Webpage Supplement to

Chapter 6: Reflections: A Teen Group

Staci Block (and other contributors to this webpage who do similar programs)

October 15, 2006

More About the Rehearsals

Rehearsals focus on getting the cast members to know each other better while increasing the trust level amongst the members. Cast members learn a variety of improvisational techniques that are used during the shows. At a typical rehearsal one would likely see the following: cast members gather around and set up the room, writing things that need to be taken care of on the board. A group star is selected who runs the "group business" for the night this is done on a rotating basis so that leadership skills are developed. The group star calls out, "Group spit and cell phone check!" Gum is thrown away and ringers are turned off. Attendance is taken and those present are acknowledged. Announcements are made by cast members who might be involved with performing outside of Reflections and would like the cast to come to their events to support them.

Next occurs the "check-in" for the night. The director or student intern for the year will implement the check-in which is some kind of action-oriented activity that helps the cast members share something about their week, in a creative way. Check-ins can be done in small groups, as a whole group, in pairs or by individuals. This activity helps to ground the cast members to the rehearsal process and also promotes skill building, spontaneity development, fostering connections amongst group members, and warming up the group to further action.

Following the check in, group members might work on their improvisational skills through theatre games or drills. Perhaps there is an upcoming performance on a topic that the group members need to focus on. Scenes may be discussed or improvised so that cast members scheduled to perform in that show will reap the benefits of the ideas and suggestions of the entire group.

Group business is taken care of and the group goes over commitments, "missed cues" "applause" the "hot stuff" for the night, "re-runs" from the week before the "new releases" that have not yet been addressed and group issues that need to be brought to the group's attention. These can include anything at all that is going on in the group that is affecting one of what we have named as the “foundation stones” of our program: responsibility, commitment, cohesiveness, group spirit, trust, confidentiality, communication, and respect. Other issues that get addressed include transportation issues as well as making sure that the cast members are keeping up with their performance cycle commitments. Sometimes guest speakers are brought into the room to share their expertise on an upcoming topic. Often the cast members themselves, who have experience with a particular issue, will share with the rest of the group.

A break for snack is taken. During the “performance review” time, cast members who were at a particular performance that week are encouraged to share with the rest of the cast what was learned by doing the show. They can share what they learned about themselves, the topic, the audience or anything else that is pertinent. They will also discuss what it was about their performance that worked well and what needed improvement. There is a closing circle at which point everyone goes around and reviews what needs to happen between that night and the next time that the group sees each other; whether it be at the next rehearsal or at a performance.

Other notes (out-takes)

Recruiting has been done in many ways. In the past, auditions were held every 2 years to replenish teens on the waiting list. Two cast members were chosen by the current group to assist in the selection of future cast members. Auditions consisted of groups of 10 seen for about an hour and fifteen minutes. The group was led through a series of games and exercises and their skills were assessed. Leadership potential and the ability to be spontaneous were also considered. Auditoners were brought into the group right away, put on a waiting list or not selected at all.  
Through the years, the recruiting process has changed. Because it was determined that the actual learning about improvisation and the issues on which they performed would come with the experience of being members of the troupe itself, all applicants were put in a waiting pool and then invited into the troupe as openings would occur. The problem with this was that many of the teens would “age out” before ever getting to be part of the program, or not have the time to make the commitment, when finally asked sometimes a year and a half later, to be a part of the troupe.
More cost effective methods were needed, which are described in the chapter.

Making arrangements: The director may do this with or without the cast members, depending on their availability.

The director encourages those who may be interested in learning more about Reflections to contact her. Names and e-mail addresses are taken so that they can be invited to future Improv Jams.

P. 6: (In the formative years, in an effort to “make this program succeed” the director thought it was best to be in charge of most of how the group operated. Besides creating one exhausted program director, this was not helping the cast members take ownership of their own work. To help youth develop leadership skills, they need to be presented with the opportunity to do so.

This evolved out of having four cast members, at the beginning of one school year, in a period of about six weeks, announce to the group that they would be leaving because they would not be able to keep up with the commitment that year. This left the group in need of filling in the openings and had this been known during the summer, this could have been addressed before the school year started.

 Before implementing this rule, there would very often be someone at a show who had not seen the rest of the cast in over a month and much of the energy was focused on “catching” up with each other, rather than getting ready for the show. As a result of this change, the troupe at performances seems to be more cohesive.

Other programs

“Reality Theatre,” in Illinois, directed by Iim Kohler <kkimmy@MYHAMLET.US> presents a variety of programs. For example, in late 2004:
In 2004, this group offered: Friends To The End For grades 3-5 (or ages 8-11)The 3 R’s are golden at Taft Elementary. They stand for: Respect – one another; Recognize – when you or someone else is being teased or bullied; Report – disrespectful behavior to a teacher, principal or other trusted adult; Dan’s a 3rd grader who just transferred to Taft Elementary after his parents got divorced.  Dan hopes to find his first friend in Tabitha but she seems more concerned about what hanging out with the “new kid” would do to her reputation.
   Sharon, Mandy, Hannah and Renee have been best friends forever.  They even started their own group, THE SUPERSTARS. However, when Renee starts taking dance classes outside of school and making new friends, Sharon tells the group to ignore her and decides not invite Renee to her birthday party, breaking a long SUPERSTAR tradition.
Their teacher, Ms. Sajak, has been observing all this teasing and bullying and knows it’s time to remind her students about Taft’s 3 Rs by hosting her very own game show “RINGS OF REALITY”. This fun-filled show gets our audience involved in the action and leaves students and teachers with some lessons they can use every day!
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Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. For grades 6-8 (or ages 11-14)
6th grade: it was the year she wasn’t quite popular but content in her “almost coolness”. 7th grade: it was the year she had her own journal and her own dramas. 8th grade: it was the year he had his first kiss and his first beer.
It’s Junior High. A race to figure out you – your image.  Standing up to 8th grade bullies, believing alcohol equals friends, watching siblings fight depression, and thinking “perfect” is possible by starving yourself are the challenges Becky, Jordan, Priscilla, TJ, Alex and their friends face as they stand on the “verge of their best years”.
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Open Your Eyes For grades 9-12 (or ages 14 - adult)
   This play fuses a montage of scenes and poetry confronting the questions of fear, faith and hope. Fears of loss, commitment, disappointment, failure, the future race around the lives of young people. We found our fears layered in bodies and image, depression and substance use and even in the quirks of school, parents, dating and relationships.
Open your eyes to the world of adolescence -- revealing fears, looking for hope and wondering what’s more frightening -- looking forward and not knowing what you can be or looking back and realizing what you could have been?
REALITY THEATRE is a high-school aged prevention theatre ensemble that combines the power of creative drama with the impact of youth speaking directly to youth – positive peer-to-peer communication. REALITY shows choices and reveals consequences and promotes healthy conflict resolution skills.
REALITY performs for more than 8,000 people each year in elementary, junior high and high schools and at “snow” events, youth retreats, health fairs, parent nights, leadership camps and conferences around the US and internationally.
  For more information contact: Kim Kohler, MA, DTR REALITY Theatre Director
847/353-1706 kkimmy@myhamlet.us
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Lauren Chandler has been directing a theatre troupe for teens who have experienced the death of a loved one. The theatre troupe is affiliated with a bereavement center, so there are resources to fall back on if it seems necessary. This is an exceptional group of adolescents because we built a really solid foundation of trust

 ----- From: MARY-JO AMATRUDA wrote (on October 14, 2006): In 1981, in Rochester, NY, I opened the "Awareness Theater," a type of theatre-in-education which ran under my direction for the next 11 years. We advertised for teen actors in the community, and the ad said they did not need any experience and they would be paid. They were from the greater Rochester area (including the city, suburban and rural region). Many of them got school credit for their participation. We met with the students for six hours a week, every Monday and Wednesday after school. During that time they received acting training, had a group building experience, and
there was also an educational component so they could learn about the issues they would be portraying. We used the rehearsal time to devise scenes. The audiences ranged from classroom-size (20 or so) to 300 youngsters in an auditorium. As director, in a larger sense, I improvised the development of my role. There were some others doing this model and I remember attending a training around 1982 in New York City, at some hospital there--but I don't remember who the trainer was. They were talking about a similar model.
  Although I had asked for a commitment of a minimum of 6 months to the project, many stayed for the entire four high school years. We performed for 10,000 people a year. Enacted scenes from teen life with subjects ranging from sexual abuse, racism, gender issues, drugs and alcohol, divorce, sexually harassment, diabetes and cancer, to name some. The outlines to the scenes were rehearsed but what happened on stage could be different each time. The actors, in role, responded to audience questions and audience members were often asked to come on stage to participate in the drama, either to try a different approach or to experience the feelings associated with the event being portrayed. The program had an educational and therapeutic effect on the audience as well as on the actors. The teen actors, who were paid for their performances, came from a cross section of the community. This was perhaps the best job of my life and the most demanding. I left the program when we moved out of Rochester to the East Coast. Many of the teen actors are still in contact with me and others have communicated the memories they hold on to of specific roles and performances. Professionally, it doesn't get any better that that!
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