The aim of this stage is to gain an initial idea of student knowledge. The activities below will assist knowledge building and act as a primary point of reference for the play.
Two concepts are used by Betzien as the foreground of the text in which the main action is explored around. These include:
- Children in Foster Care
- The Little Children Are Sacred Report
To gain a basic understanding of these concepts and to introduce the heaviness of the play, ask students to read the Foreword of The Dark Room published by Playlab and pages 12 to 18 of the report document for Little Children Are Sacred. Students should jot points down about key ideas presented to be able to draw upon these after reading the play.
Personal Response to The Dark Room
Set class time aside to read The Dark Room. After reading the play, ask students for homework or as an in class activity to write a critical reflection by drawing upon the play, the concepts of Foster Care and The Little Children Are Sacred Report and their own thoughts on the text. Use student responses to stimulate classroom discussion to be able to explore the coarse nature of the play.
Key Elements of the Text
The play covers multiple plot lines that interweave between characters and time. This can be difficult to follow and connect with at times. Furthermore, it can be seen that the play does not have acts/scene in which it is broken into. Ask students to consider this aspect:
- Obviously the play is successful in its own right but does the structure add to this success?
- What is the purpose of having this structure?
- What if the play was broken into acts/scenes? What will be added but more importantly, what would be lost?
- Break into groups and assign each group a plot line (either the Aboriginal Boy or Grace). Firstly, ask students to explore the play in regard to each of the plot lines and pull out an specific scenes that directly relate. Further, is there at any point where these two plot lines are explored within one another. Secondly, ask students to create a short performance that tells the plot line of each of the characters.
Take into consideration the landscape/setting of the play. Consider the following questions:
- In specific detail, the play is set in a 3-star motel in the Northern Territory. Discuss potential reasoning behind this. Would there be a difference in setting it in a 3-star motel in far-west Queensland or in rural New South Wales? Explain.
- Why only stage the one motel room when there are three sets of stories? Why did Betzien do this? What would be represented/symbolized?
- Split students into groups of 5 or 6. Depending on the size of the group, give students the below scenes to work through. The aim of this activity is to explore the staging in having all characters on stage at the same time with interlocking dialogue. Students will also need to consider the characters actions when and when not speaking. Scene possibilities include, but not limited to:
- Group of 5: Page 53 (Emma's line - "Hear that?") to Page 56 (Stephen's Line - "They'll deliever it by mid-week. Fuck it.").
- Group of 6: Page 81 (Anni's Line - "Hey it's ok Grace.") to Page 84 (Boy's Line - "Take me?").
Consider time as a theme. Think about the questions below and provide explanation and examples from the text to back up your thinking.
- It is suggested that the time lapse of the play is over a one year period, do you think this is correct? Can you offer another perspective on the time lapse of the play?
- Think both about the past and present in regard to time. Where are the characters situtated?
- Is it possible to pick out the past and present of the play?
- Time is powerful in recollecting events, which section of the play needs more information?
- What is missing from the context of the play?
- Listen to the audio on Angela Betzien's The Dark Room Webpage. Get students to lay down on the floor with their eyes closed. Ask students to concentrate on the sounds that they can hear. What image is created? What does the sound remind them of from the play? After listening to the audio, ask students to form groups and pick a theme that is evident within the play. Place it into a physical performance with the audio as a backing tracking.