"Teaching Shakespeare Through Exercises on Acting and on the Basic Emotions"
Later in the semester, we paused in our "regular" classwork to do the following sequence of exercises. After we discussed a few examples of how one emotion can cover up another (the way laughter can cover up fear), I asked each student to make a list, under two headings:
Students shared these in small groups, and combined their lists.
Using materials I had brought to class, each student made two (or more) masks: one to represent the surface emotion, and one to represent the hidden emotion(s). They made the masks with paper plates and colored markers, with scissor-cut eye holes.
Wearing the masks in succession, each student then acted out (first to the group, then to the class at large) a short representation of the surface and hidden emotion he or she had chosen.
After discussing this exercise, we turned to the text (by this time, we were reading King Lear) and pointed out examples of surface and hidden emotions, indicating how these are expressed in language and stage action.
Students were assigned two followups: (1) Further illustrations from the text, and (2) illustrations from life.
In carrying out this exercise, I not only tried to sensitize students to other levels of perception, but I tried to suggest that there are patterns in the seeming welter of emotions, definite relationships and transformations--out of which literature is born.