Introducing Guy Fawkes: Advice for Putting on a Performance

Posted on February 4, 2013 by

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British TLG Volunteer Oliver Rogers spent last semester in Village Zumi, where he wrote and directed a school play that caught the attention of his village and local media.

Oliver, or Olly as he prefers to be called, created a play dedicated to the English holiday, ‘Guy Fawkes’ or ‘Bonfire’ night, which is celebrated on November 5th. Guy Fawkes Night commemorates the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which was an attempt by religious activists to blow up the English parliament in order to assassinate King James I. Of course, the plan was discovered before the deed could be completed.

“Today, the holiday celebrates the differences (in England) and in its own way demonstrates the freedom and diversity of English culture,” remarked Olly.

During the afternoon of the play, students practiced sword fights and continued to memorize their blocking and lines. The performance’s highlights included a dramatic battle underneath Parliament and an exciting trial scene. Following the play, attendees were invited to a surpa and a bonfire where an effigy of Guy Fawkes was burned.

The play, for Olly, was a teaching method that encouraged his students to practice their pronunciation as well as to learn about English history. While writing the play, he kept in mind the abilities of his students. He included one-liners for beginner students, and for those students who were more advanced, he chose quotes from Tudor English. For the faculty, staff, and students from grade 7 to grade 12 who participated, dedication played a key role in making the performance a success.

“I first approached my co-tutors about four to five weeks prior to November 5th about my intentions. It took a lot of time after school, along with dedication from staff and students to rehearse the play. The two weeks and weekends leading up to the performance staff and students spent more time in school, than at home preparing the stage, props and rehearsing. Preparation on my part included writing the play, notifying and involving the senior members of the school’s staff of the play, and then attracting the students to perform.”

When asked if there he has any advice for current or future volunteers who want to tackle a similar project, Olly recommends, “Create a timetable. I would have made a stricter schedule and have it written down. Rounding up the students and only practicing certain parts of the play were problems that having a schedule would have resolved. Also, I would have included more rehearsal of body language and action as opposed to the actual text. I opted to have a large narrated part to make the lines easier for the students to understand and learn. However, on the night (of the performance), the narration was too long and just not interesting enough for the audience, who largely didn’t understand English.”

After the performance, Olly and his students were interviewed by local news stations. Such a response was a surprise, but Olly has humbly accepted the congratulations from his community.

“I was very taken by the praise I received. The praise and interest from the local community was lovely and varied from ‘Thank you’ to comparisons to the ‘Bard’ himself, Shakespeare, and his Georgian counterpart Rustaveli.”

Olly will be returning to Village Zumi this semester and intends to continue using creative methods to inspire his students.