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!

Friday, February 28, 2014

OBC Advocacy!! We appreciate the support!

Dear Sir:
Regarding the Outreach program and offerings by the Utah Festival for the Performing Arts, the POPs program, I implore you to fund it. Consider the great effect it has on children in the creative process. I am a second grade teacher at Hillcrest Elementary. My class wrote, costumed, and performed an opera last year with parent involvement and support. The Opera company walked me through the whole process, guiding me as a teacher through the group writing process. I had a paint day with assistance. One mentor actually came and recorded the melodic readings as students sang their own words. Our words were put to the melodic of the children's own voices. It was an education for me, but a creative, well executed writing experience for my students. I instructed the concepts of character, plot, and resolution. We wrote with a beginning, middle and ending in mind. We developed conflict and conflict resolution. All students within my class participated. All students met with great success. It was a terrific team effort and worth my time and the educational efforts of my students. This is not a measly skit or copy of a work already in print, but a creative process and an energized process of accomplishment by children. 
Fund it.

DeAnn Lichfield




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pamela Gee, Opera by Children Director: pamgee@ufomt.org

Libretto Cycle


The Libretto Cycle
By Pamela Gee
Teachers and students understand the terms and processes of cycles.  Teachers teach the life cycle, the water cycle, the carbon cycle, and even to recycle!! The lit of cycles goes on. Students listen and learn many cycles!

So to say that Opera by Children has a "cycle" perks teachers and students ears.

It is helpful to think in these terms when learning the use of the three ways that words are used in the creation of a libretto:
1-Action sentences
2- Songs and song structure
3- Recitative which are sentences turned to conversations that are sung!

Each sentence in the five sentence story structure or the 5 simple scenes needs to have each of these elements.

A simple way to remember that each of the 5 scenes or sentences of the opera story when in libretto form, first person present tense, needs each of these elements is to refer to it as a cycle.

First off in the cycle: Every story when transformed into a libretto begins with an action sentence:

        (At rise, the beach volleyball players are setting up their nets)

It begins with "at rise" because that is a theatrical term for the first action the audience sees because it is revealed when the curtain raises or opens. 

This action is easily identified as what the characters DO in the sentence before anything has changed...it is their NORMAL activity.

Second way words are created in the cycle: SONG. These short poem-like structures have rhythm, repeats and even rhyme! 

These should be based on FEELINGS of the characters and how they feel about their Needs, Emotions, Wants and Underlying Beliefs. or NEWUBs

These should be easily identified in the sentence. It could be how the characters feel about their environment, the activity, or interaction with others.

Third in the cycle is: Recitative. These short statements or questions are combined in a conversation. They are to focus on information that is necessary for the audience to understand or communicate to jump start action.


So now you see that recitative bring us back to action...but it can lead us to song as well.  However all three elements of the cycle should be in place before repeating parts of the cycle out of order.

See the LIBRETTO CYCLE visual below:
Create a poster of this icon for the class to see or create one like it with your own graphics capability!! It is helpful for the students to see this visual while they create their libretto!

The Libretto Cycle does eventually come to an end... in theatrical terms we call it the Finale!!!  It is the big song that culminates everything and wraps it all up artistically for the audience in the end.

Have fun facilitating your class through the libretto cycle right to the GRAND FINALE!!

Students... Creating Your Story




Creating Your Story
by Dr Dave Sidwell

The great philosopher, Aristotle, posited that plot was the most important of all dramatic elements. You will find that the plot (the story) for your students’ opera does drive everything else, for good or ill. Here are a few tools for helping your students create an effective Story.

First, let’s take a look at the Three S’s of a good Opera by Children story:

1.       Simplicity. Your students’ story should be simple and easy to state and remember. Their opera will be only about 10 minutes in length; they do not have time for a multitude of subplots and dramatic deviations. KISS: Keep It Simple Sweetie! If you cannot summarize the story in one or two short sentences, it is probably too complicated.
2.       Striving Together. Characters in a story strive for something together, solve a problem together, or things happen to characters together as a group. While many movies and stories feature characters who fight against each other, Opera By Children works best—and you will find the process much, much easier—when the characters all work together to solve a community problem.
3.       Sandwich. Characters follow the NORMAL—STORY—NEW NORMAL structure. A story is like a sandwich. The slices of bread are the beginning and the end of a story while the action—the meat, cheese, mayo and lettuce—is inside. A story begins when things are NORMAL (slice of bread). When something happens that changes what is normal, a story (sandwich insides) happens. When the story is over, a NEW NORMAL (slice of bread) comes into being. The NEW NORMAL is an important part of your story; don’t forget it.

A Story in Five Sentences

The Sandwich model should be applied to your students’ story, using compound sentences, as follows:

Sentence #1: Describe the NORMAL of what your characters are DOING and how they are FEELING (this is your first slice of bread) UNTIL a specific event happens to CHANGE what is normal. This event is called a “point of attack.”

Sentence #2: The characters DO something to try to deal with the event that happened (the “point of attack”), BUT they do not succeed in solving the problem. Alternatively, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem. This is often a good time express their FEELINGS.

Sentence #3: The characters try again to DO something to bring things back to normal, BUT they do not succeed.  Alternatively, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem. They express their FEELINGS again.

Sentence #4: The characters try, once again, to DO something to solve the problem, AND this time they succeed. They express their FEELINGS again.

Sentence #5: Describe the NEW NORMAL of what your characters are DOING and how they are FEELING. (This is your second slice of bread). This is the resolution and end of the story.

You may notice that the words DO or DOING and FEEL and FEELING are strongly noted in the sandwich story above. For each time you see DO or DOING, there should concrete action in the story that can be demonstrated later through staging.

For each time you see FEEL or FEELING, this is a good place for a song later when your students create their libretto. The librettists may also make DOING songs in addition to FEELING songs, and your students can certainly create DOING-FEELING hybrid songs. Note, however, that your students’ opera will proceed from song to song if you use this model as they sing about what they are or will be DOING and how they are FEELING.

We have created a worksheet to help you through the story-writing process. Your students can fill this out together on one master, or you may simply use it for your own reference as a teacher.


Opera By Children
Story Worksheet
Once the boxes are filled in, create your sentence by combining information from Description and Doing boxes. Write in the present tense, as if it were happening right now. You may also add the Feeling box to your sentence if you wish. If the sentence doesn’t fit in the box provided, it is either too long or too complex. It’s time to simplify!


Description
Doing
Feeling
Sentence #1
What is NORMAL?
What are characters DOING?
What are characters FEELING?



What event happens that changes what is NORMAL?



What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters are DOING something as normal, UNTIL event happens that changes what is normal.
_______________________________________________________________, UNTIL
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #2
What happens to characters AND/OR how do they try to solve the problem?



What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters DO something to solve problem, BUT they do not succeed. OR, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem.
_________________________________________________________________, BUT
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #3
What happens to characters AND/OR how do they try to solve the problem?



What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters DO something to solve problem, BUT they do not succeed. OR, additional things may happen to the characters, resulting in a deeper problem.
_________________________________________________________________, BUT
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #4
How do characters solve the problem?



What do the characters DO?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Characters DO something to solve problem, AND they succeed.
________________________________________________________________, AND
____________________________________________________________________ .
Sentence #5
What is the NEW NORMAL?



What are characters DOING?
What are characters FEELING?
Sentence: Because of the events that have just happened, the characters DO something to deal with or celebrate the new normal.
______________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________