Friday, April 9, 2021

In a world where you can be anything…

 

Sometimes, just when you think life cannot surprise you anymore, something seemingly quite insignificant can make you sit up and pay attention. This recently happened during one of our Drama activities and I can’t deny it put a huge smile on my face and gave me the warm-and-fuzzy’s all over. First, some background info to set the scene: we teach drama to children at an upmarket private school in Midrand, so it’s safe to say that these children come from a more privileged background than a lot of children in South Africa. A few weeks ago we did one of our quick-fire Intro activities, this one was about finding a tree in the jungle that has money growing on it instead of leaves. The children had to pick as much money as possible before I shouted “freeze”. As usual , I gave them a chance to comment on the activity and tell me what they would spend the money on. Of course, I got the expected Ferrari’s, Bugatti’s, Mansions, rockets to the moon, the latest Xbox and games, apple gadgets etc. But what really made me sit up, was the number of children who said they would give half, or all the money to charity. Some wanted to build houses for homeless people, or buy shoes, food, blankets and clothes. They wanted to give money to animal shelters, orphanages, cancer research and children’s hospitals. They wanted to build schools where children with no money can go to for free. I was honestly blown away! Somewhere, someone is doing something right. Between the parents, teachers, school, and other influences that might have an impact on these children, we are bringing up a new generation who might just get it right. To hear children be aware of their privilege, and say they don’t need more money or stuff, they would rather make life better for people whom they know have so much less than they do was a truly humbling experience. One of my favourite life mantras just kept playing over and over in my mind: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Art of Conversation

 Conversations are at the true heart of all dramatic productions, be it a play, a movie or a TV show. They are all basically made up of a string of conversations, strung together by actions and a change of scenery – conversations interspersed by characters going to work, walking, running, eating, sleeping until they have their next conversation. 

 One of our favourite Drama activities takes things right back to the basics of conversation and is aimed specifically at developing this art, this skill to focus on one conversation at a time. I am of course talking about the humble Snippet. It is literally a snippet of conversation, as if overheard in passing, about something as random as a bucket, a lost item, or a Birthday Party. It is quite amazing how much learning can be packed into an activity that takes all of 30 seconds to perform and perhaps 5 mins to teach and prepare. 

Firstly, we work on memorisation skills. The kick-off point of each Snippet is a few given lines that the children must memorise. We usually divide the children into groups of two, each child must assume a character, and is given a line or two to memorise that starts the conversation. 

We use a very effective memorisation technique that becomes the way in which children learn lines for much longer and more complicated scripts for scenes and plays, and ultimately improves their ability to retain information and recall it when required. 



Next we focus on improvisation and creativity as the children have to complete the conversation using their own words. We encourage them to be creative and come up with an unusual, funny or surprising ending. They also have to think about their characters, the relationship between them and the setting for the conversation. 


A Snippet builds Teamwork. 



The children must work together as a team when coming up with the ending or resolution of the situation and rehearse what each one is going to say. Eventually they become so comfortable with these scenarios, that the entire Snippet can be improvised on the spot, using the given lines as a springboard. 
















This demands a lot of trust and fast thinking from the children as their confidence and creativity grows. It is an excellent activity for new students to understand the basics of improv, memorisation and performance as a whole.



Friday, March 5, 2021

Up, up and away 2021!

Hurray, hurray! All our Helen O’Grady Pretoria and Midrand Studio venues have opened at last! 
And yes, I know, it’s the 6th of March already, but as with so many things lately, it has been a bit of a slow start. But that does not mean we haven’t been busy. 

Thanks to Zoom, we were able to at least kick off 2021 with online classes until we were able to meet face to face once more. And what a pleasure it has been to see each other after such a long December and January holiday. 

 Of course, we still offer Zoom classes for those who prefer to continue online, and we are still not free of all the protocols and precautionary measures brought on by COVID-19, but thanks to the support and trust of our students, parents and community, we are able to spread the love and joy of doing Drama, being creative, connecting with our peers and building confidence and life skills once again! 

We are so grateful and excited about this year and can’t wait to see what fantastical things it brings!

















Friday, December 11, 2020

Year-end Productions 2020

We have reached the end of the year! We ended term 4 with a two week long marathon of Year-end Productions. As with everything this year, we had to rework and adjust to fit in with Covid protocols, but come what may, we were going to end with a banger of a Show for each studio.

 In some cases, this meant a Show at a venue, drastically scaled down to only accommodate the students and parents of one particular studio at a time, similar to how we would do our mid-year Drama Presentations. Even though it was not as grand and elaborate as our usual Year-end Productions, and looked quite different with all the Covid 19 protocols like masks, shields, and social distancing, it certainly was wonderful to do a live performance with a live audience to appreciate the hard work the students did this term. It was also great to be able to hand out certificates and trophies! 

 For our remaining online students, we hosted our first virtual Year-end Productions, which was also very exciting! We worked for several weeks recording our plays, scene by scene and editing it all together. The whole process was so different from what we usually do, but it was lots of fun and the students really enjoyed being in their own movie. At the virtual show, we had a viewing of the movie and presented the students with certificates and trophies! After a long, interesting, and often challenging year, it was wonderful to end it on such a positive and exciting note. Celebrating what we do best: performing with our friends, in which ever shape or form, and having a great time!














Check out our Facebook page for lots more photos!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Welcome to Term 4!

 Welcome to our final term for 2020. I can hardly believe we have only two months left of this most unusual school year! 

Term 4 has, like the rest of 2020, brought new and exiting ways to teach Drama. At our Pretoria and Midrand studios we have adopted a hybrid system for the last push to the end of the year. We are still running Zoom classes, but we are happy to report that we have been able to also start ONSITE classes at some of our studios. It is such a pleasure to be in the same space as our students again, even if it is at a distance! 

 As it is not possible to go back to all our schools, YET, and the independent venues are not always practical for the parents, we are continuing with Zoom classes for anyone who prefers the online platform for now. 

 We have also started working on our year end productions, with onsite and Zoom students. How exciting! We can’t wait to show our families, friends and fans what we can achieve when we put our creative minds to it, in whichever way, shape or form we can!


ONSITE.....


ONLINE....


The choice is yours!





Saturday, September 19, 2020

“SUPPER THEATRE” a roaring success at the Theatre Domicile

We ended off our third term with a Bang! All our Upper Primary students, and a selection of Lower Primary students hosted a re-imagined version of our Parent Presentations. Normally our students do a group Parent Presentation, where they get to show off what they learnt during the term. This term we had to put a bit of the twist on it and it was in the form of a Supper Theatre performance in their own homes.


                                         


All students had to plan and perform a show, which included a 3-course meal, as well as a variety of items performed while the audience enjoy their various courses. They designed posters, tickets, menus, and programmes. They had to create a stage, set with props and costumes. They had to be the MC and the waiter, or enlist their siblings to help. 


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The Upper Primary students had to perform a solo interpretation of a traditional Verbal Dynamics item, Cities, as well as a Monologue, and an improvised advertisement. The Lower Primary Students who chose to do the Supper Theatre, performed a dramatized prose, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, and a poem from our Term 3 selection. 

We encouraged the students to be creative and put their personal stamp on the event, so some students wrote their own monologues and added items to their performance, changed the “supper” to a “picnic”, and helped prepare the food and used it for their advertisements.

We asked the students to take lots of photos and videos so we could all share in the fun, and from what we received, it was a roaring success all round. The parents clearly enjoyed the performances and the food, and the students loved showing off their work. When asked for feedback after their performance, the one word used to describe their show most often was “amazing”. Time and time again: “It was AMAZING!” 

How wonderful that we could bring enjoyment, fun and excitement to our students’ homes and families. 



 
This year has been so challenging for everyone, but it has pushed us in so many ways to re-invent and re-imagine old favourites, and each time the result was so, well, amazing!  

Let’s keep this momentum and level of enthusiasm going into Term 4, where we are once again going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to make our year end productions live up to our tried, tested and much adored live shows.



Sunday, September 13, 2020

🌟 O'Grady's Gauteng Competition 🌟

 Let's get creative during the month of September! Open to all ages... Contact us on ogradyspeechcomp@gmail.com for more information 🤩