Drama Exercises

Here are two drama exercises to warm up a passel of young actors.  One I developed just this summer; the second is tried and true.

Something new:  have the student enter a room full of novels.  Have each choose one and choose from this novel a single, short sentence to read aloud.  Re-assemble in fifteen minutes around a table.  Check each student's sentence.  Then have the students read their sentences in turn aloud to the group, first with absolutely no expression at all--monotone, dead-pan.  Then have each student re-read his sentence in an angry way.  Then on the third cycle, in a sad way.  Then fearfully, happily, sullenly, etc.  Each student should have the opportunity to reread his sentences in at least three ways.  This exercise is very difficult but very revealing of the students' emotional breadth and ability to portray this by voice and facial expression alone.  Sometimes it is surprising!  This exercise is an enormous amount of fun, too.

Something old: below are a set of skits.  Divide the students accordingly; assign roles if necessary.  Hand each group one slip of paper with their skit on it.  They are not to reveal what they are doing to the other groups.  The real trick is that the following skits must be performed without words.  Actors may gesture and use their bodies but the only sound they can make must be a single vowel sound:  either A or E or I or O or U.  Assign only one sound per skit per group.  The students learn by the end that tone, volume, and pitch, as well as body language can convey a lot.  Give them 15-20 minutes to practice.  Then let them perform before their peers and see how minutely their peers can guess what was going on.  The skits follow.

Woman, Man, Man: Male director tries to direct a song-and-dance routine between world-famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. However, the two dancers aren’t Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but two bad dancers from Anytown, Anywhere, who thought this was a try-out. The dancing gets worse, the director gets mad, and huge fight ensues.

Woman, woman, man, extra[m/f or either]: Mother is trying to teach inept daughter how to cook. Father comes in and laughs at whole proceeding. Daughter is crushed. Wife tries to intercede. Neighborhood busy-body comes in to snoop.

Woman, Woman, Man: Olympic ice-skater is just about to go for the gold medal. She is scared stiff; her coach and her mom convince her to strive for her dreams. She wins the gold medal—coach, mom, and crowd go wild.

Man, Woman, Woman, Woman/Man: Three top secret spies must infiltrate enemy headquarters and obtain the secret documentation to save the world. Using laser technology, and advanced computer skills, they evade the night watchman, hack the central security system, break in to get the vital information, and escape while evading the night watchman again.

Man, man, woman, woman, woman
Owner of restaurant and cook are pretty put out as the health inspector has just arrived and decided to shut them down for gross violations of the FDA code. Suddenly, WHILE the health inspector checks the rest of the place out, the RICHEST couple in town walk in. Owner and cook try to serve them dinner AND keep health inspector and couple from seeing each other.

Babysitter(s)[m/f or either], crazy friend(s)[m/f or either], dad, mom, child(ren)[m/f or either]
Any number: Parents are away. Two teenage babysitters are expected to maintain order and safety. Instead, they just want to party, and invite all their friends over. However, the kids act in such a way as to make the party really not very "cool," and then the parents come home. (Think "Ransome of Red Chief" -- there is lots of room for creativity here. The "kids" can do all kinds of things to make the party uncool -- dolls, wanting a drink of water, needing a story, squirtguns, etc.)

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