Melodrama – Voices and asides
Within this sequence, students understand through practical exploration how to manipulate their voice and movement to create stock characters and perform asides.
Students then apply this knowledge to devise and perform a short monologue based on the character Syndrome from The Incredibles.
- 4.1.3 devises and enacts drama using scripted and unscripted material.
- 4.2.1 uses performance skills to communicate dramatic meaning.
- 4.3.3 describes the contribution of individuals and groups in drama using relevant drama terminology.
- 5.1.3 devises, interprets and enacts drama using scripted and unscripted material or text.
- 5.2.1 applies acting and performance techniques expressively and collaboratively to communicate dramatic meaning.
- 5.3.3 analyses and evaluates the contribution of individuals and groups to processes and performances in drama using relevant drama concepts and terminology.
Melodrama developed as a theatrical form in the 19th century in France and quickly became the dominant theatre form in Western culture for the next century. Its primary purpose was to entertain, and enabled a form escapism for the middle and lower class people who were experiencing long working hours and poor conditions. They used simple plot-lines, exaggerated characters, music and spectacular effects to heighten emotional impact on the audience. As time has progressed, contemporary melodramas have emerged through superhero films such as: Batman, Superman and Catwoman. While the acting style is subtler and the narratives are seemingly more complicated, the stock character continue to be exaggerated and, at times, cliched.
Embedded elements of drama
- role and character
- audience engagement
All activities require students to demonstrate their learning and are all assessment for learning activities.
Teaching and learning activities
The following learning experiences are structured to provide students with a practical skills and knowledge in manipulating their voice as performers.
Prior to this task it is beneficial to participate in a range of vocal warm ups, that focus on: preparing the students' voice for performance, projection and articulation. To guide student learning in this task, please review slide two of the melodrama voice PowerPoint (PPTX 2.84 MB).
- experiment with the delivery of common lines of dialogue in melodrama by using the phonetic spelling presented as outlined on slides 3-5 of the melodrama voice PowerPoint (PPTX 2.84 MB)
- consider how the change of emphasis changes the way the line is perceived by the audience.
Scatter Famous Last Words, death bed statements on the floor throughout the classroom.
- move through the classroom in neutral, finding focus
- on a given cue from their teacher pick up the quote closest to them and present the line as melodramatically as possible to the nearest person to them, particularly focusing on how they are manipulating their voice
- repeat this process multiple times until students have performed a range of lines of dialogue
- discuss how they manipulated their voice, common answers might include: tempo, emphasis, tone, pitch, accent, duration.
Explain to students that, like movement in melodrama, the performer's voice is also heightened and exaggerated.
Provide students with a copy of you caught monologuing handout (PDF 3.14 MB)
- review the information provided on slide 7 of the melodrama Voice PowerPoint (PPTX 2.84 MB) and summarise in their logbooks
- watch the Syndrome' monologue on YouTube
- rehearse and perform the monologue adding an aside at an appropriate time in the performance
- present the short monologue to the class for feedback
Students respond to the following reflection question in paragraph form in their logbooks
'When delivering an aside how did you use body language and voice to create a feeling of secrecy? How did this change the character's relationship with the audience?'
Encourage students to use examples from their own performances or performances they have seen to support their response.
- add gestures and movement to the lines of dialogues in tasks one and two.
- write and record a short radio play that requires them to manipulate and use their voice.
- record a video their monologue and analyse their performance using the elements of drama as a toolbox for analysis.
- LS 1.3 participates in drama experiences in which role-taking is used to enhance their understanding of ideas and feelings.
- LS 3.3 recognises that drama and theatre performances can communicate meaning and ideas.
- use voice changing applications to experiment with voice manipulation and determine the type of stock character that might have this voice.
- exaggerate single words to communicate a given emotion and then discuss how emotions are communicated.
- compare and contrast how the voice changes when telling a secret to every day and conversation.
Feedback is formative during the lessons.
This sequence and accompanying worksheets are available as word documents below.
- Famous Last Words, death bed statements http://www.heroandvillain.com/pdf/FamousLastWords.pdf date accessed 05/04/18.
- Syndrome's monologue https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRlh_w6uRds, date accessed 05/04/18.
Syllabus outcomes and content descriptors from Drama 7–10 Syllabus (2003) © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2017.