Warm-Up of the Week: Zombies

1.  All students walk around the room with their eyes closed and their arms crossed in front of their chest.

2. The teacher then taps a student on the shoulder to indicate that they have become the zombie. They will need to make a zombie noise that warns the others students.

3. The zombie then stretches their hands out in front of them in search of humans…

4. If the zombie squeezes a student on the shoulder they become a zombie also.

5. If two zombies squeeze each other on the shoulder they turn back into humans. They must give a big sigh to indicate that this has happened.

6. In large classes it is a good idea to split the students into two groups and use the second group as a barrier so the humans and zombies can’t escape.

This game was generously taught to me by one of my prac students Brielle. Thank you!

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Writing a Role Analysis

One of the popular pages on the blog seems to be the Suggestions for Monologues page. Once you’ve picked a monologue it is a good idea when developing an Individual Performance either for the HSC or for some other class assessment, that an actor, as part of the rehearsal process should write a role analysis.

A role analysis is something that is prepared by an actor to give them a greater understanding of their character within the context of the whole play and within particular scenes. It’s like a road map of the character’s life and requires you to draw on your own to make it believable and convincing. The actor utilises their dialogue and interactions to help form a picture of their character which they can then use to physicalise the character and make offers.

In answering the following questions an actor should be able to do the above effectively. Aspects of a character that are not clear from the dialogue and interactions in the play can be made up by the actor as part of their own interpretation.

Character Name:

Autobiographical Facts:

  • What was your parent’s upbringing like?
  • Do you have any siblings?
  • What sort of education did you receive?
  • What is your health like?
  • When have the significant major relationships in your life begun?

Interests:

  • What do you enjoy doing (music, food etc)?
  • What do you consider your idiosyncracies to be?

Physical Description:

  • How old are you?
  • What is your height/weight?
  • What clothing do you wear?
  • What are your grooming habits?
  • If you had to compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?

Success/Failures/Upbringing:

  • What success have you had in your life?
  • How did these affect how you turned out?
  • What failures have you had in your life?
  • How did these affect how you turned out?

In Your Scene:

  • What time is it?
  • What aspects of time affect your action?
  • Where are you? Describe your surroundings.
  • What actions result from your relationship to this place?
  • What are the significant objects relating to your surroundings?
  • What actions do you complete that relate to these objects?
  • What activities are you up to the moment the scene begins?
  • What is happening in the scene (explore the tension here)?
  • What is your relationship to the other characters in the scene?
  • What is your relationship to the other characters mentioned in the scene?
  • What has led to these feelings?
  • What do you like/dislike about them?
  • In what ways do you need the person in the scene?
  • In what ways are you vulnerable to the other person in the scene?
  • What is your super-objective (what do I wish for, need, dream about)?
  • What is it you need at the beginning of the scene?
  • What will you try to do to get what you want?
  • What will happen if you don’t get what you need?
  • What or who is in my way?
  • What do I do to get what I want?
  • What can I draw upon from my own life to help create the characters wants, actions and emotional life? Describe.

This would make a great lesson activity when doing some scene work or work on monologues.

Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc

Actors and The Space: Some Teaching Suggestions

I have a Yr 9 class this year and our first unit is always an introduction to Drama. We look at the toolkit that an actor needs to be successful on stage in preparation for looking at what a director needs in his/her toolkit. It’s difficult to separate the two but in the end it comes down to what you want to focus more on. I’ve really been working on getting my students to explain what they are seeing on stage using all the drama terminology of the elements. I’ve also been focusing on how to make performances more dynamic and engaging. I’ve posted before on some of the activities that I do with the elements of drama. Here are a couple more that I have been trying out this term, particularly to do with character/role and spatial relationships (in particular, proximity and distance) that I have found really make the improvised scenes much more interesting to watch:

Give the student’s a single line of dialogue. For example, “I have something to tell you.” Pair student’s up and have them face each other. One person will deliver the line but they must deliver it with the following constraints on their space:

  • At opposite ends of the room. Take one step towards each other until toe to toe. At each step deliver the line again.
  • Both seated.
  • One seated and one standing.
  • One facing away from the other.
  • One behind the other.
  • Back to back.
  • One lying on the floor.

Discuss the effect of these staging positions on the audience. Consider the following questions:

  • How does the audience’s sense of the character change depending on where they were when they delivered the line?
  • Did the meaning of the line change depending on the spatial relationship?
  • Which position was most/least powerful?
  • What relationships are suggested by the use of these levels and proximity?

At the conclusion of this exercise, try the following exercises:

  • Break into groups of three. Call out an action (e.g. painting, repairing, rehearsing, admiring, rejecting, greeting, opening). Each member of the group has to pose doing that action. Each person in the group must, however, be on a different level. Present them to the class and discuss the effect on the audience. Compare it with the same poses but all on one level.
  • Improvise scenes with dialogue and have pairs of characters meeting with others pairs of characters (e.g. grandparent and child on a bus meet a businessman and his wife).

During the improvisations encourage students to become aware of how they adapt their tone of voice, facial expressions, gestures, posture when saying lines in different spatial positions. Discuss who has the greater status in the scenes and how all these things together can determine for an audience which relationships between characters are more formal than others.

Photo Credit: loungerie via Compfight cc

8 New Improvisation Games You Need to Try

I had the pleasure of meeting @ivanwschew at an Improv Night a little while ago now. It was being hosted by some friends of a friend who have taken advantage of a council grant and created a puppetry workshop (amongst other things) in an old shop.

I hadn’t been along to see any adult improvisation for a long time so it was refreshing to see some energetic, quick thinking actors on stage. Several of the games they played I hadn’t heard of before.

I had the opportunity to speak with Ivan at the end of the evening and I asked him if it would be OK to share these games. Ivan’s life was changed by improv and drama. His story is a fascinating, uplifting one of someone unlocking something that was hidden inside themselves by taking a chance with drama and improv. Now he’s not looking back.

The thing I loved about the whole night was seeing people who are passionate about their craft sharing it with others. I felt very inspired and uplifted by it. Below are the eight games I learnt from Ivan and his team of improvisers. You could use them in an improvisation unit or perhaps as a way of developing character or storyline in a unit of work.

Ivan hosts workshops for those new to Improv. You can find out more at his website.

Also, be sure to listen in to his radio show on Tuesdays 3-5pm, Community Radio 2RDJ.

1. Accent Rollercoaster – Audience members provide suggestions (“ask for’s”) for accents and a location. Actors are given a situation and throughout the scene the host will call out the accent that they need to use and they must accept and progress the action.

2. Spoon River – Two actors are on stage. Both are dead. They must recount how they came to die. A country/location, an unusual food dish, catastrophic event and dark descriptive words must be used and these are suggested by the audience.

3. Marshmallow Mania – Actors are given a situation. Each time an actor says something funny and the audience laughs they are given a marshmallow that they have to put in their mouth, not eat and continue the scene. Please be aware this may cause choking. The game has been banned in some circles so practice with care.

4. Character Swap – A location and situation is given. When called, the actors need to switch characters and continue the scene.

5. Lining the Bucket – A series of one liners are written out and placed in a bucket. Actors pick a line from the bucket before they enter the space. As they enter they must say the line. They can also pick out lines during the scene. This game is great for less experienced improvisers.

6. Playbook – Situation is given. One of the actors is restricted to the lines of dialogue from a script.

7. Pop Culture – Situation is given. Actors play the scene but they can only use lines from pop culture such as songs and movies etc.

8. Crime Endowments – Audience suggest a crime, location and famous actor. The actor being interrogated is in another room at this time. They enter the space and are questioned by another player. Audience react as the actor gets closer to guessing the crime, location and actor. There is also the variation “Teenage Endowments” (see comments below).

Warm-Up of the Week: Do You Believe Me?

This a super quick activity to get your student’s thinking about the delivery of dialogue in performance.

  1. Select a student to stand facing the wall at one end of the room.
  2. Have the remaining student’s in the class form a straight line behind the chosen student.
  3. Choose a line of dialogue, for example, “I love you.”
  4. Have each student say the line to the person at the other end of the room.
  5. The solo student should only turn around if they believe the person who delivered the line.

Swap students and lines. Obtain feedback from the student’s after each round. Remember, each person will have a different point of view when it comes to the delivery of lines. It’s important to let the student’s know this so they don’t become disheartened if someone doesn’t turn around for them.

Lesson Lovenotes: Elements of Drama Teaching Suggestions

The Elements of Drama are the absolute bread and butter of the drama sandwich. In every which way possible, whether it is in individual lessons or in your programming and scope and sequencing, you must, must, must, must, must come back to the elements of drama.

The Elements of drama can be studied individually or collectively. Ideally you want to be designing lessons that may focus on an element or particular elements at any one time. In the end though, they all work together to create a drama performance.

The Elements of Drama are (I’ve grouped them together in the way that I like to teach them):

  • Focus
  • Space
  • Character/Role
  • Time/Place/Situation
  • Tension
  • Structure
  • Language/Sound
  • Movement/Timing/Rhythm
  • Atmosphere/Mood/Symbol/Moment
  • Audience Engagement/Dramatic Meaning

My initial unit of study when my student’s come into Drama for the first time in Year 9 is an introductory unit that looks at the Elements of Drama and combines Theatre Sports. Here are some suggestions that I like to use in my classroom when introducing the Elements to my students:

  • SPACE: “Simon Says, UpStage Left!” – a great little game exploring the physical stage space. Have students move from one part of the stage to the other depending on what you call out. The slowest person to get to the spot is out. Have the last two student’s have a”face off”. Have two rounds and the champions from each round can go head to head. Also great for teaching terms such as prompt, opposite prompt, masking and sightlines. You could also look at exploring types of stage spaces such as proscenium arch stage, thrust stage, amphi-theatre and theatre in the round.
  • FOCUS: Look at generating short scenes that look at a) the focus of a scene, b) the focus of the audience, c) the focus of the character and/or d) the focus of the actor. Discuss, compare and contrast scenes that have actors walking around the space doing nothing, the same scene again but with actor’s looking for something and then again but this time it’s a bomb and it will explode in 20 seconds. Discuss how the energy and tension of the scene changes.
  • CHARACTER: Character exercises are a whole post in themselves but you want to start with exercises that focus on awareness of facial expression, tone of voice, body language and movement. You could incorporate Theatre Sports here or choose excerpts from scripts. Some concepts you might also like to explore here are making offers, accepting offers, accepting  and committing to the fiction, conviction/belief, status, action/reaction.
  • TIME/PLACE/SITUATION/TENSION: Improvisation is key here. Play around with scenes that allow student’s to explore not only some typical situations but some unusual ones as well e.g. underneath a rock, at the bottom of the ocean etc. Really focus on the concept of conflict here. Get student’s to improvise scenes that look at man vs. man conflict, man vs. himself and man vs. nature.
  • LANGUAGE/SOUND: Voice workshops are a brilliant starting point. Have student’s become aware of their breath, throat and diaphragm. Consider doing an accent workshop. Have them working with scripts to explore clarity, volume, pitch, pace, inflection, emphasis and pause. Consider how atmosphere can be created using soundscapes and body percussion. Explore scenes that use no sound or language (mime).
  • MOVEMENT/TIMING/RHYTHM: No drama class is complete without a movement workshop. Consider exploring the Laban Movements and putting on music to dance to. Look at physical offers in improvisation as a starting point for a scene.  Look Look at the physicality of characters and the use of space to show relationships. Look at the blocking in a scripted scene. Consider the effect of stillness, contrast, intensity, tableau and expression in a movement piece.
  • ATMOSPHERE/MOOD/SYMBOL: Watch some film excerpts that use music to guide the audience’s feelings in a scene. Consider the use of colour and set in costumes and what they mean to the audience.
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT/DRAMATIC MEANING: At the conclusion of every exercise always ask the class what it was about the element of drama that made the audience feel engaged in the action on stage and what they understood was happening on stage because of that element. In adding this in to your classroom discussion you are effectively making your students become critical thinkers and theatre appreciators.

Image Credits: The Drama Room 5, karlao