So today is a workshop where students improvise some mini-skits.
My students today are between the ages of 11 and 18, the older ones with good English. However, English is kept simple and if they feel they express themselves better in their own language (Hungarian), then that is fine.
I only met some of these students last week for the first time and I think it's good to do some good old meaty drama and see where their skills lie.
Improvising small skits requires quick-thinking, imagination, focus and awareness.
The first warm up we will play is a 'counting to 3 pairs game'. Facing each other they take it in turns saying '1' then '2' then '3', until they can do so as quickly and smoothly as possible. Then they will change one to a clap. After practising this for a while, '2' becomes a weird sound, and finally '3' becomes an abstract movement.
Next, to encourage quick thinking students sit in a circle and go around saying a name or an animal beginning with each letter of the alphabet. E.g first person says 'Anna', second person says 'Ben', third person 'Chris'...
We'll start with names as it's easier, then move on to animals.
Then, in pairs, we do a quick (and very funny) improvisation in which they have a conversation but each person must start their sentence with the next letter from the alphabet as the person before.
Person 1 - Actually I don't want that one.
Person 2- But I just paid a lot of money for it!
Person 1- Can't you get a refund....?
Person 2 - Don't be ridiculous! Have you seen where we are! They made me sign an agreement!
Person 1 - Even though you only signed it 30 seconds ago?
Person 2 - For crying out loud! Just read the terms and conditions!
When they make a mistake they start again :)
The final warm up game is the 'Why are you late?' game.
Three people are involved. One student (A), one late student (B) and the teacher.
The teacher and late student leave the room. The audience tell the student A (who is not late) why the late student B is late - for example they broke down so had to hitch hike.
Teacher and student A improvise a scene and then the late student B enters. The teacher asks 'Why are you late?'. Student A knows why student B is late and has to act out behind the teachers back why he/she is late. This should be quick so student B can answer in realistic time... they should be acting all the time whilst trying to figure out what student A is doing... 'Ummm.. ummmm, i'm so sorry, you won't believe this but....'
1. Solo skit. Inspired by the words 'Yes' or 'No'.
Alone, students create a short piece in which they only say the words 'Yes' or 'No'. They can practise both and then decide on their favourite. For each word they should experiment with different characters - maybe three different characters/ situations for both 'yes' and 'no'. It can be kept simple, or made a bit more elaborate with a narrative.
For example 'yes' - someone watching the lottery with their ticket and each time one of their numbers comes up they shout 'yes', until they realise they have won the jackpot and then shout 'yes!' continuously.
- someone talking on a phone to someone
- someone walking around an art gallery saying 'yes' in admiration of the paintings
This itself can be developed into an effective mini play. Once students have established their favourite example of 'yes' or 'no', all students can choreograph their pieces together so they are all on stage at the same time, occupying different parts of the stage, not aware of the people around them.
This exercise shows the power of the physical and how just one word can represent so many different ideas.
2. Group skit. Adjective scenes.
This one requires a warm up to make sure they understand the vocabulary. First of all, some adjectives are written down. My adjectives are PLAYFUL, CONFUSED, ARROGANT, ANGRY, DEPRESSED, ENERGETIC, EUPHORIC, CONFIDENT and SHY.
Standing in a circle I present someone (person A) with a word card and they act this word out and then pass it on to someone else in the circle by walking to them to take their place. Before they take the place of person B, person B has to move to another person, but acting the same way as person A, but exaggerated. So each time someone moves to someone else in the circle and passes their acting on, it gets bigger and bigger.
When I shout 'EVERYONE', all students walk around with the specific adjective in mind. They can interact with each other if they want.
Once familiar with the words they all select a card at random and are thus assigned an adjective. I then give them a scene. Scene 1 is a yoga class. I choose one student to be the teacher (this person also has an adjective - and I don't know what it is yet). The scene starts 1 minute before the yoga class begins. Which students are already there? Do any of them turn up late (maybe the 'confused' person is late because they got lost on the way)? Do any of them cause a scene? They can talk in Hungarian, but the idea is to be REALISTIC. If I see that things are getting a bit unrealistic then I clap my hands and they revert to silence but continue acting.
Scene 2 is on an aeroplane. One or two students will be flight attendants and the rest passengers, this time with new adjectives to work with.
Scene 3 is the queue for a toilet in a night club.
3. Pair skits.
In pairs I give the students an improvisation starter. The one's from today are ' Married couple watching TV and arguing over the channels', 'Boyfriends proposes to girlfriend, but she wants to break up' and 'Student sent to principles office for bad behaviour'.
The idea is that they adapt to their characters and play around in the creation of a scene but when I clap my hands they resort to speaking in gibberish only. This highlights the physical aspects and will encourage them to focus on showing where they are, who they are and what's happening, rather than just relying on language.