Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Story and Libretto Creation for Kindergarten and other Lower Grades

K-2 Story and Libretto Creation Tips

Kindergarten Note: There is flexibility in the story sentence structure for the Kindergarten class to create a 3 sentence story structure if the class needs it to be VERY simple!!

All younger grades:

Story:
Setting, Character, Plot:
·         Always begin with setting!!!!!!!
·         Characters may associate with the setting, or not, depending on if this is a historic based opera
o    (Then, usually they must coincide with the topic unless there is flexibility regarding the use of nonfiction character mingled with fictional characters. If the later route is taken then care must be taken to ensure the audience as well as the students know what things are realistic and which are not.)
o    For Kindergarten or lower performing 1st graders state the categories you see and have the students place the characters that they have listed under those categories.
o    Older students should discover the categories themselves.
·         Plot/Problem: characters in OBC operas should work toward a common goal and in doing so should make discoveries about themselves along the way!
·         Solution: the resolve should take the characters to a new way of thinking…a Moral is learned.
·         Refer to the “S” guidelines of Story creation (another post):
o    Simplicity
o    Striving together
o    Sandwich

[Kindergarten NOTE: Once Kinders have an idea…set it in stone!]

Libretto:
Be excited about this part of the opera creation process!!!!  It is the greatest moment of discovery when the characters come to life and it is discovered what they “say” and what they do!!!
·         This is the meat of the opera and everything that develops here decides action music, melody and movement…we really see the opera for the first time!
o    What do the characters think….how do they feel…what they do…., ETC.

ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS:
·         Using the story as the guide, ask for the students to think of a specific elements that should happen next…
Repeats are great and essential for success!!!
·         Don’t force a repeat. That can come as they work on the music.
·         If students suggest sentences that are very similar on the same topic, have them decide which one they would like to use and repeat.
·         Repeat whole songs
o    Kinders should keep repeated songs exactly same!
o    Older grades may change the words to match a new attempt!!
o    Repeat the beginning song in the end…a great ‘end of bread’ for the sandwich if they have returned to what they knew and did before while learning their lesson!
·         Repeats are desirable because:
o    It is easier to memorize
o    Easier to understand
o    Easier to stage
·         What is important is that the song is simple and follows the libretto “S” guidelines:
o    Is it singable?  Meaning: Is it simple enough to put a tune to it?
o    Is it showing instead of singing about it? Meaning: Is there lots of action? And we don’t need to sing about what can be shown.
o    Did we use short simple sentences? Meaning: Are these sentences singable?

KISS: Keep it Simple Sweeties!!!!
·         You may have heard this before… and we will share that tip again and again!
o    A libretto for Kindergarten is best at 500 words or less (this includes action sentences)
o    A libretto for 1-2 grades is best at 500-700 words or less (this includes action sentences)
o    We do not allow a libretto to be over 1,000 words (this includes action sentences)
·         Action sentences should be concise. Keep it simple enough that the sentence may be included in the score.
·         Simple scores translate into easy operas to learn!!!!

Use shorter sessions to create libretto:
·         Be creative in how you do this! You can accomplish a lot in one day and use small increments of time.  See OBC micro-bites on www.operabychildren.org!

Use groups!!
·         Again be creative in how you do groups in young classes:
·         Have a parent helper cover stations doing other core activities and rotate while you man the opera station and have students create the libretto in sections rotating the groups through
·         Train an aide, parent or another teacher in your school in the facilitation techniques and do several groups.
·         Older grades students may rotate three leadership roles: 1-Facilitator: asks questions of the group, 2- Scribe: writes a written record of the groups decisions, 3- Moderator: ensures everyone is participating.

Pay attention to what the students say:
·         They may say “The wolf is going”….when they actually mean “The wolf is coming!”  Kinders especially will do this as they are young and learning, but they know what they want to say.  It is like a baby waving. They wave backwards, but we know they are waving at us! Just repeat it in a neutral tone in proper context to ensure that is what they wish to say.

Be Flexible:
·         Try different methods to help the students discover their libretto:
·         Act it out!
·         Take a break and sing a song and then get back to the action!
·         Can’t agree….pull ideas from a hat!
·         Break into groups!

Use “mind’s eye” to paint a picture:
·         If we say “When this happens (state situation) imagine what the reaction will be!” then ask: “What happens next?”
               [Kindergarten NOTE: Once Kinders have an idea…*set it in stone!] 
·       
  (*However,) Emphasize editing and improving their work!! Our best ideas don’t reveal themselves the first time….it takes discovery and work!!
·         Do not edit and revise the same session as brain storming.
·         They may identify places that need attention, but leave that to another day.
·         Their brains need to remain in the creative mode not the analytical mode during the initial writing session.
·         Never create, edit or revise at the same time. These are three separate activities:
1.       The class creates the libretto: brain storm and get ideas on paper for character’s words they sing and the action the do!
2.       The class revises the libretto: by shaping the ideas in a clearer more concise way by deleting unnecessary information/action or adding needed action/information.
3.       The class edits the libretto: ensure that the libretto is in the correct format and that the spelling and grammar is correct.

Using the USOE Song book, which is downloadable on the USOE website, with specific activities to prepare them to be ready for creating story and libretto:
·         Down by the Bay: Use activity for brain storming.
·         My Aunt Came Back: Activity for brain storming action and emotion!
·         Old Brass Wagon: Different ways to create repeats!
·         Pizza, Pizza: A replace words activity.
·         Rocky Mountain: Libretto rhythm activity and repeat activity




Staging For Kindergarten and Other Lower Grades

 K-2 Staging

Integrate movement as soon as they begin to learn the music:  

·         Allow the students to explore movement with their hands while singing at their desks
·         Do their daily activities as they learn the music
·         Move as they sing like the characters

Introduce the Areas of the Stage:
  • Draw the areas of the stage on the board as found in the staging chapter of the manual. 
  • Play the areas of the stage game as found int eh chapter
  • Then divide the class into two groups: First group are the players on the stage, the second group are the directors.
    • Premise: The players, who have all been asked to stand center stage as close to center without hurting or touching other players, must go to the area of the stage the directors call out when their name is called.
      • Facilitator, you the teacher, calls on a director to choose an area of the stage.
      • Facilitator calls on another director to have three players move to that area of the stage.
      • Continue until the directors have moved all players to other areas of the stage.
      • Then, continue by having the directors use levels or shapes and balance to move the players or have them use their bodies to make inserting and balanced pictures where everyone is visible to the audience. 

Work on staging with groups of characters:

·         Start with the group not involved in the action first!
·         Then work with the group that is the focus and is singing
·         Can do this while the other students work on a project with a parent volunteer or they can help them make good choices while being “directors” observing and asking questions.

Be flexible with what you are doing. Try many methods:

·         Use the “mind’s eye”, their imaginations, to picture what they are doing before they do it!
·         Talk it out a bit before the students move to their beginning spot.
·         Draw pictures of their plans as they describe them to you!

Do not need as much movement:

·         Use hands             
·         Use levels
·         Use unified movements
·         Use “beginning spot” and “back on the dot!”

[Kindergarten NOTE: Once Kinders have an idea…set it in stone! Use plastic floor dots used in PE sold at Scholastic Discount or Mansion Athletics.]

Give it a KISS!!!
·         Keep It Simple Sweeties =
·         Keep Imagined Staging Simple!!

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat:
·         Repeated songs are best so are repeated actions!

…Students getting distracted?
·         Stop and work on it again later!!!
·       Have them go and work it out on their own and come back and share after recess.

Using the USOE Song book downloadable on the USOE website: Use these activities to prepare them to be ready for staging:
·         Johnny Get Your Haircut: Use activity for finding different ways of showing the same action (scissors).
·         Don Gato: stage the song!

·         Pizza, Pizza: Different ways to move!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dear Opera by Children,
Just a thank you for the wonderful years of operas you helped me with.  My students created amazing librettos and memories that will last them a lifetime!  My core tests were always higher in language arts the years that my classes produced operas.  My classes love to write now that they see what can be done.  The passion that they felt and ownership of something they had created was so rewarding to watch. 

Some of my students blossomed into confident happier people than they had been before.  The arts are truly a way to reach all students and bring them success!  I have an autistic student this year that is singing an aria and is amazing!  The other students were amazed and complimented him greatly.

I feel Opera by Children has been a blessing in the lives of my students.  I know it has left a lasting love of the arts and has improved their determination to succeed in other areas.  The unity it has brought to my classroom is heartwarming.  Amazingly every opera my students wrote over the years had to do with getting along and being friends and caring for one another.  If the world would only learn from what is in all children’s hearts unity would be possible.  Children are crying out to the world through their operas and writings. 

I am retiring this year from my teaching career and I truly can say that producing operas gave me a great feeling of peace,   knowing that so much was learned through this process.  I hope that your organization will grow like wildfire to embrace the children and help them grow more efficiently!  Blessings to you in the years ahead and thank you again.

Sincerely,
Karla Duvall

4th Grade Teacher

Monday, April 14, 2014

Curtain Speech for OBC and performance tips for the teacher.

Teacher or Administrator Portion of Curtain Speech: (Clearly state the company name and program name as highlighted below)

Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre General Director, Michael Ballam, had the vision that children, given the power to create their own operas, would become creative innovators and leaders in society. Opera by Children was developed in 1997 to allow children to create their operas from start to finish with minimal guidance. As Opera by Children enters its 18th year of assisting young people the evidence is clear it is working! We partner with the Opera by Children program to allow every student creating opera the chance to learn to persevere through the writing process, persist as they work together to reach a goal, produce an authentic work of art and perform to demonstrate their talents, skills and achievement. 

Student Portion of Curtain Speech:
Have six or seven students come to the microphone individually to tell the audience about different aspects of the opera.  Allow them to write in their own words and use their notes if needed.  

A sample of the topics:  
  1. The three opera goals 
  2. How the story was created 
  3. How the music was created
  4. How they learned their opera
  5. How the scenery was painted
  6. How they chose their parts  
  7. When and how they practiced or announce the title of the show!            
Tips for the Teacher: 
Once you have completed your portion of the curtain speech, or allow your administration that opportunity, just stand back and let the curtain rise and the students perform. You have completed your role as facilitator and it is at this point completely in your students' hands.  They will show what they are made of and and what they created. Your class' audience will be amazed, and even though you watched them create this whole thing, you too will be amazed at what they do for their audience. 

Please do not miss that opportunity; the chance will never come again. To that end, take a seat and avoid the sidelines, the back of the audience or sitting in a chair in front of the audience. This will lessen the temptation to coach, do the movements, or mouth the words.  Please make sure you have not been doing these during final dress rehearsals. If you have been coaching this will force the students to rely on you instead of their own creativity. They need complete control for a few "run-throughs" with only your *"mirror" notes given at the end, not during the flow of the show.  

So, step back and, as they say in the entertainment business for a great show, "Break a leg!!" 

* refer to the staging chapter to review term.                                                                                      

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Libretto Dilemma ---tools for creating an opera libretto! ~ Pamela Gee

The Three Libretto Tools; Action, Song and Recitative are not new! But here follows a brief reminder of what they are and how they are used. Examples of each tool are included:

 1- Action sentences are written in parenthesis! Action sentences focus on the how—what is happening the audience sees which performers ACT out.

Example:
(The chickens are running all over the castle. They are clucking, laying eggs all over, and breaking things. Everyone else wants the chickens out of the castle.)

2- Songs are short sentences grouped in four… like a poem and there may be verses. Or A B A patterns. They have more form and structure than recit.

 Example:
 Royal Family: (upset)      Go catch those chickens, Those pesky chickens! 
                                       Go catch those chickens now! 
                                       They’re breaking things! Those pesky chickens! 
                                       Go catch those chickens now! 

                                       They’re causing trouble! Those pesky chickens! 
                                       They’re laying eggs, Oh Wow! 
                                       What a mess! Those pesky chickens! 
                                       Get rid of them, but HOW? 

Songs focus on the why—the emotions that drive the actions. Or NEWUB: Needs, Emotions, Wants and Underlying Beliefs. See how the next song example focuses on the emotions of the chickens…and their wants and needs!

Example:
 Chickens: (worried)        Wake up! Wake up! 
                                       Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck! 
                                       Don’t kick us out! No, no, no! 
                                       We want to stay! 
                                       We need a place to run and play! 

 3- Recitative (Recit) Is conversation which is sung. It gets action going again focusing on information that motivates action.

Example:
 King & Queen: (panicked) Help! Staff, please come help! 

These tools are used again and again for each of the five sentences in the story outline. One cycle per sentence at the very least. Here is a visual of the libretto cycle:


 The Libretto cycle may be modified to fit the needs of the story, however, it always starts with Action and then goes to Song…it can go back to Action without using Recit or even from song to another song. Here are some examples of how the cycle flows!

Action to Song to Action to Song Example:

 (They chase the chickens.)

Chickens:                      No, no, no! We want to stay! 
                                     We need a place to run and play! 
                                     No, no, no! We won’t go out. 
                                     Not even if we could. Hey look! 
                                     This room is good. 

 (The Chickens hide in the princess’s bedroom)

Royal Family:                 Oh no! Oh no! Those pesky chickens! 
                                      My room! My Room! 
                                      Get them out of my room! 
                                      You will ruin our royal things!

 Action to Song to Song to Action Example:

(The Chickens hide in the princess’s bedroom.)

Royal Family:               Oh no! Oh no! Those pesky chickens! 
                                    My room! My Room! 
                                    Get them out of my room! 
                                    Get them out now!

 Staff:                           Oh no! Oh no! Those pesky chickens! 
                                    We can’t get in! 
                                    Those pesky chickens have locked the door. 
                                    Locked the door tightly. 
                                    The key! The key! 
                                   Thank goodness! Thank goodness! 
                                   We have the golden key! 
 (Stage whisper) 
                                   They’re sleeping. They’re sleeping. 
                                   We hope they keep on sleeping. 
                                   Let’s put them in a pot. 
                                   We hope they keep on sleeping. 

 (Staff sneak up behind them on tiptoe to catch the chickens.) 


 More Important Information: As you ask the students to implement the use of the Libretto Cycle, also employ the “S” Guides as well.

 1: Singable:
                 ASK: the questions:

  •  “Is what we are creating singable?”, 
  • “Is it easy to tap our hands and say this out loud at the same time?”
  •  “Will there be too many words or is there a fun rhythm that enables us to get them all in?”


2: Show don’t sing:
               Ask: “Are we showing as much of the story as possible?”

(Remember: to write those action sentences in parenthesis short and sweet so they will remain in the score?)

3: Short Simple Sentences:

               Ask: “Have we used short simple sentences for both recit and song?”


 BELOW follows the libretto in a formatted state…

....it is, in fact, the perfect length for ....

  • A Kindergarten or first Grade opera! This is about 400-500 words in length. 
  • A libretto by an older class should NEVER exceed 1,000 words. 
  • The following applies ot all word counts no matter the grade level: 
    •  This count includes ACTION words. 
    • Remember this is the MAXIMUM and it is not a goal to be reached. It is merely a guide. 
    • it takes four times as long to sing something as it does to say it because of the music structure.
    • You want to allow time for action music which helps to communicate the story.
I color coded the TOOLS: Action (red), Song (back to back Song is this two hues of blue color) and Recitative (green) so you can easily see how they flow back and forth in purpose and use.

 The Libretto Dilemma 
An Opera Sample Based on one Created by a First Grade Class 

Setting: In a castle. The scene opens to complete chaos with the Royal Family and Chickens on stage. Characters: Royal Family (could include multiple princesses), Staff (knights, cooks, maids, possible barnyard animals if the kids insist), Chickens (made of feathers and mayhem) 

(The chickens are running all over the castle. They are clucking, laying eggs all over, and breaking things. Everyone else wants the chickens out of the castle.) 

Royal Family:            Go catch those chickens Those pesky chickens! 
                                 Go catch those chickens now! 
                                 They’re breaking things! 
                                 Those pesky chickens! 
                                 Go catch those chickens now! 

                                 They’re causing trouble! 
                                 Those pesky chickens! 
                                 They’re laying eggs, Oh Wow! 
                                 What a mess! Those pesky chickens! 
                                 Get rid of them, but HOW? 

 King and Queen: Help! Staff, please come help! 

 (Royal Staff enter from both sides) 

 Staff:                       The chickens must go! The chickens must go! 
                               We’ll get those pesky chickens to go! 
                               We’re chasing them out! We’re chasing them out! 
                               We’ll get them out for sure! 
                                Shoo you chickens! You pesky chickens! 
                               Out of the castle with you! 

 Butler: Make sure when you leave to close the door! 

(The chase the chickens.) 

 Chickens:                No, no, no! We want to stay! 
                                We need a place to run and play! 
                                No, no, no! We won’t go out. 
                                Not even if we could. 
                                Hey look! This room is good. 

 (The Chickens hide in the princess’s bedroom.) 

Royal Family:             Oh no! Oh no! Those pesky chickens! 
                                  My room! My Room! 
                                  Get them out of my room! 
                                  Get them out now!

 Staff:                         Oh no! Oh no! Those pesky chickens! 
                                  We can’t get in! 
                                  Those pesky chickens have locked the door. 
                                  Locked the door tightly. 
                                  The key! The key! 
                                  Thank goodness! Thank goodness! 
                                  We have the golden key! 
 (Stage whisper) 
                                  They’re sleeping. They’re sleeping. 
                                  We hope they keep on sleeping. 
                                  Let’s put them in a pot. 
                                  We hope they keep on sleeping. 

 (Staff sneak up behind them on tiptoe to catch the chickens.) 

 Chickens:                 Wake up! Wake up! Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck! 
                                 Don’t kick us out! No, no, no! 
                                 We want to stay! 
                                 We need a place to run and play! 

 Royal Family:           We have an idea! A grand idea! 
                                A royal idea! Hark now! 
                                We’ll build a coop! A chicken coop! 
                                Behind our castle! We shall! 

 Staff:                       Yes-ity! Yo! Yes! We’ll build a coop! 
                                Yes-ity! Yo! Yes! A chicken coop! 
                                Yes-ity! Yo! Yes! A royal chicken coop! 

(They all build the coop.) 

 Chickens:               Yay, yay! This coop is the best! 
                               This coop is the best! 
                               It will be our new nest! 
                               Now we can stay! 
                               We have a place to run and play! 

 Everyone:             The chickens are out of the castle! 
                             Those pesky chickens are out of the castle! 
                             We are so happy! We solved the problem! 
                             Everyone is happy now! Everyone is happy now!