Blocking Shakespeare


Students will demonstrate their understanding of movement in a performance piece by blocking and providing business for their Shakespearean monologue or scene.






Conduct the learning activity “Mannequin”. Call up four volunteers. Have two students be the mannequins and the other two be the movers. Assign one mover to each mannequin. Give the mannequins a setting and relationship. Then have them begin to improvise a scene without moving any part of their body. The movers can then begin to move the mannequins around in any way they wish (it can go along with the improvisation or it can be totally different that forces the actors to justify their body movements). Stop the improvisation as you see the scene wind down or the mannequins or movers get too frustrated to continue.



Transition – Talk with the performers about the situation you thrust them into. How difficult was it to act without moving? How easy was it to move someone else’s body? What could have made the whole activity easier and more natural? What did the audience students observe? What ideas or suggestions do they have for natural blocking movement in the scene? How important is natural, motivated blocking to a performance? What have students done in the past for performances to create natural blocking?



Modeling – To give students another idea to begin blocking their performance pieces, call up a scene group and have them sit knee-to-knee facing each other – their kneecaps should be touching and they should be looking straight into each other’s eyes. Have them “perform” their scene without moving their knees and without looking away from the other’s eyes.



Checking for Understanding– What did students observe from the performers this time? What ideas for movement do the audience students have? Highlight any impulse you may have seen one of the performers stifle. Now have the students start the scene over, again from the knee-to-knee position, but this time allow them to move as the impulse strikes them. They can use the suggestions offered earlier by other students or follow their own ideas as they go. After the second performance, discuss with the class the difference between the two performances.



Instruction – Encourage the students to thrust themselves out of their comfort zone in order to have creative, motivated blocking. They should be exploring several different ideas in business and blocking because it is seldom their first idea or impulse that is the best idea; more often it is their five or sixth idea that really works the best for the scene or monologue. Assign students to find at least one prop for their performance and discover different ways to utilize that prop as business.



Guided Practice – Assign the students to create the business and blocking of the monologue or scene. They need to draw out the floorplan of the setting of their performance and label any furniture props they may be using. Then they should coordinate their blocking around those pieces. They should explore many different ways to block the piece following their impulses until they find the best movement for each particular moment. Float around the classroom and give ideas and encouragement to the students as they work on their performance pieces.



Students can be assessed through participation in the blocking activities, the written blocking in their script, and a drawn floorplan of the setting of their performance piece.