On Thursday 2nd February year five set out on what many would consider a herculean task: To write and perform an epic tale, with no preparation or script, in just five days.
To put that in context, a two hour film can spend up to five years in production, and will likely focus on just a few characters at a time. This story would be much longer, and have as many as thirty three characters throughout - one for each member of the class.
On day one, the focus was clear, we were never going to all be on the same page unless we had a framework we could all share. So after some practice in the hall standing up and getting our brains in gear, we sat down to learn The Story Circle, based on Joseph Campbell's text The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
This is a stripped-down version of a degree-level screenwriting technique.
Lead Creative Schools Story Project
Spoiler alert, that circle contains all the work we noted down at the end of the project.
Over the course of a day, we went from writing simple three line stories with just a beginning, middle and an end, toward struggles about heroes overcoming odds and clashing with difficult challenges.
On day two, it was time to decide who our heroes were, and why. We started to develop ideas about Character development in depth, both in performance and in writing. Creating a character on the fly on stage in front of a group is a very different challenge to writing out facts about a made up person on a piece of paper. The kids were challenged with portraying a character's job and emotion with acting alone in front of the class, and then with putting those characters together into scenes in which invented problems forced them to question how a certain person may react in a strange situation.
I don't know if you've ever stood up in front of a group of your peers and pretended to be in a crashing airplane with no script, but it can be daunting, not least because something funny is bound to happen, and it can be hard to delineate between those laughing with you, and those laughing at you. The enthusiasm on display was impressive.
From there, we sat down to create a character in depth. Each person got to invent their own person, with fears, and hopes and dreams and special powers if they wanted. these characters would go on to become the focus of our story in the next few days, so they had to rich and vibrant, and stand up to scrutiny. Here are a few (pulled at random):
Charlie, a Twelve Year-Old Orangutan from Vine Village, who wants to the King of the Jungle, but who is afraid of Tigers.
Flames Boy, a Thirty Year-old Businessman. He lives in an ordinary house and drives an ordinary Lamborghini. He's a super hero in his spare time.
Dr. Pepper, who is from California and is afraid of children. His Nemesis is Pickled Onion (who is a Pickled Onion).