Friday, December 2, 2011

"what to say "- coaching dilemmas

Just a nice picture, not a weak performance at Royalston Shakespeare Co.
Just another day online, at the office. The research errand I was on was serious - time sensitive tax information for our nonprofit corporation. Not exactly my fave topic. And somehow I had wandered into the ArtsEdge site. Delightful. Not what I needed to be doing but what a rich resource for arts educators. Warning: DO NOT go there if you are in a hurry.

So after spending an hour online browsing at the excellent  Kennedy Center for the Arts blog, I had to move on. Before I left,  I skimmed an article about "what to say" when directing students in theater.   I started thinking about how to adapt these ideas for use in my storytelling coaching.  I copied and pasted the list into an email and sent it to myself.  Sometimes the material presented by a performer is astoundingly bad. Did I just say that? Phew, no. I just wrote that. We all know that we think that sometimes. But that is not what we want to say.  We know the work or performance is just unformed, not ready, in process, etc, etc... The writer/educator at ArtsEdge and I think it good to have a few set phrases you can rely on while you gather thoughts about how to be helpful. Below is my first stab at riffing on that list to help story coaches say positive things to help move into a conversation and critique.  Do you you have any favorites? Add yours in the comments below.

Things for a teacher/coach to say after a flawed performance or weak story:

1. “You are really improving.  What would happen if you tried... ( give a specific exercise or direction for student to try.)

 2. “Good"  Or "Thank you.  How can we help you make your story stronger...”  ( if obvious to you what might help, name it, if not just say "stronger").

This was "bad", even the other actors thought so.
3. “Project your voice as if the whole audience was outside, down the hall and in the restroom”

 4. “Good. Keep what you are doing. Please try or see how you feel about adding…”  ( when someone is really tentative - then give some specific exercise or direction to try)

 5. “Interesting. Help us help you by telling us what you care about most in this story...( when you don't even know where to begin - or some specific questions from what is given to tease out where the story is)

 6. “Good. Now what are some ways you want to challenge yourself ?” ( for someone who is almost there but kind of missing the mark)

 7. “Stories happen people to people, or people and animals, people and environment - Show us one thing ( each) so we can "hear" "see" what you see? Show us verbally - or   Show us non verbally ( facial, sound effect,movement etc.)

 8. “What is most important to you? What do you really want us to take away from your story?”

 9. “Breathe. "Anxiety is excitement without breath, " said my first storytelling teacher and great storyteller,  Jennifer Justice (now the Artistic Director of Durham Family Theater). Don’t rush - find at least two places to pause for a full 3 count.”

 10. “What felt good to you in this story? How can you build on that ?”

Ah - finally found the the original article and you may read it here: What Do I Say?   Ten ways a drama teacher can respond constructively and sensitively to student work