Bringing the Physicality Back to Theatre Class

Teaching theatre to Middle School students presented a few challenges that Mr. Adrian Ahern had to solve. One challenge in particular was how do you get students to use their body as part of a lesson during theatre class when you’re not physically in the room with them? Mr. Ahern’s idea was to get silly and use music!
“It’s a fun challenge teaching such a collaborative subject as theatre online,” said Mr. Ahern. “I started to focus more on the individual’s craft of acting. With the Middle School classes, the group energy is so different when the students are all in different locations rather than physically together in one room. I came up with a way to get them moving and have fun to encourage engagement.”
He came up with musical charades. How it works is students were assigned a popular song, an appropriate Broadway tune or pop culture hit from musicals, to perform using only their facial expressions and body to act the lyrics out. Mr. Ahern started the lesson out by using the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” with a student acting it out during a Microsoft Teams lesson.
“She did a great job, and I was able to suggest she make changes so the class would get a fuller picture. For instance, she turned her profile to the camera to show us, her audience, that she was biting into something, rather than coughing. Then she backed up her portrayal to show us she picked the apple off the tree, took a bite and acted out how a doctor would use a stethoscope. With a few questions and modifications, she added things and we easily figured the scene out. The students then went to work on constructing their musical charades videos.”
Once the videos were submitted, the class tried to guess each student’s assigned song.
“The lesson worked really well and the students had fun. They enjoyed acting out the lyrics and guessing each other’s songs – and they successfully achieved my goal of learning how to bring the physical aspect into a theatrical performance.”