Planning the Acting

As I plan my telling for a given parasha, I also plan which parts will make sense for students to act out. I may decide that I want to include the whole narrative section, or I may focus on one small section. Sometimes there will be only three or four actors, and everyone else will be the audience. Other times, I assign several main roles but ask everyone else to play a group part (e.g. the Egyptians suffering from the plagues, while Moshe goes to talk to Paroh). Occasionally, I will pair everyone up and they will all act out a scene simultaneously as I narrate. (For example, one person in the pair is the Kohen, and the other dresses him in the appropriate clothing.)

I rarely plan the exact dialogue or casting. I expect this acting out to be rough improvisation, not a polished performance. Ideally, I want students to think about the story and imagine the words a character might have said, or use the words that I have told them from the text. If a child can not think of what to say, however, I do not hesitate to suggest ideas or even give them the specific words to say. With practice, most students are able to improvise successfully by the end of the year.

There are no perfect choices, in the telling or in the acting. Some parts I include every year, and others vary from year to year depending on the students, the timing, or even my interests at the time. The important thing is that as I make these choices about what to include and what to emphasize, I try my best to always keep in mind my overall goals. Which part of the parasha, which big ideas and which details, will help my students to make meaning of this text and know the basic content; which will help them to make connections to this text as Jews; and which will enhance their love of Torah? While the answers are not always clear, these are the questions that we must always be asking.