Feb 20, 2011

How to Put on a Student Play in Korea

Write an 18-role version of Alice in Wonderland in simplified, ESL-appropriate English. Don't worry, your coteacher will give you 90 minutes' notice to do it.

"Audition" the students for the roles. This part is a bit backwards, as each student, who is shy to speak English aloud and who has never acted before, will be vying for the smallest part.

Cast the students. Announce the main role of Alice last. Try to fall asleep that night without the image of Dae-Hun's panicked and crestfallen face haunting your dreams.

Do read-throughs. Lead the students in vocal exercises and face massage in hopes that they loosen their mouths and enunciate for the stage. Spend the rest of the class playing Ace Ventura clips off YouTube in hopes that they get into the spirit of goofiness.

Shucks, no one told you that one of the students is leaving camp early and can't be in the play? Cast yourself begrudgingly as the Queen of Hearts.

Block the play. Point out to your fleet of first-time thespians that even if they're not speaking, they should remain in character while onstage. Cracking open a Pepsi, sending texts, and smacking their friends upside the head all break the suspension of disbelief.

Ask the students to make their own costumes. Pick your jaw up off the floor when, the following day, they present Broadway-caliber props and accessories handmade with felt and cardboard.

Take the students' advice to incorporate K-pop dance numbers into the play, in order to add movement. Regret this decision an hour later, after watching Beast's "I'll be Back" video eight times to study the choreography.

Run-throughs onstage. Beg the petrified cast to come downstage and stop standing as far away from the audience as possible.  Urge them to loosen up their stiff performances by doing Ace Ventura impressions from the wings.

Performance time. Walk onstage and ignore the chuckles from the crowd as the narrators describe the Queen of Hearts' "mean face and big head." With Alice and the White Rabbit, dance to Beast's "I'll be Back" at the end of the scene.

Take home third prize: gift certificate for the whole cast! None for you, though. Reward the class with choco-pies. Reward yourself with three.

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