1. Contentless Scenes
The following activity can be used in as an introduction to role-play, body language, or emotions in the Drama class. Using intonation and facial expressions, students apply different emotions to a scene. This helps them practice expression when speaking. It also helps them identify appropriate body language to use when trying to convey a particular emotion.
1. Building Background:
a. Ask students what makes a play or movie interesting to watch. Try to elicit the following from students:
i. Interesting plot
2. New Information:
a. Tell students that when they are given a script (the text of a play, the text that tells you what to say), they must add emotion to it. The emotion is not written in the words. The emotion in your voice and in your movements tells the audience what you feel. It helps the audience know the meaning of the words.
b. Ask students to generate a list of emotions on the board. (This will be a resource for them later)
3. Practice: Students practice facial changes for each emotion.
a. Tell students that they will first practice with an unusual scene. It’s called a “contentless scene”. Ask them if they can think of what a ‘contentless scene’ might be. Elicit responses (A contentless scene means that means that there is no content, or meaning, to the words that the characters are given). The script can mean many different things. The way that the audience knows what is happening is through the emotion in your voice and the way you move.
b. Tell students that they will work with a partner with one contentless scene.
c. Each student finds/is assigned a partner.
d. Tell students that they will each choose an emotion. The emotions can be the same or different from each other. They may refer to the board for examples of emotions.
e. Students should work with their partner to identify appropriate facial expressions and gestures for their emotion. Give them a couple of minutes to discuss this and “get into” their emotion. Circulate the room to give feedback.
f. Distribute one contentless scene to each pair. They should decide who is “A” and who is “B”.
g. Ask students to read the script using that emotion. They should try to create the purpose of the scene. They need to be creative and decide on the purpose of the scene, the emotions of the characters, the setting, and other details of the scene. These decisions should be apparent when they act out the scene.
i. Students will talk about how their characters should move. Use your knowledge of the emotion you chose and the purpose of the scene. REMEMBER: avoid having your back to the audience!
ii. Students practice the scene again, using emotion in their voices, and movements.
i. Next, students try the scene again, but this time with completely different emotions. Ask them how the purpose changes.
j. Optional: try once more, with different emotions.
a. Ask groups to volunteer to perform their scene in front of the class.
b. Audience guesses the emotions of the actors.
6. Cool-down: Discuss how the emotion can change the meaning of the scene.
2. Dubbed Movie
This exercise is used to help students practice improvisation. In this activity, two students act out a scene. However, they may not speak. One student is assigned to each of the actors, and provides the dialogue for that person. In this way, the scene is co-created by the actors and the speakers. They must act and react to each other. This helps the students learn to speak and act without planning. This activity is adapted from Improv Encyclopedia (2007).
1. Two to four students volunteer to be the actors. Explain that they will act out a scene, however, they may not speak or make noises. Although they cannot speak, they can move their mouths as if they are speaking.
2. The same number of students volunteer to be the speakers. Each speaker is assigned to an actor. They may not act; they only provide the dialogue for their actor.
3. The speakers sit at the side of the ‘stage’ so that they can see the actors, and are also seen by the audience.
4. Elicit from the audience (rest of the class) the following situation:
b. Characters (decide what character each actor is)
5. Given the situation, the actors and speakers begin to act out the scene. No preparation is given. They act and react to what other group members say and do. Good listening is essential!
6. Audience can rate the performance on the following variables:
a. Cohesiveness—did the members work together as a whole? Did speakers and actors work together well?
b. Comprehensibility—were members intelligible? Was speech and action understood?
c. Entertainment—was the performance enjoyable?
d. Participation—did all members contribute? Did anyone dominate? Did anyone refuse to participate?
7. Give both the audience and the participants the chance to comment on the exercise.
8. Audience and participants switch places. Repeat the above steps for new participants.