Costumes, Set Design, Soundtrack, Publicity

There are many and varied aspects related to the staging of a play. The research and the design of costumes,  props,  scenery,  and soundtrack are the technical aspects of a theatrical performance. They require a considerable involvement of time and commitment from the students,  the teacher and the assistant. This consideration should not be discouraging. The attention of both teacher and students will be mainly devoted to the representation and expression of the play’s message to the audience rather than to spectacular stage effects. Some simple devices,  a bit of creativity and a dash of enthusiasm can help ensuring a good final performance.

The availability of a suitable location is fundamental;  it is good practice to book the theater in advance taking into account both the dates for the tech week and the final performance (usually two evening events). Many colleges and universities offer a variety of options,  including theaters,  auditoriums,  lounges,  classrooms,  and even outdoor spaces (but the latter must have pre-existing facilities suitable for a theatrical production:  creating a new one would incur additional costs). As for the set, the stage directions of many plays provide valuable suggestions. Stage directions are useful for the understanding and interpretation and for the logistical aspects of the staging. Second-hand markets,  drama departments or prop shops – which often provide free materials – are excellent resources. Sometimes students’ families are willing to donate items for props and costumes. The students can sometimes design and create costumes by themselves and the costumes designed for a performance could be reused in subsequent years. A lesson will be sufficient for this activity:  the students will address the various aspects of costume design according to their capabilities. This activity is a time of language learning because the students will be encouraged to speak in the target language,  this way enriching their vocabulary even in the production phase of the project. Therefore,  the language arises in this context not as an object of study but as an interactive tool through which students work together to achieve a common goal.

The choice of music can be an addition to the success of the final performance. With the teacher’s help,  the students will select some of the most important scenes – or a character – and associate to them a musical motif. The music must not necessarily be contemporary to the play but can also come from the cultural,  linguistic and musical backgrounds of the students. If among the students there is a musician,  the teacher might suggest that this student perform or even compose an original soundtrack to accompany the most significant moments of the play. If the venue will allow it,  a group may perform the original soundtrack live. Another device for an effective and engaging representation may also come from projecting a selection of images particularly allusive and suggestive of a state of mind,  a passion or a situation. Music and images can be easily integrated into the PowerPoint used for the screening of subtitles.

A fundamental prerequisite to the success of the project is the involvement and cooperation of all participants:  the teacher and the assistant will make all students feel equally involved,  even those who have a minor role. It is,  for example,  highly productive and effective to involve students in activities to promote and raise funds for the production. The students could promote the show with local associations and businesses (shops,  restaurants,  cafes) guaranteeing them a certain visibility on programs or posters or in the ending credits,  which may be projected during the final representation by the same the PowerPoint used for the subtitles. This would also have an additional positive effect,  cementing the relationship between the local community and the university environment,  and by conveying the theater project to a wider audience.

As for advertising,  in addition to traditional channels (local or college newspapers,  posting flyers on campus,  distributing programs at restaurants,  cafes,  shops,  mailing-list of the departments,  etc.) a student could be tasked to create and manage a Facebook page titled with the name of the play,  which would contain images of the rehearsals,  students’ comments,  photos,  dates and times of the final performance,  music files of the soundtrack,  etc.

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