EXERCISE: A study in satire
Students will examine one of the songs from Little Shop of Horrors before seeing the musical. They will create their own poems and present them as choral spoken pieces with movement, with a focus on analysing and communicating the meaning of their work with a focus on how it reveals key satirical emotions and motivations to the audience.
- YouTube link to "Skid Row" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDh94SEGBQA
- Handout of the lyrics of "Skid Row" from Little Shop of Horrors
- A space in which to move
- Pen, pencils, paper
1. Discuss the nature of satire. How is it created? What are some common qualities? Examples might include exaggeration, understatement, parody, irony, criticism of institutions or systems, absurdity, etc.
2. Have students share what they listen to or watch that is satirical in nature. Examples might include The Daily Show, South Park, Get Out, 21 Jump Street, etc.
3. Hand out copies of "Skid Row" lyrics to each student.
4. Give students time to read through the lyrics themselves.
5. Then read the lyrics aloud together, with each person taking a different character's section.
6. Review all words and phrases and references that are unfamiliar and check for understanding.
7. Read the lyrics together several times while listening to the YouTube recording. How do students imagine this will be staged? Why is it considered satirical? What statement is it trying to make?
8. Next, divide the students into groups of four or five. The class will write their own parody songs about their day-to-day life at school. Each group will write its own poem (roughly one page), incorporating satirical elements into the piece if possible. Each group will write about how they feel about going to school.
9. Once the poems are written, encourage the students to get each one on its feet, incorporating various techniques (e.g., choral speaking, movement, etc.) to present it.
10. Have each group rehearse and perform their piece for the rest of the class.
11.Now ask the students to combine all four poems together. This may require diplomatic negotiation and consensus on what stays, what is omitted, repeated, placed differently, etc.
12.Once again, encourage the students to get the text on its feet, incorporating various techniques (e.g., choral speaking, movement, etc.) to present it.
13.Have the whole class rehearse and perform the new piece.
- What is being communicated through the lyrics?
- What is the tone of the piece (e.g., happy, sad, funny, etc.)?
- What techniques do Howard Ashman and Alan Menken use to evoke some sort of emotion in the listener?
- In what ways is satire different from other types of comedy?
- What did you discover during the rehearsal process when you got your poem up on its feet?
- What did you discover while watching and listening to other poems? What were the similarities and what were the differences?
- If you combined the four poems, what did you discover about the process? What surprised you the most about this activity?