Choose a modern day situation (e.g. at school, a party, a mealtime etc.) and create a short improvisation showing this. THEN choose a period of time between 1850 and 1960 and re-enact the same scene, as you think it may have happened at the time.

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Historical Improvisation Notebook

                            By Kate Graham

7th March

In this lesson, we were some preparation work to prepare us for our historical improvisation piece.  We had the choice of two tasks,

  1. Choose a famous event from history and create an improvised piece which details this event, or

  1. Choose a modern day situation (e.g. at school, a party, a mealtime etc.) and create a short improvisation showing this.  THEN choose a period of time between 1850 and 1960 and re-enact the same scene, as you think it may have happened at the time.

Our group decided to choose the second task, and we all decided that doing a piece set in 1960 would be very interesting.  When we had chosen the time our piece was to be set in, the majority of our group wanted to set our piece in a party, but Kayleigh wanted to perform a piece set in a school, and the rest of the group all agreed that this was an excellent idea, and could turn out some interesting differences between the 60's and today’s school environment.  Donna didn’t really want to base our performance in the sixties but eventually the group managed to talk her round to our way of thinking, and Donna was quite happy to perform with us.  I decided to go home, and research everything I could about the sixties, so that next drama lesson, we would have plenty of information with which to make our piece historically accurate.  I have placed the information I collected behind this page, to show that our group have researched and used all resources available to us in order to enhance our performance.  In the meantime, for the remainder of the lesson we decide to write a very basic scene plan, for our preparation performance.  We couldn’t make a prop and costume list, as we hadn’t properly researched the time period our performance was set in, but we all agreed to bring in some props and costumes we thought would be appropriate for the piece, and when I brought the research in, we would choose the best from the selection we had brought to the lesson.

Scene Plan

Scene One

Kayleigh is playing the teacher, and as we walk into the 1960 classroom, she invites us all in to sit down with a warm smile.  We gave her a smile, to show how friendly a place school was back then, and how friendly the teacher was herself.  Then the pupils sit down and the teacher asks them what they would like to do.  We thought this was a good way to show the different teaching styles in use at the time, and how different their lessons were to ours, having no set curriculum, and  being given the responsibility to choose for themselves what they want to do instead of just being told.  The children tell her they would like to protest against war, and the teacher, being supportive of their ideas, and valuing their opinions, gets out her guitar, with which to accompany the protest chant.  The girls sit and start to repeat the word ‘peace’ over and over again, whilst swaying in unison.  In mid-sway the girls freeze, and I get up and explain a bit about school in the sixties, and the main differences with today.  Then we all walk off stage.

Scene Two

Kayleigh walks on stage closely followed by the kids.  She sits behind a desk, and starts to read the register.  I thought it was important to have a desk for the teacher, to show how nowadays teachers use their desks as a barrier between them and the pupils, almost using them to segregate themselves fro the kids, whereas in the sixties, the teachers wanted the kids to feel happy and welcome, and didn’t want this barrier between them and the children.  The kids’ attitudes are visible from the very second the walk in the door, I thought it was a good way to use movement to show how the kids feel about being forced into coming to school, and doing work they don’t want to do.  This is their way of rebelling, in the sixties, they rebelled to, only in the sixties, the teachers helped them.  These days, the kids are rebelling against the teachers.  The kids just generally give the teacher a load of attitude then we all walk off stage.  I thought it was really important to show the two different ways kids then, and kids now, have of rebelling against things, and the way that the hippies used the faculty as a medium for protest, using them to send their message, whereas in this decade, kids just rebel against teachers.  It was now the end of the lesson but I knew exactly what I had to research for our performance next lesson, I decided to research hippies, and the political and social background of our chosen date.  This meant researching important events and getting an insight into what people were like in the sixties, how they behaved, how they reacted to scandal such as teenage pregnancy, and other social taboos, to help us play the parts convincingly.  Also I wanted to find out what motivated the flower power generation to become as big as it did, and what was the reason behind their morals and ethics.  I also wanted to find out a little about the music that was playing at the time, and how that was influencing people.  My research is displayed over the next few pages of my notebook.  The information I collected was very interesting to read, and I accumulated enough to give us a really good idea of how people in the 1960s dressed and more importantly, how they behaved.

13th March

This was the lesson that we had to perform our preparation piece in.  I was slightly nervous, as I knew another group were also doing the 1960s, and I didn’t want our group to be shadowed by their performance, or for it to seem like we had copied them, because all of our ideas had been original and completely uninfluenced by anything they had done, but apart from that, I wasn’t nervous of performing at all.  We were the first group to perform, and it all went reasonably well, except some unexpected laughing due to lack of rehearsal time.  I thought the characters could have been more developed, and it could have been longer, but since it was only a rehearsal piece, this didn’t really matter.  The other groups came up with some brilliant ideas too, one did a remaking of a scene from the ‘Krays’, a film about some London gangsters, infamous for it’s violent content.  This was really good, and had a humourous element at the end, to relieve the tension of the scene slightly.  Another group did a news report on the sinking of the Titanic and I found this to be entertaining and informative, at the same time.  The other group who did a 1960 hippie setting were really good too, I liked the way they sang, and used drugs, to show that drugs were socially acceptable in those days.

When we had finished watching everyone else’s preparation performance, it was the end of the lesson, but I felt that the preparation work was very useful in preparing me for the historical task we were soon to begin.  It really got me thinking about the different ways we could present information to an audience, and made me consider all the possible ideas we had already been forming about our piece.

20th March

When we came into the lesson today, we were given a sheet, clarifying, what was expected of us of our GCSE Drama Historical piece.  My rewrite of the sheet can be seen overleaf.  The sheet is displayed on the adjacent page.  When we all had time to examine the sheet properly, we could not decide which task to choose, so we  made a brainstorm on the period of time we were allowed to use for our piece, 1859-1960.  We were glad that the time period was so large, as it gave us a lot of events in history to portray.  

When we had made our brainstorm, we were still no nearer to agreeing on an idea or time period to show in our piece, so we each chose a time period we felt would be interesting to show, and we went to the library to research our individual subjects.  Kelly and Teresa wanted to research Rock and Roll and the fifties and Kayleigh and Donna wanted to research hippies.  The rest of the group didn’t really want to do another piece on hippies, as our preparation piece had focussed on this, but, we did not wish to dismiss any ideas at this time, and so we were all quite happy to research our individual topics.  Dora was slightly stuck for ideas on which era she should research, so I suggested the Victorian era, as it covered a wide range of events, within the time bracket we were given, and could be very interesting to look into.  I myself decided to research the 1930's, the invention of television, and the broadcasting debut of the BBC, (British Broadcasting Corporation).  My research is displayed over the next few pages.

21st March

This lesson, the group was still very much divided into two groups, Dora, Me, Kelly and Teresa, who wanted to perform a piece about the rock ‘n’ roll era of the 1950s, and Donna and Kayleigh, who still wanted to do a play about hippies, and more specifically, hippies in school, which the rest of us seriously objected to, seeing as it was exactly the same as our preparation work.  Then Kelly came up with the idea of spanning different decades, and showing one idea, either schools, or parties, throughout the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 1960.  I came up with the idea of everyone sharing the responsibilities equally, and each person having a scene to write up, and design themselves.  Then Kayleigh was concerned about the amount of work each person would have to do, so I came up with the idea that if the person in charge of the scene wanted to, they could speak to the audience instead of acting, and this would tie our performance in with both the comparison, and theatre in education tasks we were given, and presenting different scenes in different formats would improve our performance, and make it more interesting for the audience.  We decided Teresa would write the 30's scene, Kelly the 20's, Donna and Kayleigh the year 1960, and Dora the thirties.  I decide to take the forty’s scene, as I thought it would have been really interesting to show the jubilation of the British population at the end of the second world war.  Then I said I thought it would be really good idea to have each person who designed the scene, to come to the front at the end, and speak to the audience directly about their scene, the main differences from those days to the present time, and that this would also be a good way to give the other actors time to change before the next scene starts.  I thought this would also be a good way to fill in some time too, as with six people in our group our play’s ideal length would be about twenty minutes.  I thought splitting the scenes up this way would be a great way to get everyone to put their own thoughts and style into the piece, and let everyone each have their individual inputs, and be able to perform one piece of our performance their way.  I also thought it would be a really good way to add more variety to our piece, and hold the attention of our audience better than a less creatively structured piece would.  We had still not decided on the theme our scenes would have, schools or parties, so we all agreed to go home, and really think about our reasons for our preferences, and think about which idea was the more original and creative.  We also decided to seriously think about which would be more interesting for our audience to watch. The research I found about the 1940s, can be found over the next few pages of my notebook.

27th March

Today, we were still disagreeing on what the main focus of our performance should be.  Kayleigh and Donna still wanted to write our scenes around a school format, and the rest of us still wanted to have the main feature of each part of our performance be a party, or be about a party.

  When our drama teacher came over to check on our progress, she suggested, if it was causing so much trouble within the group, that we split into a four and a two, with Kayleigh and Donna forming their own group together, but we all decided that this would not be a good idea, as Kayleigh and Donna didn’t want to be on their own, trying to create a totally new piece in a reduced time period, and we didn’t really want to lose two of our group, and the people who were writing the last scene of our performance, so Donna and Kayleigh agreed to base our performance around parties and not schools.  I wanted to use parties, because there is more opportunity to show difference in costume, and behaviour throughout the different decades,  than there is in schools.  Then for the rest of the lesson, we concentrated on developing a presentation to show to the rest of the class.  Each person read out their thoughts on their scene, and how they intended it to develop into the final piece we were to perform.  We got some interesting feedback on the subject, mainly, that in order to make my scene/s historically accurate, I needed to do more research on street parties in particular, not just the forties in general.  Also, Mark had an interesting suggestion, he suggested that instead of having people get changed while the writer of the last scene speaks to the audience, we have just three people in one scene, and three in the next, however, this is up to the individual who creates the scene, as she will decide how many characters she needs in her part of the performance.  At the end of the lesson, we decided to think about the different ideas suggested to us by the rest of the class, and we all agreed to think of some ideas for our scenes for tomorrow’s lesson.

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28th March

Today I went to the school resource centre to research street parties in the forties, but being a fairly obscure subject, I had trouble finding information on them, so I just researched some background information about the political and social happenings around 1945.  I chose this year to set my part of our piece in, because, it was the end of the war, and I wanted to show the ecstasy and delight of the people as the war ended, and they learnt that their husbands/sons/brothers would be coming home safely.  I also thought a little topical debate ...

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