Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writing... Now Go!!!

Writing and the creative process can be extremely fun and extremely challenging. Nothing makes the ideas come out faster than having a deadline. The deadline provides the writer with a certain amount of urgency. Otherwise, the writer could brainstorm all day and not produce a thing. The writer brainstorms all the time. Each new experience is fodder for a story or sketch. You will notice I said sketch, this is from my last post on the difference of a skit and a sketch. The deadline is that little voice that tells the writer that they had better use one of these ideas and turn it into something.

The second thing a writer must do is try to think of what it is they want to convey. In Drama Ministry, the point is to convey a scriptural or spiritual truth. There me be something on the writer's heart that they want to illustrate in the form of a sketch. Perhaps the writer has recently read something and they want to write a sketch about it. This should always be simmering on the back burner of any writer. How can a Biblical moral or lesson fit into what I'm doing.

Third, is the kind of story that is to be told. This is the hardest part. Many writers take from genres and apply the point to this specific genre. For example, A writer may do a sketch about the importance of Bible reading and place the story in the Western genre. Or perhaps a writer wants to do a sketch about honesty and place it in the Space Sci-Fi genre. These are all ways of coming up with ideas for a sketch.

Fourth, The writer may have seen a movie or read a book that has elements that has struck a chord with the writer. This may be an inspiration for the writer. The writer will place their point into this idea.

Fifth, and this one is a golden gem, is when the writer already has an idea of what it is they want to write and they develop the idea. This kind of thing happens in a very complex way and is hard to explain,

Sixth, is the brainstorm session. There are two different kinds of brainstorming sessions, the self session and the group session. The first is where the writer uses their imagination and takes all that they have in their tool box, such as movies, books anything they have seen or heard and puts into use to come up with an idea. The second is when 2 or more people come together and bounce ideas off one another. These sessions can work quite well if the the word NO is taken off the table. There are no bad ideas, just ones that may not work in this context. The minute the "N" word is said, a large amount of momentum is gone. When one person has an idea and the other puts their spin in it, it takes on a life and the idea begins to move. This sort of thing can go back and forth, each time putting more flesh on the story.

Once the idea has been decided, ie. (I know what it's going to be about) The writer can begin to put it all together. The writer must decide what kind of and how many characters the sketch will contain. For example, if the writer has decided to do a sketch about a Western with the lesson Bible reading. The writer must decide what kind of characters they want.

Every story must have a protagonist, and antagonist, a conflict, and a moral. The protagonist is the main character and the antagonist is the character that is in direct opposition to the main character. In the little story we're making here, the protagonist could be (and I'm coming up with this as I type) Sticky Fingers Steven, the fastest stealer in the West. The antagonist might be Sheriff Dunlap, the mild mannered Lawman in the town of Shady Falls. The conflict might be that Steven is trying to steal a great treasure. The moral of the story could come when he is caught and learns what a treasure the Bible really is.

Ok, Lets put some meat on these bones. We need a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning could be that The towns folk have heard that Sticky Fingers Steven is coming to town and they are all afraid of getting robbed. So they hide. The Mayor decides to put the town's greatest treasure in a safety deposit box at the Bank. Sticky Fingers shows up and has heard about the treasure and promptly begins by robbing the Bank in attempts of getting the great treasure. Just at that moment, Sheriff Dunlap bursts in the door and tells Sticky to freeze. The town's people begin to come out from hiding. Sticky tells Dunlap that he plans on stealing the treasure and opens the safety deposit door to discover a Bible. Sticky is very confused that the town's greatest treasure is a Bible and asks why a Bible would be a great treasure. Sheriff Dunlap then goes on to explain why the Bible is such a great treasure. Sticky begins to see the point and asks Sheriff Dunlap to explain the Bible to him. And the last line Would have Dunlap saying that he'll tell him all about it in jail.

Ok, we've put some meat on the bones. The next step is to write dialogue. By taking this skeleton, The writer can construct dialogue as to what the characters might say as this whole story is unfolding. They may ask themselves things like: How would Sticky Fingers Steven Talk? What kinds of things might he say? What does his character look like? How would he respond to Sheriff Dunlap? The idea when writing dialogue is to write the lines as a person would actually sound. You want it to be as conversational and as natural as possible. The writer then follows the basic story plot and constructs the dialogue to fit and help to drive the story.

The next thing to think about, while writing the dialogue, is what kind of jokes, gags, puns, references, and over all silliness will be in the sketch. This part is the most fun because the writer gets to be silly and use all their back knowledge of funny things and put it in the sketch.

Last of all the moral must be stated very clearly. This can be done in the script, or as an explanation after the Sketch, of both. Personally, for children's ministry, I like doing both. The script says the moral and then some one talks to them about it after the sketch is done.

As you have seen, we have taken an idea and fleshed out a sketch with a moral and hope that it works. :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Skit vs. Sketch

What's the difference between a "skit" and "sketch"? Many people, even those who are involved in Drama Ministry can be hard pressed to make a distinction between the two terms. For many, the terms are synonymous and are used interchangeably. Let's take a closer look at these terms to help clear up any confusion.

First off, the skit.
A skit is generally non scripted and largely improvisational. Skits usually seek to convey a single point and can be taught fairly quickly and require no rehearsal time at all. Most of the time, skits do not have props involved. They generally possess a vague outline indicating what is to happen during the skit. Often times skits are thought up on the spot and then presented to a small group such as with youth and bible studies. While most skits try to be humorous and are often outlets for goofing off. There is very little characterization in skits. Players are more concerned with getting the intended point across to the viewer than portraying a specific character. Some skits attempt to convey some sort of lesson or spiritual truth. Skits often do not have a thematic thru-line and lack a specific beginning, middle, and end.

One great example of a typical youth group skit is one that I call, "The Gift". In this particular skit a person comes into the space and is expressing happiness due to a special "gift" (cupped hands) they have just received. The person's words and actions are largely unimportant as long as the viewer get the idea that this person has been given a gift and they are happy with it. Next, a second person comes into the space and appears to be sad. Person #1 gives person #2 some of the "gift" and both are now happy. The level of happiness can be played however big or small the people involved desire. This is where goofing off and improv comes into play. After 1 has given the gift to 2, 1 leaves the space. Person #3 comes into the space and is expressing some sort of negative emotion (IE. sad, angry, depressed etc.) 2 decides to give 3 some of the "gift". 3 is now happy too. The last person comes into the space and is not given the "gift". 3 simply talks to 4 and 4 soon walks away. After 4 leaves, 3 soon discovers that the "gift" is gone and is wondering where it went. 1 comes back on stage and tells the viewers the point. God's love is a gift that needs to be spread around, if we don't, it loses its power.

As you can see this skit, although very effective and powerful, does not require line memorization, can be taught quickly, has no rehearsal, props, script, and can be as outrageous or serious as the players want it to be.

A sketch on the other hand is a whole different animal altogether.
A sketch follows all the basic elements of a regular stage performance and has a specific beginning, middle, and end. they are, in many aspects, small plays.

First of all, a sketch has a script. Although many of the lines in a sketch can be ad-libbed as the actors see fit, the lines are crucially important to get the story from point A to point B. Also, the lines help to set up thematic elements such as characterization, jokes, and plot direction. Line memorization is always required for the performance of sketches.

Sketches possess a cast of characters who carry out the action. An actor must adopt the persona of their character. The focus of the action is not on the person onstage, rather, it is on the character and what they are doing. Sketches often require props and costumes. This helps to give the sketch more integrity and allows the audience to fully buy what is being presented in front of them.

Sketches need to be rehearsed and require blocking. Blocking, is a theatrical term for the scripted movement onstage and lets the actor know when they are to enter, exit, cross the stage, pick up or use a prop, where to stand, what kind of posture is to be used for a given character, and much more. All these aspects are handled by a director who is in charge of the sketch.

The director schedules rehearsals and gives the actors "notes" on their performance. During a typical rehearsal, the director will help the actors to find motivation for characters, assist with line delivery and vocal tone, help the actors understand both the text of the script and subtext of the jokes and humorous bits to be conveyed.
A sketch must have a point. In Drama Ministry, it should have something to do with the Bible or spiritual principles about how we are to live our lives as Christians. Each sketch must make this moral obvious for the audience.