An Exercise in Improvising
This activity asks students to consider the ways in which obstacles create tension in drama and encourages them to find their own answers through improvisation. It was contributed by Jerry Bradshaw of Campbell County, Kentuckys Dayton High School.
Instructions and discussion questions follow. When youre ready, dive into the 20 suggested scenes Jerry has provided.
Each of these improvisations provides an obstacle that stands in the way of an objective. The player must find a way to overcome this barrier to his or her objective. Some obstacles are physical, some are psychological; all will challenge the player to find a creative solution to the predicament.
The improvisations are to be performed solo, so that the player can concentrate upon removing obstructions without the help of another person. This isnt as easily done as you might think. Take, for example, a situation in which a teenage boy needs to get his fathers permission to go to a party. Obviously, the teens father provides the obstacle. The boy may try a few methods of his own to overcome the obstacle. But it may also happen that the father gives his permission because he decides that its all right for his son to gowithout being influenced by the teen at all! These improvisations force the player alone to deal with the obstacle. Since no help is available from any other person, the player must find his or her own solution to the problem.
These solo improvisations are simple to run. The instructor should have the player take the stage or playing area, and then simply read aloud the improvisation starter. The improvisation should then start immediately.
Review the following two guidelines before beginning:
- Work on overcoming your obstacle throughout the entire improvisation. Try as many ways as you can think of to do this. But be warned: You may find yourself in an impossible situation! Keep at it until you have either overcome your obstacle or your instructor tells you to stop.
- Dont feel obligated to speak. The improvisation may be performed as a pantomime. Most people dont constantly talk to themselves when they are alone, but some people do like to think out loud. If speaking out loud helps, then go ahead and do it; but dont do it for the benefit of the audience. If the audience doesnt understand what youre doing, dont worry about it. You can discuss the improvisation with them after its over.
You may use the following guide questions when discussing the performances with your players and audience, or you may have the rest of the class respond to each performance on paper, collect them, and give them to the performer at the end of the class.
- How did the player attempt to overcome the obstacle? Was an original approach used?
- Did the player clearly understand the objective?
- What might the player have done differently to overcome the obstacle and accomplish the objective? What do you think you would have done?
- What was the players attitude toward the obstacle? What was her/his mood or emotional state?
Ready? Well, lets get on with the show!