Sail Away with Ms. Melissa


Watch Professional Theatre

Pirates and buried treasure on a Monday afternoon? Yes, please! Drama teacher Ms. Melissa McNab uses professional theatre to fill her classroom with adventure. Many theatre companies, such as the Royal National Theatre, perform plays for all ages. 

The National Theatre’s production of Treasure Island, for example, provides children with a magical introduction to theatre. Based on the 1883 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the stage production follows young Jim (in the play, a girl!) on her quest for treasure.

Watch the clip, Setting Sail on the Hispanola, to get a glimpse of the excitement that Ms. Melissa’s classes discuss. Students watch professional theatre to see how plays employ elements of drama such as tension, focus, and language

Look for Elements of Drama

Regarding tension, students learn that conflict can manifest in several different ways. In Treasure Island, relationships between characters are often tense. Tension also arises as the audience becomes aware of mystery in the story. Other times, challenging tasks and surprises create tension. Can you identify a specific example of tension from the Treasure Island clip? (Hint: How does Jim feel about the captain?)

Throughout the play, National Theatre makers change the focus from specific characters, to ideas and objects. Captivating words, stage positions, gestures, and contrasts are various strategies that shift focus. In the clip, what draws the audience’s attention to Jim? (Hint: What do you notice about the lighting?)

When students consider the language of a play, they learn to think about a character’s tone of voice and body language, as well as the type of language that a character uses. A character’s tone of voice and body language may reveal that the character feels angry, dejected, or jubilant. The type of language a character uses helps indicate qualities such as the character’s background and profession, but also the context of the action. What type of language do you hear in the Treasure Island clip? (Hint: If you regularly use the words capstan, landlubber, galley, or belay, you would fit right in with the 18th century sailors of the Hispaniola!)

AISVN has access to Royal National Theatre plays in their entirety thanks to the school’s subscription to the theatre’s online collection. To see more examples of the Royal National Theatre’s productions for children, visit the theatre’s Google Arts and Culture exhibit.


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