Stephen Skiles, MFA
THTR 120 Acting I
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Mr. Skiles description of his focus for this course and the pedagogical innovations he will showcase as the CTE Faculty-in-Residence:
Acting I is a class that focuses a great deal on empowering students to make choices in their own work. I utilize the phrase, “it is okay to fail, but it is never okay to not try” as a calling card in the class. We obviously work on acting technique and spend time working on being more specific and committed to acting choices. But the idea of making choices; of feeling confident and supported enough to make your own choices and to utilize your own strengths in scenes and improvisation work, is a key component to the class. When students reach that point, I, as the instructor, am able to become and equal participant in class, offering feedback to work that is being led by the students. As an example, I will offer the first unit of the course to explain.
The first three-four weeks of class are dedicated to learning and practicing a series of improvisation games that I have developed with other classes over the past ten years. These games all help develop a skill that is necessary for more successful performance work with text. These range anywhere from memorization, reacting and working with a partner. Once we learn 10-12 of them, the class breaks into groups and develops some of their own games to incorporate into the work. We usually set a goal to learn up to 25 of them, and we play them all together. The first couple of weeks, I lead them, moving from one game to the next, without warning, in order to help develop the ability to stay in the moment and react/adapt to the changes happening in the overall exercise. Once the games are learned, I step back, and the students work together, taking the games wherever they would like, working with each other to adapt to the ideas of anyone in the classroom. I become a participant, and even an observer, allowing the students to more thoroughly master the games, and therefore, deeply hone skills that will aid them in developing their craft of acting.
Throughout the semester, the class works in this way; of me setting up a goal, and working toward the class taking over the learning from me. In this way, I believe the class matches the intent of using a decentered classroom.