highlight.

Young actors warm up their bodies and imaginations with a "Bubblegum Game" during which they act as if they are enjoying their favorite flavor of this illicit sweet. They act out every detail from opening the pack to chewing every piece and blowing a giant bubble into which they climb and explore and finally POP!

In the spirit of improvisers everywhere we celebrate every mistake or happy accident with hands thrown in the air and a “Whoohoo!”  Kids love this take on ‘failure’ and it seems to propel them fearlessly into the lessons on improvisation where they further learn to be present, focused, enthusiastic young theatre artists.

Melissa Briggs Presenting to her students

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