Create an obstacle course by flipping the desks and chairs onto their sides and laying them out in a maze-like pattern on the floor. Ask for two student volunteers to navigate the course. One student will attempt to walk through the maze blindfolded while the other student gives him or her directions on which way to move. Ask the rest of the class to act as “spotters” on the sides of the obstacle course to make sure the blindfolded student doesn’t stumble over the desks and chairs.
Transition: Explain to students that like the obstacle course example, directors give their actors directions about how they would like the actors to move on stage.
Tell the students that directors and actors use a special language to communicate directional movement on stage called blocking. Tell the students that you will teach them today how to communicate in this language.
Distribute the stage directions worksheet to every member of the class. Draw a similar 3×3 grid on the board and encourage the students to help you fill in the nine squares with the proper names of stage directions (center stage, stage right, stage left, up stage, down stage, up stage right, up stage left, down stage right, down stage left).
o Everyone should label the bottom of the grid with “audience” to show where the audience members will be seated.
o Ask for students who know what one of the squares should be labeled to come up and write it on the appropriate square on the board. Walk the students through filling in any of the remaining squares that were not completed by student volunteers.
o In every square, write out the full name and the appropriate acronym for each stage direction. For example, “down stage right” and “DR.”
Step Three—Check for Understanding
With a 3×3 grid taped to the carpet (large enough for groups of students to stand in), students will pick a stage direction to stand in and wait for a stage direction to be called out. You can either use a random system (like a die) to determine which box to call out, or generate the answers on your own with your back turned. Each round, any students standing in the stage direction that was called are out. The “safe” students pick a new square to stand in and hope to survive another round. The last student remaining wins.
o Encourage eliminated students to participate as referees on the sidelines or they can take turns choosing the next stage direction to be called.
o The students should all be practicing their identification of stage directions.
o As students get more comfortable with the stage directions, begin to speed up the game after a few rounds, making it a bigger challenge for the players to move quickly and for the student “referees” to determine who should be out.
Have the students return to their desks. Explain to them the shorthand method of writing blocking into scripts using the acronyms of the stage directions and an ‘X’ to signify “cross.”
o For example, the directive to move from up stage left to center stage would look like: “UL X C.”
o As practice, ask for two volunteers to play the roles of actor and director. The director should write a blocking command on the board and the actor should demonstrate this blocking by moving through the appropriate tape grids on the floor.
o Ask the other members of the class if the volunteers played their roles correctly. Validate student involvement for both correct and incorrect answers.
Step Five—Guided Practice
Ask the students to divide into their assigned partnerships and get out their copies of their scenes from Almost, Maine. Project the overhead for the class to see and explain to the students that performers write blocking into their scripts with specific intentions for movement in mind.
o What would too much movement look like on stage? (messy, uncoordinated, chaotic, unrehearsed, busy, confusing, purposeless)
o What would too little movement look like on stage? (stiff, tense, unnatural, boring)
o So how do we decide when to move in our scenes? Explain that there’s an easy trick for deciding where and when to move: finding beats. Beats are little moments of conflict that can be found by looking for a change of subject, when somebody enters or exits, when the power/upper hand changes between characters, etc.
o Together as a class, look for beats in the overhead scene. At each beat, write in an example of blocking using stage directions.
Step Six—Group Practice
The students should now spend this portion of class to block their scripts. Tell the students that their scripts will be collected and graded on the final performance day according to the following rubric. Check in with each of the groups to evaluate their understanding and progress.
o Students should identify multiple beats and write in blocking at each of them.
o All movements should have meaning.
o Blocking should be written on speaking lines, rather than in moments of silence.
o Encourage the students to make their marks in pencil in case they want to make changes later.