July 21, 2010

Well, that was a good start to the week!

Yesterday, I started my junior high school classes, and already today, I have no classes! However, now I have a problem! I’ll get to that later on.

Last night, although I had a class until 9:00pm, Janice began helping the three students that are going to Taipei to compete in the Giraffe National Story-telling Contest in August. Here we go again. This evening, I got to see a couple of changes that have been asked of the students.

Yesterday morning, I went over to the regional office of Giraffe here in Tainan. As in past years, at least the last two, once the regional competition is over, the regional reps from Giraffe now want to have THEIR input into how the students should perform at the national level.

I’ve worked enough in Canada to realize that this type of thing happens all the time. The boss or manager are not interested in anything until THEY decide that it is in their interest. Then they want to have their say. They are not involved from the beginning, but sure enough know how to make it to the end!

Nonetheless, some of the suggestions were valid, I must admit. Others, in my opinion, were almost nonsensical. One of the suggestions that came out of the ‘meeting’, was that our students need to look at the audience during their performance all the time. Now, I don’t know how many people reading this blog, have ever done any acting – professional or amateur. However, I can say, from my background, that is virtually impossible to STARE at the audience during your performance – unless of course you are on stage singing directly to them.

Staring into the audience (or in the case of T.V., the camera) is not only unnerving for the audience, but unnatural. If you are trying to move around a stage, or picking something up, it is a virtual impossibility to look at the audience. If you do, you will either miss the target or not pick up the right prop. This was the case of one of our story-tellers, Jonas.

I must start by saying that Jonas follows direction really well. He also is willing to try anything that we throw at him, as far as how he should react on stage. He listens, and responds. So, that being said, he was told that he had to look at the audience more often. Okay, so he is only a little kid – perhaps 7 or 8 years old. During his story, he has to pull items from a box. During his competition, I will admit that perhaps he didn’t look at the audience as much as he COULD have. However, watching him tonight at practice, was verging on silliness. He was reaching into his box of of items, but not ‘looking’ at the items. He was staring straight out at the ‘audience’ during his whole performance.

He kept his eyes wide open all the time, almost not wanting to blink. After he was finished, I burst into laughter and voiced my opinion at this production. After a couple more times of practice, he was getting a bit better. Okay, so no more wide-eyed looks or stares into the audience. However, he was looking into the audience more often.

Nadia kind of had the same problem. Told to look at the audience, and it’s like they go the other extreme. Again, realizing that these are only children, and they are only doing what is asked of them. Following directions is not the problem. The problem is getting to a ‘happy medium’ as I say. A few more practice runs through, and I think she’ll nail it.

Now to May. Talking with May tonight, I realized that she is a lot younger than I thought she was. For some reason, I figured she was a teenager – 13, 14. She’s only 10! Wow.

In her performance, she is supposed to portray a ‘young’ woman of society – someone who would be considered part of the royal structure. The only or concern that I had with May’s performance, was that she couldn’t maintain that ‘lady-like’ persona throughout her performance. About a third of the way in, she became May from Tainan wearing a dress. I tried to explain, as best as I could do, to her, her mother, and Janice, that this was in no way a bad thing. Realizing that she is only a pre-teenager, it is difficult for her to portray a woman. A couple more years of stage acting like this or just becoming a little older, perhaps. But not at this point.

Now the hard part of convincing. I had to make a my point and back it up, as to why I felt that we should change her character. Having May come on stage, a 10-year-old girl, trying to portray a woman in her early 20’s, just wasn’t convincing enough. As well, because she was wearing a long gown and heels, made her movements and use of stage, very limiting.

The difference between the student who won first place and May (second place), I feel, was the fact that the first-place student used a lot of emotion and moved around on stage. Standing in one spot, and not being able to be active, is frustrating for kids. They have a lot of energy. They want to move. They want to DO something.

I looked through a couple of costume books to find an ‘idea’ of the type of costume, thus, the type of character May could portray. Changing the persona, would allow her the freedom to move around, jump, use the big motions that are necessary when performing on stage. Also, this would allow her greater freedom to show emotion during her performance.

I was not entirely convinced tonight, when I left, that her mom was in total agreement. I hope that her mother will realize that this change is not a negative thing, but rather a good thing, especially for May (her daughter). I know she sort of had a problem with the outfits that I found in the magazines, but I had to stress numerous times, that these were simply ideas. I’m sure that between now and the day of the competition, we will be able to find something suitable, or at the very least, be able to adapt the costume to her character. We’ll see what the next few days produce.

As per the problem that I discussed at the very start – I’ll talk about this tomorrow, since I have a couple of errands to do tomorrow, to sort out these problems.

Until then…


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