So last week, I gave my students a new, quick, research assignment to find out about voice actors. It was simple and I hoped, fun. It turned out really great – and the best part was, we all enjoyed it and everyone learned something new, including me.
They were to work in pairs to find some basic information about performers who are famous for their voices. The list of names included, (but was not limited to) Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons), Billy West (Futurama), Mel Blanc (Looney Tunes), John DiMaggio (Futurama), Dan Castellena (The Simpsons) and of course several Muppeteers, such as Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Kevin Clash, Caroll Spinney and Jerry Nelson.
Their presentations were simple and to the point and consisted of Name, Birth/Death (if applicable), where they live, career highlights, and major characters. Then they were asked to find two contrasting YouTube clips to share with the class. In some cases, I helped. In others, they had a myriad of examples. In all cases, the students were impressed with the variety and skill of these performers and their vocal abilities. It was a great week.
This week, we moved on to creating simple props. The Grade 9s were to create something with a basic shape – rectangle, square, round, cylinder – but to represent something realistic. Essentially a brick, stone or stepping stone. They went to town. I’ve now got on display some headstones, a paving stone, several versions of bricks, an oversized hunk of chocolate with a bite removed and a swiss roll. All made from cardboard, florist foam or styrofoam. Incredible.
The Grade 10s get their pick of props to make. It just has to be something that a character could use on stage in some manner. I’ve now got several weapons, including a couple of animation inspired swords, an overly large hammer – it’s hard to describe, it’s SO huge, Thor’s hammer, (complete with leather wrapped handle), Pooh’s Hunny Jar – complete with BumbleBees on it, a diary, a Marauder’s Map, a sorcerer’s collection of goodies, pumpkins made from dryer tubing and an amazing Mad Hatter’s Hat – so incredible and large that it won’t fit in the display case. Most of these creations were made with less than $5 and some with $0! That’s what I call creative prop making! These kids had a blast and were coming to class early to get to work on their creations. It was amazing to watch them work and collaborate and encourage one another. So thrilling.