Drama Choir Scripts
Drama Choir is an art form that was developed and perfected by Dr. Jack Stokes of Belleville, IL. As a young college student at Belleville Junior College (now Southwest Illinois College - SWIC), I was greatly influenced by my professor, Dr. Jack Stokes. He not only taught many literature classes, he also directed a small group of would-be thespians in his original plays and drama choirs. It was through his tutelage that I found my voice on stage. Until that time, I wanted so desperately to be on the stage, but I lost my drama when I had to audition. Jack must have seen something in this wanna-be. He didn't give me the big parts, but he did make sure that my voice was heard - through the chorus and small speaking parts. Eventually, he allowed me to be his student director in a play - an experience that proved invaluable as I started to write my own drama choirs and then directed them and other short plays that I wrote to both children and adults.
The difference in Readers' Theatre and Drama Choir is significant. Usually in Readers' Theatre - the chorus stands in one or two rows holding their scripts and reading from them. In Drama Choir there is a chorus sometimes holding the scripts and sometimes memorized.
The character speakers, however, usually come to the front of the chorus. They may be wearing some simple costumes or even hats to designate their characters. Their character lines are always memorized, so there are no scripts freeing them to interact. When they go back to the chorus, they can read from the script. The character actors use theatrics and react to fellow characters. They may break character and react, once in a while, to the audience or to something the chorus may interject during these scenes.
The Chorus keeps an eye on the character performers and may react to something that was said. The chorus may also look directly at the audience for certain lines. At the same time, it's important not to upstage a character who has the stage.
Most all of the action is done without props but once in a while props add a humorous note. Staging may be as simple as a chair or small ladder. The beauty of the Drama Choir is that you can add what you need or use pantomime - like using a person to be a door.
Most of my writings were developed from well-known folktales. However, Dr. Stokes has also written completely original scripts. My scripts are mainly from Southern Folktales, but Dr. Stokes has written drama choirs using Greek literature and Mexican folklore. Most of my scripts rely on humor while Dr. Stokes also writes very serious scripts. We both use a lot of rhythm and rhyme that is completely original to the script. Sometimes we purposely add anachronisms and bits of current humor. Sometimes we purposely add anachronisms and bits of current humor. We both love to use creative language.
The beauty of this drama art form is that adults love it and so do children. It is non-threatening when lines don't have to be memorizes as in a play. It is in the rehearsals and the actual performances that new, dynamic facial expressions and interpretations take place.
The many things that I learned from Dr. Jack Stokes have been manifested in many other ways. Periodically, I do audition for stage parts and, sometimes I do get a part. When I was a teacher, I wrote a drama choir, directed some middle school students and toured with them in the St. Louis area. I wrote a grant and had adults perform my scripts to area nursing homes. My writing also includes poems, research papers, personal stories, historical narratives, and "re-imaging" folktales for telling. If I look hard enough, I see Dr. Stokes influence in all my writing.
For an article on line: http://www.swic.edu/sw-content.aspx?id=8968. At that event were many of Jack's former students. I gave this following tribute and short drama choir with those former students.
Thank you for inviting me to say a few words about my teacher, my mentor and my Face Book friend…Dr. Jack Stokes. Before I do, I’d like to tell you a very short story….
Long ago there was a beautiful city made of pure gold. But through some misdeed or perhaps enchantment the city disappeared. It sank into the earth. Now it was known that the only way to bring that golden city back was for someone to play the most beautiful music at that site where it had disappeared.
Many famous musicians from far and wide came to play…but still the golden city lay hidden. Then, one day a young man was traveling to see if he could play his flute to bring the city to life. Along the way he met other men and women who brought their instruments – horns, drums, strings and brass. They traveled together to the site and the young flutist stepped forward to play, but then he stopped and asked his other fellow musicians to join him. Now the combined sounds of the instruments provided harmony, diversity, and dynamics…the ground began to tremble as the first orchestra emerged. And there before their eyes the city of gold once again rose to its full beauty.
I tell you this story because over the years at Belleville Junior College aka Belleville Area College aka SWIC…many young people came to drama choir with talents and a flair for the dramatic. It was Jack Stokes who mentored each voice to combine with the others to find harmony, diversity and dynamics. He was able to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear and precise beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensembles. And it was there that we found our gold – our voice.
Many of the graduates of "Stokesian drama" went on to use that voice in their chosen fields – actors, musicians, writers, drama teachers, and yes… storytellers. Others went on to keep that creative spirit by acting in community theatre and other artistic venues. Whenever I meet my fellow Stokesian troupe – even though it has been some 45 years ago…most of us can still recite the words to many of Jack’s plays – The Hairy Man, Tailypo, Stakalee and The Last Days of Good Ole Bill. I think that is a true testament to the power of Jack’s words.
To conclude, I’d like to read a short poem I wrote to Jack. It’s his life as a drama choir director with his former students...
The Best Days of Good Old Jack… Please repeat – That was Jack…Good ole Jack
Now Jack was a man who did his best…his level best to teach his best…at old time West, That was Jack…Good ole Jack
Then he sold his shtick at a place called SWIC . That was Jack…Good ole Jack.
Now he gets in his car to spend an hour at the Mr. Softee Frostee Bar…That's our Jack…good old Jack.
I freely give use of my drama choirs to anyone who wishes to use it for non-monetary productions. I do want my name in the credits and would like for anyone using my work to tell me and to let me know how it went.
Right now I only have two scripts on line. I hope to add more in the future.