Choosing a Script
Part of 4th Wall’s mission is to always include a live performance at the culmination of each class, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned. We do this whether the class is a one-hour workshop, a week-long camp, or a weekly class. The performance can be anywhere from 5-30 minutes, and is tailored by our instructors to accommodate the needs of the student group involved. We believe in the importance of the performance – it gives our students a sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and ownership over the materials that they have just learned – and theatre is, after all, a performance art!
While our performances always include singing, dancing, and acting, today we’re going to talk about the acting portion. There are many different ways to incorporate acting into your performance, and thoughtfully selecting (or writing) a script is what will get your momentum going in the right direction.
There are tons of scripts out there to choose from, but these five have proven the most successful with 4th Wall Theatre Company. Because we work with students of so many varied abilities, we’ve found it essential to use scripts that are fun and easy to learn (and teach!). Without further ado, our top five formats:
1. Storybook – Read from a pre-existing book, and have your students act out the characters. Find a book with numerous highly-involved characters. This technique works an improv activity in a single-day workshop, or with specific characters assignments for a multi-class session! (Here are some book ideas).
2. Adaptation – Take a familiar story/fairy tale and adapt it based on the students in your class. We did this with one of our favorite 4th Wall Backstage scripts, The Princess and the Dance Crew — our students loved it!
3. Ready-to-GO Show – For a multi-week sessions, select one of our pre-written scripts with included teacher’s guide, song, and dance. It even comes with a step-by-step curriculum guideline!
4. Mini Script – Great for single-day workshops, they include mostly call-and-repeat lines, group work, and improv, and can be performed with little or no rehearsal at all!
5. Original Script (Affinity Therapy) – Our favorite method and the one used most often. With the Affinity Therapy method, you write your own script based on the interests and character ideas of your individual students. While it may be the most work, it can also be the most fun! (For a more detailed guide on how to accomplish this, go here).
Basic script-choosing guidelines
Narrator – Our goal at 4th Wall is to set each student up for success, so our plays always include a narrator (played by one of our 4th Wall Instructors). The narrator may be as involved or uninvolved as needed, and serves as a safety net for the students performing. Students should do their best to memorize, but an extra prompt from the narrator is always helpful if a student forgets a cue!
Number of lines – We make it our goal to give each student at least 1-2 lines. You can give more lines depending on the ability level of each of your students, but we typically try not to have too much disparity between number of lines for each student, Non-verbal students may receive a gesture or movement, or may perform a line using an adaptive device.
Length/difficulty of lines – Make sure that this is based on each student’s ability. A good goal is to challenge your student without overwhelming them. You want to make sure that you are pushing your student’s boundaries within the context of a safe space.
For Multi-Class sessions – Students should be working with their scripts by at least the halfway point in the class (i.e., week three of a six-week session). We usually print a script for each student, although for some groups, it may be simpler to also give them each a note card with only their own line on it. A digital copy of the script should also be sent to families via email whenever possible.
Have fun choosing your script and helping your actors to develop it! Whatever script you choose, remember that the goal is participation, not perfection, and that the process is more important than the product. Acting is for everyone!