I have just finished directing my first show in China. So I thought I would share some of my thoughts. My company runs both classes in their centers around Beijing and also is hired by the public schools to produce a full production with the children. The children I taught spoke intermediate english and were chosen by the school based on their english levels. I had twenty children for the class and had twenty lessons of two hour classes once a week.
So I directed a full performance for the schools big festival were there was performances ranging from orchestra to ballet to choir to traditional Chinese dances. It was a huge spectacle in a theatre that could seat up to 2000 people!
Enough Rambling, what did I learn?
1.Children are incredible.
They can act and do a performance in their second language and be directed by someone who doesn’t speak a word of their first language.They are creative and imaginative and if you listen to them and their ideas they can create amazing ideas and pieces of theatre.
2.My name is scary.
Anastasia is 5 syllables too many! When I first met the children I could see the fear slowly set into their eyes when I said my name. Lucky I have a shorter two syllable nickname I go by which made the kids a lot more relaxed.I learnt quickly to use my nickname instead of my real name!
3.My eyes are like diamonds.
– no really, first time I met them one of the girls saw my eyes and said teacher! Your eyes are like diamonds! It can get very easy to get used to the amazement that Chinese children find in you as a foreigner but it doesn’t hurt once in a while! Making you feel like a celebrity every time you walk around does wonders to your self esteem!.
4.I love directing.
it doesn’t matter whether they are children or not I really love it and pushing actors to their potential. It doesn’t matter if they are 7 or 17 I enjoy making theatre. I was worried going into this I would struggle as I have always been adamant about not wanting to be a teacher. That hasn’t changed, but I see now how being a director has a certain element of teaching involved and I shouldn’t shy away from it.
5.Show, don’t tell!
When teaching something in another language you have to use gesture more, all the time. Which you may say is that is impossible! You use gesture all the time anyway! ( and you would be correct) but demonstration and gesture are so much more effective than getting it translated all the time.
In China there is something called Saving Face. For example if you ask if you ask a Chinese coworker to do something for you they will say regardless if they want to, or if they have time! I learnt this very quickly in the workplace when and when not to ask for help! This happens in the classroom as well! If I ask the students if they understood what I said, they will say yes! most of the time they are lying. This is because they do not want to insult my power or skills as a teacher- saying no does this! I have to really ask them to show me an example or prove it as most of the time they have no idea what I just said!
7.English is hard.
It’s only when you start teaching it and have to show how you make sounds and speak that you realize how hard English really is.The sounds we make and how we make them are incredibly difficult, teaching them really makes you think about English and the weird things we do with our mouths.
8.Children are parrots
After teaching them the theatre and drama games I love so much, often I would let the kids play the games by themselves while I discussed with my coteacher or got the music set up. It was the strangest sensation hear myself echoed by the students. Words that I would repeat etc I would suddenly hear being said by the students! so strange!
9.Pied Piper is a creepy story
Of Course it was a children’s script so it was watered down and simplified but don’t think too much about the story or it’s implications as it will give you the creeps!
10.I want to keep making theatre.
This style of theatre may look simplified and basic but children’s theatre is difficult and hard work. I know that regardless of the genre or the situation, any production involves hard work and I enjoy the process! I want to continue and keep making productions.
I hoped you enjoyed my ten lessons!
See you soon xx