StageCats Update

Things are really ramping up in the StageCats world! With only just over a month to go before opening night, actors are working extra hard to memorize lines, notes and dance moves, and the backstage crew is busy preparing set pieces and designing costumes. We are more excited than ever to present audiences with two very different shows: Elf the Musical Jr. and Almost, Maine. The shows will be running in rep from November 19th – 23rd, beginning with Elf. Tickets for both shows go on sale November 4th and will be available in the CISB lobby, through YooPay or by e-mailing angela.knowles@cisbeijing.com.

Another update we are thrilled about is the new display outside (and inside) the CISB Auditorium.  All 13 of CISB StageCats’ past productions – from the early days of Frosty to our latest production of Godspell – are showcased at the entrance and just inside the auditorium. Check it out when you have the opportunity.

If you want to hear more about StageCats, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @cisbstagecats and follow our hashtags #CISBStageCats and #StageCatsRemix.

 

What’s up in Grade 8 & 9?

Grade 8 students have been continuing to explore the theatrical style of improv through a variety of improv games and performances, and have become very familiar with using the 5-step scene structure to frame their improv scenes. Currently, we are shifting our focus to improv and its connection to everyday life by addressing questions such as: How can we use improv performances to demonstrate real-life situations? How can improv skills help us in our everyday lives? Soon, we will learn how to teach life skills through improv. This exploration is leading to the final summative assessment, which will follow the service learning framework. Using content from Grade 6 interviews, Grade 8 students will create improvised, real-life situations on stage, as well as teach mini lessons related to improv and life skills. More details to come!

In grade 9, students have answered the question “what is a genre?” by learning about the melodrama genre in depth. They’ve covered melodrama elements such as asides, stock characters, 3P plot structure and melodrama gestures. Students are now addressing the question “how do the techniques of a genre transfer through time?” by applying melodrama elements and techniques to a modern movie or TV show and presenting their findings to the class. This presentation is an excellent use of transfer skills. The unit will culminate in a “Modern Melodrama” performance – for this summative assessment, students will write an original melodrama script set in present day and create a live performance or short film.

Another exciting thing happening in both grade 8 and 9 theatre classes is the integration of VR! For more information on our VR lessons, as well as future plans for VR and theatre at CISB, click here: VR and Theatre

VR and Theatre

CISB’s Virtual Reality (VR) lab is an amazing new addition to our school community. There are countless software programs that can be used to create learning experiences at all grade and subject levels. You may be asking yourself: how can VR be incorporated into theatre classes and performances in an authentic way? The answer to that is complex. Theatre is an art form that is rooted in a live, in-the-moment relationship between audience and performer, so it is difficult to imagine where virtual reality has a place. However, many progressive theatre companies have been making use of this tool to enhance and augment the theatre-goers experience. Right now, VR is being used largely in the realm of immersive theatre, a form of theatre that removes the stage and fully immerses audience members in the action of the play. In this style of theatre, audience members can interact with their environment and with the actors themselves. This lends itself very well to virtual reality.

There are also ways VR can be a welcome addition to the theatre classroom, and be used as an educational tool. Grade 8 and 9 students are being introduced to the software Mindshow this week, a program that allows you to pick environments, characters and props and create your own scenes. Grade 8 students will be using this software to complete an improv task, while grade 9 students will be creating short melodrama skits. The scenes they create can then be exported and shared with the class. Grade 9 students will also have the option to complete their summative melodrama task using Mindshow. This is a fantastic addition to the unit, as it allows students to explore theatre in a new context and use a different skill set to express their creativity!

Long term goals for VR and theatre at CISB include integrating VR into an immersive StageCats performance (immersive theatre has been in our sights for a while!), and hopefully designing masks for our Grade 7 interdisciplinary unit Behind the Mask using Tilt Brush. The possibilities are endless. When it comes to uniting VR and theatre at CISB, we are committed to making it a reality!

#StageCatsRemix

The word “remix” is defined as follows: “a variant of an original recording (as of a song) made by rearranging or adding to the original.” So, you may be wondering, why are we using this word to describe our 6th season of StageCats?

After 5 seasons of gradually building our skills, expanding our repertoire and taking on new challenges, we felt it was finally time to change our structure. Our seasoned StageCats who have been with the program since grades 6 and 7 are now in grades 11 and 12. They’ve had so many opportunities to expand their skills and, to be honest, we see them as young professionals – they work through difficult material very quickly, have developed instincts far beyond their years and have a shorthand with the directors and crew. They grew up playing lead role after lead role – and we felt it we needed to give that chance to our younger StageCats.

Enter StageCats Junior. A musical for students in grades 6-8 only. An opportunity for younger students to play starring roles and be pushed beyond their limits. It is so exciting to see grade 6, 7 and 8 students’ names at the top of the cast list! This is something that would not have happened if we’d maintained the same structure as last year. For our first junior show, StageCats Junior will be performing Elf Jr. the Musical, based on the popular 2003 film.

At the same time, we are trying to challenge our seasoned StageCats by providing an enrichment opportunity – StageCats Ensemble. This branch of the program began in 2016 when we produced our first small-cast show Selfie by Bradley Hayward. These shows are cast based on the directors’ prior experiences with the students, and are invite-only. This year, students will tackle the new topic of love and relationships in John Cariani’s Almost, Maine. 

What is particularly exciting about the two above shows is that they will be running in rep from November 19th – 23rd – something we have also never done before! Elf opens on November 19th and will also run on the 21st and 23rd. Almost, Maine opens on the 20th and will run on the 22nd and 23rd. We are excited to have two very different shows play at the same time, as it allows us to cater to a variety of audience members and tastes.

Also new this year is the senior musical set for April 2020. This show will include any student in grade 9-12 who would like to be onstage. Grade 6-8 students are permitted to audition, but are not guaranteed a role. In the past, this musical was fully open to grade 6-12 students. Splitting the age groups was a choice that took a lot of thought (and many discussions amongst the directors) but in the end, we felt it was the best way to tailor our program to both groups of students and allow all skills levels have a chance in the spotlight.

It can be a bit scary to keep things fresh and keep the program evolving, but we feel this is a natural progression that must occur for any program that has grown over a number of years. If you try to hold on to the same exact structure, the program will stagnate. If you try to change too much, you may lose sight of your original vision and purpose, not to mention the support of key people.

Hence the term remix. A change in structure, yes, but still with the core elements of the “original” in place. It’s a difficult balance, and we have yet to see if it will work out the way we envisioned, but we are hopeful that StageCats Remix will be a hit.

UPDATE! – Grade 8 & 9

Both of our units are in full swing in the drama classroom! Grade 8 students have spent the past 2 weeks answering our factual question “what is improv?” in theory, but also in practice. They have learned how to accept the ideas of scene partners (or say “yes”), how to advance scenes through detailed statements and questions, and how to make offers to their fellow actors through strong vocal and physical choices. Next week, we will focus on how to create  improv scenes using the 5-step scene structure and continue our work on generating creative and innovative ideas.

In grade 9, students have been learning traditional melodrama gestures, as well as creating their own new gestures. We have also begun work on portraying stock characters such as the hero and villain through voice, body language and facial expression. Students have begun using their transfer skills to create short skits using melodrama stock characters and gestures. We will continue this work next week, while also discussing the components of the melodrama plot structure.

Overall, it has been a successful first few weeks in the theatre classroom. Stay tuned for the next update! 🙂

StageCats Season 6!

After a whirlwind season in 2018-2019 (see Sweeney Todd, I Don’t Want to Talk About It, and Godspell), the CISB StageCats are changing it up this year! In order to give all age groups and skill levels a chance to shine, our season will be divided into 3 categories: StageCats Ensemble (grades 9-12 enrichment), StageCats Junior (grades 6-8) and StageCats Senior (grades 9-12). Here are the production details:

Productions 1 & 2

Almost, Maine – full-length play – StageCats Ensemble
Elf the Musical Jr. – musical for grades 6-8 – StageCats Junior

*Shows will run in rep from November 19th – November 23rd, beginning with Elf.

Production 3

TBA – full-length musical – StageCats Senior

*April 24th – April 25th

We are very excited about these new developments, and can’t wait for all of our StageCats to have their chance in the spotlight! Rehearsals are already underway for Almost, Maine and auditions for Elf the Musical Jr. begin next week, with the final cast list coming out next Friday, September 6th!

Make sure to follow the StageCats on Instagram and Twitter:
@cisbstagecats #CISBStageCats

AND check out these photos from StageCats’ 5 Year Celebration at the end of last school year!

 

 

 

Welcome Back!

We are back at it in the CISB Theatre classroom! Grade 8s and 9s have been getting to know their classmates through fun, high-energy drama games and activities. We also took a look at classroom expectations in a creative way by making tutorial videos for a grade 6 audience (pictures below).

Next week, we will be starting our first units. Grade 8s will be focusing on how to improvise in the unit Yes, And… – they will use this skill to put on a final improv performance for the grade 6 students using the service learning framework! Grade 9 students will discover how the theatrical style of melodrama is used in a modern context in our unit Drama Queens by creating plays, short films or soap opera episodes for their final assessment at the end of the trimester.

Welcome back everyone. 🙂