(3-5 minutes): Grafitti Board- Write up on the board “Character”. Ask the students to come up to the board and write down anything that comes to their mind when they hear the word character. Encourage the students to write multiple things up on the board.
Step 1 (3 minutes): Go over what the students have written on the board. Ask the students, “What are some things you have to think of when creating a character?” “Why is it important to pay attention to the details?” “How can we pay attention to those details in improv where you have less time to prepare?”
Step 2 (10 minutes): Show the Whose Line is it Anyway clip. Ask the students, “What did these actors do that was successful in creating character? What made their characters interesting? Believable?” Decide as a class what elements make a character interesting to watch and set this as your standard of measurement. Encourage the students to focus on creating and consistently maintaining their character throughout all of the activities in class today.
Step 3 (15 minutes): Hitchhiker – Choose four to come to the front of the class. Place four chairs in the front of the classroom and have three students take a seat. Explain that these three students are driving to (choose a destination) and along the way they run across a strange hitch hiker with a specific quirk (an accent, a genre, a twitch etc.). As they stop to let the hitchhiker in the car, everyone else in the vehicle suddenly adapts the hitchhiker’s quirk. After driving for sometime one of the passengers exits the vehicle and a new hitchhiker enters the car with a new quirk. The activity repeats.
Step 4 (2 minutes): Ask the students, “Where you following the guidelines? What could we do better?” Explain that we are now going to add the element of “Show-don’t tell” element.
Step 5 (15 minutes): Who Game- In this game, there are two players. One will be A, the other B. A is seated on stage. B enters. B has a definite, predetermined character relationship with A but has not told A what it is. By the way B relates to A, A must discover who A is. For example, A (a girl) is seated on a bench. B (another girl) enters and says, “Hello, darling, how are you?” She fusses over A’s hair. She walks around A looking her over; asks her to stand up, turns her around, saying “You look beautiful.” B then puts her arms around A, rocks her tenderly, wipes away a tear, fixes long skirt and headdress, until A knows that B is her mother and she is the daughter on her wedding day. Model this for the students with one student volunteer. After you have explained the game to the students and modeled, allow each student to have a turn. Encourage the students to let their identities reveal themselves, and to be patient.
Step 6 (3 minutes): Ask after each group, “Did B show the relationship or tell? Did A allow the character to be revealed? After the final group has gone, ask the students, “Did you follow the guidelines we established for character?” Ask the students to personally reflect on what they might have done better to establish their characters.
Step 7 (5 minutes): Lay out the butcher paper and ask the students to write down ideas for characters in as little words as possible. Explain that these could be famous people, specific quirks or characteristics, etc. Explain that this will be used for reference throughout our unit in case they draw a blank or get stuck when deciding on a character.
Step 7 (20 minutes): Let’s Make a Date- Inform the students that we are now going to further our practice with the following game. Choose four students (three of the same gender). The three players are given a specific character; the fourth is on the game show “Let’s Make a Date”. This player asks the three other contestants questions such as “if you were to take me on a date, where would we go?” The contestant is to answer the questions in their character. After a few questions, the player must guess the identity of the three contestants.
Step 8 (5 minutes): Review the standards that were set as a class. Ask the students to identify ways that they saw those standards met.
Students will reflect on and review the standards that they set and identify their successes throughout the class.
Improvisation for the Theatre 3rd edition by Viola Spolin.