A couple of weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and took a crash course in driver’s ed. I was in class every day from Monday through Thursday from 9:00 until 2:30. I wanted to leave the girls with something engaging and fun to do, so I made a list of what I called ‘Boredom Busters’.
The activity that most appealed to Hannu and Aylu was creating a play. Hannu has been devouring the McEldery Greek Mythology book, so I had the girls select a story and create a play complete with props and costumes that they would stage for our close friends and family. They chose the story of Arachne, who is turned into a spider after challenging the goddess Athena to a weaving competition.
It turned out that the girls eventually felt a little overwhelmed about committing Hannah’s sophisticated adaptation to memory, so I spent a couple of hours with them and worked through the story. When I broke the story down into parts in a “what happens next” series of questions, both girls knew almost all of the lines. We decided I would read the part of the narrator, to help out Hannah who already had three roles to portray.
They seriously blew my mind and we had so much fun with this. All I did was jog their memory and suggest some very basic staging. The rest is all their steam and attention to detail, and they were so proud and excited to present their creation. I’ve included a link to the very simple video we shot, but like all stage shows the real magic was in watching the live performance.
Some tips for creating theatre with children:
- Let them choose a story that they are inspired by and excited about. Stick with classic tales from mythology and folklore because they tend to be very simply written. Have them create a ‘script’ based on the story.
- Keep a well-stocked dress up box for your kids and replenish frequently with thrift store finds. Think beyond commercial characters and try to find costumes for classic characters and archetypes. Sometimes the ‘ethnic clothing’ section of a thrift store can be a gold mine!
- Don’t hold them to memorizing lines. Instead, help them remember the story arc and the key characters. If they can re-tell the story to you, then they can create a play that brings the story from the page.
- Encourage them to play multiple characters by changing simple costume pieces. It’s great fun for kids to explore the ways different characters move and speak.
- Create pride in their work by having them make hand made invitations that they can issue to friends and family. Turn the play into an event they can look forward to.
- Help them rehearse by working with them on annunciation, volume, and simple staging. Resist the urge to over-direct them or turn into a rabid ‘stage mom’. Prompt them to consider how lines might be delivered, or how their characters might feel about what is happening.
- Get involved by helping with props, costumes, set design, but don’t take over. You’ll likely be amazed by the scope of your kids’ imagination!
- Document the event. Make sure you get video so you can play these when your kid wins their first Tony or Oscar.