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‘As You Like It’ auditions

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By Campbell Perry — playwright

Using this resource, children can adopt the role of stage directors watching four young actors auditioning for the role of Jaques in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’.

The young hopefuls all read the famous speech, ‘All the world’s a stage’ from Act 2, Scene 7, providing a genuine context in which to encounter Shakespeare’s language and content, and in which to improve, practise and hone their own speaking, listening and performance skills and techniques. The original version of Jaques’ speech is available to read on-screen or download.

Shakespeare

Shared learning and teaching

Speaking and listening

  • Using general knowledge of performance and acting (eg, from films and plays), discuss/list the skills needed to be a good actor. Categorise. Decide which have priority.
  • Discuss which are the easiest/most difficult skills to develop. Which could be developed by the director during rehearsals?

Shared reading

  • Share read the first screen of the introduction. Explore the term metaphor.
  • Decide whether to share read Jaques’ speech before or after watching the auditions.
  • List the seven ages of man as they are encountered, asking the children to name those not actually named.
  • Discuss what is meant by some of the language in the speech, such as:

'their exits and their entrances'

'mewling and puking'

'a woeful ballad'

'Full of strange oaths'

'Full of wise saws and modern instances'

'a world too wide for his shrunk shank'

'Sans...'
  • Read the rest of the introduction together.

Previous learning

Before using the resource, ensure that the children have a reasonable understanding of the play’s storyline. The print-only guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time for Ages 7 to 9, March 2008 provides a modern retelling of the story. If possible, provide other versions and other Shakespeare plays for the children to read and browse. Explain the role of a director, the process of auditioning, and the difference between acting and reading a part.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To prepare a performance, identifying appropriate expression, tone, volume and use of voices and other sounds;
  • To give reasons for views/choices;
  • To identify/discuss/comment constructively on qualities of others’ performances, including gesture and action.

Speaking and listening

  • Give each child a record sheet (see activity sheet below). Encourage them to be active listeners as they watch the auditions. Work in pairs and listen for different aspects: one child listens for aspects of the voice (eg, volume, clarity and pace); the other listens and watches how gesture is linked to the reading.
  • Watch each audition in turn. Discuss each performance, asking how the actor helps the audience understand the speech. Identify each actor’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Compare the performances. Which actor will receive the ‘call back’ and be given the job? Justify choices with examples.
  • Revisit and amend the actor’s skill list made earlier to support the children when they rehearse the speech.

What to look for in each audition

Audition 1 – gesticulates to explain words, stands straight for soldier; voice falls when reading unknown section.

Audition 2 – starts off using expression but uses more gesticulation and adjusts volume in second half (eg, rubs tummy); voice fades for tricky middle section.

Audition 3 – clear voice; some gesticulation at beginning; stops looking at audience.

Audition 4 – probably strongest overall; very clear voice; frequently looks at audience; gesticulates, raises and lowers voice for impact.

Guided and group activities

  • Work in pairs as actors and directors. The directors must support their actor partner to prepare Jaques’ speech for a class audition. Use the record sheet (see activity sheet below) for the initial ‘cold reading’ then use it again after improvements have been made. Swap roles and repeat.
  • Film some of the auditions.
  • Stage a school award. In role as directors on a voting panel, watch some film versions of Jaques’ speech by famous actors. Discuss their merits, justifying opinions, and nominate the best. Repeat for a class award, selecting the best from your own actors.
  • Use The Seven Ages of Man activity sheet and rename the seven ages of man and write modern descriptions of the ages.
  • Write modern versions of Jaques’ speech. (Refer to the print-only version of Leaflet 1 in Literacy Time PLUS for Ages 7 to 9 March 2008.)
  • Research some facts about Shakespeare and present as a ‘Mastermind’ type quiz.

Plenary

Pretend to be directors in the cutting room at the end of a day’s filming. Watch some of the class auditions and decide which sections of the performances are the strongest and which need further development.

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