Create Now: Acting Tips with Mr. Fran Sillau

Fran Sillau Biography

Fran Sillau is the new artistic director of Circle Theatre and the accessibility coordinator at the Rose Theater in Omaha. Over the past decade, Fran Sillau has served as a teacher, writer, director, actor and producer. With an extensive background in theatre for youth, Sillau has worked for both Lexington Children’s Theatre and Omaha Theater Company. His most notable professional accomplishments have been that of teacher and director. Sillau has been the recipient of an Access Grant from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and served as a teaching artist fellow for VSA, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Currently, he conducts arts education professional development for teachers. To date, he has conducted workshops in Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, North Dakota, Tennessee, New York State, Washington State, Connecticut and at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. Another focus of Sillau is in teaching workshops specifically for youth with physical and developmental disabilities. In this work, he uses theater as a tool to help every child, disabled or not, to see the good and power within themselves. He holds an MFA in Directing and Inclusion from Goddard College. His professional activities can be found at

In 2004, he co-founded and served as artistic director for Rusty Horse Productions, an organization dedicated to bringing the arts to rural and economically disadvantaged communities. Under his leadership, the company has produced numerous productions and workshops for youth across southwest Iowa and Nebraska. With Rusty Horse Productions, Sillau directed regional premiers of Gail Erwin’s “The Nitnoid Wars” and James Still’s “And Then They Came For Me: Remembering the World of Anne Frank.” He also directed the regional premier of “Hannah’s Suitcase,” and the mainstage revival of “Go Dog Go!” for the Omaha Theater Company. Another production, “The Secret Life of Girls,” opened in January of 2012, produced in conjunction with the Great Plains Office of the Anti-Defamation League.

Sillau is also an author. His play, “The Brass Ring: A Play About Our Abilities” has been performed in schools and special needs facilities across the region. He is currently working on a children’s book about a child growing up with a disability called “My Dad Said I Could.”

Artist Q&A

1. Briefly describe your normal studio practice and work as a teaching artist.

My work as a teaching artist occurs in community creating theatre and telling stories with and for young people

2. How has sharing your work with students, teachers, and other artists shifted?

My work as a teaching artist has from collaborating with students in classrooms to collaborating with students online. I create with students on zoom classroom and not in the actual classroom

3. If your activities incorporate educational learning standards, whether formal or informal, please discuss them.

Although I have not intestinally linked my work to learning standards. I have woven my work through the process of Universal Design For Learning (UDL) a process that gives opportunity for students with and without disabilities to create and learn together.

4. Are there follow-up activities beyond the one you are presenting?

The video gives opportunity for viewers to create theatre in their own homes using the film as inspiration.

5. What is your favorite non-art activity that inspires you?

I love reading memoirs and autobiographies

6. List an artist(s) that you look to for inspiration and explain why.

I am inspired by the work of theater various theatre companies and theatre artists.  I am currently inspired by the work of Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company in NYC and the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis. The work of these institutions continues to push boundaries of what it means to create work with and for children. Viewing their work enables me to push my own work to the next level.

Follow Along Lesson With Mr. Fran

Teacher: Hello Friends-My name is Mr. Fran. I am an actor? Question to viewers, What is an actor? An actor, is an individual (boy or girl) who communicates something. Sometimes actors show emotions- (Happy, Sad, and angry..) can you show me an emotion? Can you show me in your face? Can you show me a happy face? Sad Face? Angry Face?

As Actors, we use our tools.

Our Body, Voice, and Imagination

Here is the Sign language for body (see it on the screen)

Here is the sign language for voice (see it on the screen)

Here is the sign language for imagination ( see it on the screen)

Now let’s try a song. I will sing and you repeat after me


(to the tune of heads, shoulders, knees, and toes)

Body, Voice, Imagination

Body, Voice, Imagination

(Teacher sings)

Body, Voice, Imagination


Body, Voice, Imagination


These are the acting tools we use, Body, Voice, Imagination)

Now everyone try ii!


Body, Voice, Imagination

Body Voice Imagination

These are the acting tools we use. Body Voice, Imagination


Teacher: Friends, now we are going to warm-up our actor tools. The first warm-up is shake out. We will shake out part of our body. The directions are below.

Body : “Shake out” The facilitator will gather the students in a circle and have them shake out every part of their body from 10 to 1 starting with the legs. Shaking the leg, the facilitator will count with them from 10 to 1. The facilitator will then take the other leg and count from 10 to 1, followed by the arms and the head doing the same thing. The facilitator will then lead the exercise the same way three more times counting from 5, 3, and 2. As the numbers become decrease, the tempo increases. By the time they reach the number 1, the students should jump with all of their might and with all the energy they have yell, “one.”

Voice: “Someone Stole My Chocolate Bunny” This game is a lot of fun. One student at a time says “Someone Stole My Chocolate Bunny” and the rest of the group response “And I don’t think it’s very funny” However, the person who says “Someone Stole My Chocolate Bunny” says it in a wild and crazy voice. The rest of the group imitates that wild and crazy voice. Each person in the group has a turn leading the activity. The goal is to enable the students to take risks using their voices.

 Imagination: “This Is Not A” Participants look at an object and decide what the object can be besides what the object actually is. We say “this is not a” and then show us what the object can be.

Teacher: Now that we have warm-up our acting tools, it is time for us to hear a story. I will tell the story and you can act out the story along with me. These stories come from Africa. Below is the text from the story

ANASI and the Moss covered Rock

Once upon a time, Anansi the spider was walking, walking, walking through the rain forest, when something caught his eye! It was a strange, moss-covered rock!

“How interesting!” Anansi said. “Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock!”

KABOOM! Everything went black; Down fell Anansi, fast asleep!

An our later Anansi woke up, his head was spinning. He wondered what had happened!

“I was walking along the path when something caught my eye, I stopped and said “Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock”

KABOOM! Down fell Anansi again! But this time, when he woke up an hour later, he knew what was happening.

“Aha!’ He said. “This is a magic rock! And whenever someone come along and says the magic words, “Isn’t this a strange hmm-hmmmmm hmmmmm?” down they go! This is a good thing to know.” said Anansi. “And I know just how to use it!”

So Anansi went walking, walking, walking through the rain forest until he came to Tiger’s house. Tiger had in front of him a nice variety of food! Anansi loved all the food he saw before him, but was always too lazy to find them himself. Anansi said to Tiger, “Hello Tiger! It is very hot today. Don’t you think so?”

“Yes, Anansi,” said Tiger. “it is terribly hot!”

‘I am going for a walk in the cool jungle,” said Anansi. “Would you like to come?” “I certainly would!” said Tiger.

So Tiger and Anansi went walking, walking, walking through the rain forest. After a while Anansi led Tiger to a certain place.

“Tiger! Do you see what I see??’

“Oh yes Anansi!” said Tiger. ” Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock!’

KABOOM! Down fell Tiger! Anansi ran back to Tiger’s place and made off with all Tiger’s food!!

An hour later, Tiger woke up, His head was spinning! Anansi was no where in sight. And when he got home, he found that every single bit of his food was gone! Tiger was very sad!

But Anansi was very happy! He couldn’t wait to play his trick again! Once more Anansi went walking, walking, walking through the rain forest. This time he stopped at Elephant’s house. At Elephant’s feet was a great pail of bananas! Anansi loved bananas, but was always too lazy to pick them himself. So he said to elephant, “Hello Elephant! Isn’t it hot today!” “It is!” Elephant agreed. “I am going for a walk in the cool forest” Anansi said “Would you like to come?” “That sound nice,” aid Elephant “Tank you for inviting me Anansi!”

So Anansi and Elephant went walking, walking, walking through the rain forest. After a while Anansi led Elephant to a certain place. “Elephant! Look! Do you see what I see?”

Elephant looked. “Yes I do Anansi! Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock!” KABOOM! Down fell Elephant. Anansi ran back to Elephant’s house and made off with the bananas!

An hour later Elephant woke up, His head was spinning! Anansi was nowhere in sight. And when he got home, he found that every single one of his bananas was gone! Elephant was very sad!

But Anansi was very happy! He couldn’t wait to play his trick again!

He played it on Jaguar

He played it on Snake.

He played it on Fruit Bat.

He played it on Turtle.

He played it on every single animal in the rain forest! But all this time, watching from behind the leaves, was Little Spotted Deer. Little Spotted Deer is small and shy and very hard to see. She watched Anansi play his wicked trick again and again on all the other animals. Little Spotted Deer decided it was time for Anansi to learn a lesson!

So Little Spotted Deer went deep into the rain forest to where the coconut trees grow. She climbed a coconut tree and threw down a great many coconuts. She carried the coconuts home in a basket then she sat down beside them to wait.

In a little while, along came Anansi. Anansi’s eyes lit up when he saw Little Spotted Deer’s coconuts! Anansi loved coconuts, He loved to eat the tender while coconut meant and drink the sweet coconut milk inside. But he was much too lazy to gather the coconuts himself.

Instead he said “Hello Little Spotted Deer! It is so hot today!” Little Spotted Deer smiled, “It IS very hot, Anansi!” “I am going for a walk in the cool rain forest, would you like to come?” “Yes I would!” said Little Spotted Deer.

So Anansi and Little Spotted Deer went walking, walking, walking in the cool forest, After a while Anansi led Little Spotted Deer to a certain place. “Little Spotted Deer! Do you see what I see??” Little Spotted Deer knew all about Anansi’s trick. She looked. “No Anansi, I do not see anything!” “You must see it. Look very carefully!” Little Spotted Deer looked. “No I still do not see anything’ she said.

Anansi began to get angry. “You must see it! Look over here! Look right where I am pointing. Do you see it now?’ “No, Anansi,” said Little Spotted Deer. Anansi stomped his legs “You see it!! You just don’t want to say it!”

“Say what?” said Little Spotted Deer. “You know!” “Is that what I am supposed to say?” ‘Yes!” said Anansi. “All right. Then I will say it to make you happy. ‘You know’ ” said Little Spotted Deer. “There! I said it! Are you satisfied?”

“NO!” Anansi shouted. ‘You’re not supposed to say ‘You know!'”

“What am I supposed to say?”

“You’re supposed to say, ‘Isn’t this a strange moss-covered rock!'”

KABOOM! Down fell Anansi.

Little Spotted Deer rain and got all the other animals. Together they went to Anani’s house and took back all the good things he had stolen from them.

An hour later Anansi woke up. His head was spinning. Little Spotted Deer was no where in sight. And when he got home, he found his house was as empty as it was before.

But if you think Anansi learned his lesson, you’re mistaken. Because he’s still plying tricks to this very day!

(Taken from,

Teacher: Now that we have told the story. We can create some scenery for the story.

Scenery ( or setting) is where a story takes place. We don’t need a stage or theater to make a play. We can create scenery based on what we have in our house or apartment. Can we make a drawing of the scenery? Look at the picture in the video for inspiration. What can you create?

Costumes: We don’t need animal costumes to create our play. We can use the things we have in our closet. Can you find some things in your closet to use in our stories?

Teacher: Now that we have all of our tools. Can we tell the story? Choose what character you would like to play, or play them all? Enjoy!