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Pre-Show Vocabulary Activity

Three people in medieval robes stand in a horizontal line. They're all looking at something off to the side.
Photo of Kenneth La’Ron Hamilton, Brandon Miller, and Anthony Baldasare by Michael Brosilow.

Use this vocabulary activity to prepare students to view and understand camp in the context of The Lion in Winter.

Exploring Camp Activity

  • This activity will take approximately 40 minutes.

  • Learning Sequence
    1. Have students write the word camp at the top of their handout. Then, direct them to brainstorm, independently or as a class, as many denotations and connotations for the word camp as possible. As necessary, review the meaning of denotation and connotation
      • Students may make the following associations: 
        • A place kids and teens go in the summer for outdoor activities.
        • To sleep outside in a tent in the wilderness.
        • A group of supporters of a particular belief or cause.
      • Some students may be familiar with camp as a style or aesthetic—this definition will be the focus of the lesson. If students immediately offer this definition, consider jumping ahead to the last part of Step 2 with this definition in mind. (~5 minutes) 
    2. Display or instruct students to look up an image search result for camp. Prompt students to name three words that come to mind when they are looking at these search results. Have them add these words to their handout. Alternatively, have students describe the idea or image camp calls to mind. (~3 minutes)
    3. Display or instruct students to search the phrase camp style. Have them share three words or phrases that come to mind when they look at these images and add them to their handout. As an accommodation, have students describe aloud the kind of images they are seeing for their peers. Ask students to work in pairs to draft a definition for this meaning of camp. (~4 minutes) 
    4. Invite a few pairs to share their definitions. Then, read and display the definition of camp (style) and have students add it to their handout: 
      • Camp (adj): deliberately exaggerated and theatrical in style; (n) an aesthetic style and sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value.
      • As needed, review the meaning of some of the words in these definitions (e.g. aesthetic, sensibility, ironic). Also note for students that camp can often be associated with queer media and culture (~4 minutes)
    5. Have students paraphrase these definitions and add them to their handout. Consider inviting a few students to share. Also share with students the definition of melodrama: a movie or play marked by the exaggerated emotions of the characters and the importance of action and plot. Note that these genres are closely related and The Lion in Winter includes elements of both. (~4 minutes) 
    6. Prompt students to call out a few examples of camp media—musicians, fashion, movies, television shows, etc. and encourage them to discuss (in pairs or as a class) what makes this media campy. (~10 minutes)
      • If they need some help to get started, share a few of these: 
        • Grease, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mars Attacks!, Jennifer’s Body, Bodies Bodies Bodies, Dope (movies)
        • PSY, Lady Gaga, Prince, Elton John, Shamir (musicians) 
        • Riverdale, American Horror Story, Wednesday, RuPaul’s Drag Race (TV shows) 
    7. Read the below synopsis of The Lion in Winter aloud to students and invite them to consider and discuss the following questions: (~10 minutes)
      • Synopsis: It is Christmas in the 12th century, and Henry II’s family is in tatters. His once-loving wife and now sworn enemy, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has been released from prison and is seeking vengeance at any cost; his three sons – Richard, Geoffrey, and John – are profoundly incompetent, consumed by petty sibling squabbles and gridlocked in duplicitous scheming; and his mistress (who just happens to be betrothed to his son) is running out of patience, demanding either a wedding or the return of her much-needed dowry. And you thought your holidays were complicated!
      • Discussion Questions:
        • Based on the synopsis, how do you think The Lion in Winter might be considered a camp show? 
        • How do you think a camp aesthetic might live out in both the script and in a staged production?
        • If you were writing a play, TV show, or movie about family drama, what would you include to make it as camp as possible?
  • For further reading, check out Susan Sontag’s essay Notes on Camp (1964).

  • This activity aligns with the following standards:
    • Illinois Arts Learning Standards 
      • Anchor Standard 8: Construct meaningful interpretations of artistic work.
    • Common Core State Standards 
      • CCSS.ELA.L.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases by using context clues, analyzing meaningful word parts, and consulting general and specialized reference materials, as appropriate.
      • CCSS.ELA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Posted on October 23, 2023 in Learning Guides, Productions

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