Friday, July 07, 2006

clownin' around

Next week is Drama Kids Summer Camp. It's a full-day camp, Monday through Friday. Melissa and I decided a while back to combine the two curricula that DK put forward for camp this summer, and to that end, our kids will be learning about comedy and clowning and writing their own play.

For the play, they'll be turning a nursery rhyme into a play, more or less. We'll talk about how to expand upon a known character, figuring out what s/he would say and do outside of the part of the story we already know.

Technically, they get to choose which rhyme they want to expand. In reality, I'm leaning towards forcing -- er, gently suggesting they consider -- Hey Diddle Diddle because the characters are fun, and there isn't one main "lead" role. Plus, what kid wouldn't want to be the Spoon?

They provide and/or make their own costumes, so we want to keep it as low-key and simple as possible. The whole point is to foster their creativity, and I'm really excited about hearing what they brainstorm for everything: lines, costumes, props, and more.

For clowning, they're going to learn about types of clowns -- Auguste, Hobo (or Character), and New Vaudeville clowns, for example. They will learn some jokes and practice some mime techniques, but the big event, right off the bat, is learning how to juggle.

Of course, I don't actually know how to juggle. Neither does Melissa's assistant, so a good chunk of our meeting today was spent with Melissa teaching us -- or, I should say, trying her damnedest to teach us -- how to juggle three items at least one time through the steps. If we can show the kids just one throw-throw-catch-throw-catch-catch-TA-DA!, we should be able to convince the children that we're old hands at this, and they'll take it from there.

It helps, Melissa assures me, that the kids have much better hand-eye coordination than we do. They'll probably pick it up instantaneously, and then I suppose I'll just have to prevent them from pelting each other with juggling balls.

Finally, each child gets to design his or her own clown face. This is a fantastic process that will eat up several hours of camp. Here's how it works: first, we will discuss the attributes of each face, including Whiteface, which the kids cannot do because it takes a boatload of white greasepaint and aside from the cost, the risk of it getting all over everything and oh my God it won't come off is too great.

The next day, they will get a piece of paper with a blank face on it and get to draw the face they want. They can do this as many times as they want, particularly if they do it so fast that they don't use all the assigned time.

And the day after that, they will recreate their clown face on a white-paper-bag-cum-puppet. They only get one puppet, but if it doesn't take them long to copy the face, they can decorate the rest of the bag as the body, too! This is the clown they get to take home and keep for posterity.

Finally, they will get to put on the full matching makeup for the dance drama we'll perform at the final show, in which they also get to juggle and one lucky kid gets to play the sad clown who learns to juggle and becomes happy.

In Camper World, the above process is called "Arts and Crafts Time." In Counselor Lingo, that translates as "I Need to Sit Down and Rest Before I Die Time."

Anyway, it's a toss-up (ha!) as to which will prove to be the more popular activity. If I were a camper, I'd be way more into writing my own play, because I'm nerdy that way. I imagine the kids are going to love the clowning, though, and it should be pretty fantastic to see by the end of the week.

That is, if I'm still alive. Five straight days of six hours spent non-stop with fifteen 6-to-10-year-olds? I didn't used to be one of those folks scared by clowns, but now, well...we'll just have to wait and see.

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