This is something that I talk about a lot in my workshops and one of the most interesting drama activities I do with my groups. I think the reason I enjoy it so much is that it gives the students the chance to ‘own’ the play. It’s a far cry from when I was at school and the teacher gave out a script to his favourites (in my senior school, my teachers were all men) and were told to learn it and who then recited it parrot fashion while the rest of us stood around not quite sure what we were supposed to be doing. A devised theatre piece is the complete opposite...
What is it?
It’s a collaborative creation - the students work together to produce a play or performance piece.
It starts with an an idea or a topic.
The students are the directors, scriptwriters and the performers (the teacher helps to facilitate the process and guide them with the English they need)
The process is as important as the final product - though the downside is that sometimes the students can produce something that is very meaningful to them, but to an outside audience such as their parents/director of the school, the finished piece can seem a bit strange to say the least.
Before you can start on a devised theatre piece, the students have to get used to working with each other and to collaborate. That’s why in class, we spend lots of time playing drama games and co-operative activities in order for them to do this. Each student can play to his or her strengths, eg if someone is good at dancing then he/she will help with the choreography. Others can build and make the sets, students who are better at English can help to craft the script.
An easy place to start is using improvisation exercises - this gets students used to accepting new ideas (I’ll post some more at a later date)
Remember that structure is important, especially for EFL students especially for the weaker students who might not fully understand what’s going on. An easy structure for them to get their head around is a way to update a classic fairy story. The narrative is straightforward for them to grasp - introduce the character, the character has a problem, resolve the problem, the end.