Dying on Stage


Students will demonstrate their ability to die convincingly on stage by playing a game of death tag.



Texts: Their bodies, two video clips
Literacies: Letting the students analyze the video clips and form lists to extract meaning from the clips.



 The clip entitled “SPOILER!!!!!! The Death of Satine” from Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVpyYXkBM1Y)
 The clip entitled “Best Death Scene Ever” from Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EvPvfVOUV8)



First show the students the clip “Best Death Scene Ever” as an introduction to what they will be learning today. Note that this is a funny example of a bad death scene. Ask the students if this is a good or bad death scene and why or why not. Then, show them the clip entitled, “SPOILER!!! The Death of Satine” from the movie Moulin Rouge. Talk about what made this a good death scene and what they felt when watching it.




STEP 1—Transition: Now that we’ve seen examples of good and bad death scenes, let’s figure out what we can do as actors to make a death scene great.


STEP 2—Instruction: Ask the class what they think the actor needs to do or know in order to make a good death scene. Write their answers up on the board. Some good answers would be:
-Stay in control and not actually try to die on stage
-Know what the cause of their death is
-Research how the body dies in that way
-Determine if the death is supposed to be fast, slow, funny, or sad
-Watch many good death scenes and learn from them
-Practice, practice, practice
-Determine what the character is thinking right before they die and how that is shown on their face.
-Decide what is at stake if the character dies.
Determine as a class what the top 5 most important of these are and have them on the board.


STEP 3—Modeling: Ask for a student volunteer willing to die in front of the class. Ask for suggestions from the class for how he/she will die. Then, ask/do each of the 5 things the class came up with in Step 2 with the student volunteer. Have the student volunteer apply these 5 things and perform their death.


STEP 4—Transition: Now, everybody gets to practice applying these 5 things to on-stage dying.


STEP 5—Guided Practice: Lead the students in a game of death tag. Choose one student to be “it.” Tell the students that if they are tagged, they must immediately die a death that applies all 5 things determined in Step 2. Everyone else will freeze as soon as someone has been tagged and is dying. After the death, the students will quickly vote on whether the death was realistic or not (and if it applied the 5 things), and if the class determined that the death was not realistic and specific, that person is out and the game continues with the teacher calling someone else to be “it.”


STEP 6—Transition: Now that we’ve learned the basics to dying realistically on stage, we need to apply it to our final assessment scenes. Have the students divide up into their final assessment groups.


STEP 7—Guided Practice: Give the students the rest of the class period to apply what they have learned to the deaths in their final assessment scenes. If they have crying and not death in their scene, they can continue practicing crying from the previous lesson. Walk around the room and help where needed to make the dying and crying in their scenes as realistic as possible.



Give the students time at the end of class, if possible, to ask any remaining questions they have about dying or the final assessment in general. The assessments for this lesson are informal and are in the form of checks for understanding throughout the activities. A good check will be watching how they are applying the dying techniques to their scenes at the end of class.