Stock Characters

Learning Objective

Students will be able to demonstrate their knowledge of stock characters by participating in an improvisation game.



Materials Needed

Copies of supplements, white board, white board marker, and slips of paper with different stock characters written on them, pictures of the different characters.




When the students enter the room have a piece of paper with a stock character written on it under each persons chair (have a brief definition in case someone doesn’t know whose theirs is). Once everyone is present and announcements are through have them pull the paper out and start walking around the room as their character. As the students are walking around ask the following questions, what is your characters personality, loyalty, status, plot function? Once they have walked around for a few minutes gather the students together.



Step One-Transition

Ask the students what different types of people did you notice? List them off and have someone write them up on the whiteboard. (Villain, Hero, Damsel in Distress, Side kick, servant) Ask the class who has heard the word stock character and who can define it for me? As a class define what a stock character is. (character based off literary or social stereotypes)



Step Two-Activity-Group Practice

Divide the class into groups of five and assign each group a stock character and have them define what their key indicators are. (Posture, mannerisms, costume, interactions?)  Once you have defined it give examples of characters from plays, TV shows, and plays that are your stock character.  Once you have a solid idea of your character—have your whole group create a scene where you act out who your character is without words for the entire class. Then present any additional information about the character after the performance. Make sure every member participates.



Step Three- Group Share

Have each group present. The class will guess which stock character they are presenting on.



Step Four- Discussion/ Checking for Understanding

Discuss with the class how stock characters are all around us. In television, films, the stage, our community, Pleasant Grove high school, our drama classroom. Besides celebrities and famous fictional characters where do you see stock characters in your daily life?



Step Four- Peer Teaching

There are seven basic Commedia characters. Show a picture of each character with their name.  Tell the kids to take notice of what the character looks like, what clothes does it wear, what does his mask look like, body posture? There are a lot but we are just focusing on these seven today. Each character has its own personality and role. Now come up to the front of the classroom and grab one hand out. There will be seven different piles. Once you have a handout read it.  You will be an expert on this type of character. Expound further beyond what brief statement I just shared. After 3 minutes get with a partner who has a different character and teach each other about the character you have. Give the students 2 minutes for sharing.  Then switch until each person has been taught about each type of character. If you are done before the two minutes are up go back with more detail until the time is up.

 1. Pantolone—Merchant—afraid of losing his money

2. Dottore- Doctor

3. Arlecchino-A mischievous servant

4. Brighalla- Magician, Fortune Teller

5. Capitano- An arrogant egotistical man

6. Lovers

7. Zanni- Servant who never works—always eating or daydreaming

 When troupes would perform the combination of these characters created comedic moments.



Step Five- Group Practice

Tell the students we will be playing the game freeze with a little twist. Ask for two volunteers. Have them pick a stock character. Ask the class for a place and situation where they would interact. (breakup at the movie theater). Have the student improvise a scene in their character. After a little while invite the rest of the class to join the scene by yelling out FREEZE. When a new person enters the scene they must change the location and scenario by taking the persons exact position who they are replacing. Have multiple students participate in this activity.



Step Six- Discussion

After the class dies down bring everyone together. What did you just see? How did certain stock characters interact with each other? Were there some things that worked better than others? What did you find funny? Why? Did you see characteristics of the different Commedia characters in any of the scenes? Why do you suppose their characteristics translated over into these modern day examples? How do stock characters apply to you as theater practitioners today?



Step Seven- Transition

Remember the seven different types of characters you learned about today and what makes them unique.  Next time we will be focusing on how they move and how their costume pieces distinguish them in their society and culture.




The students will show their knowledge of Commedia characters by participating in classroom activities/discussion as well as improvisation games.




Commedia Character Descriptions