Background Work

LESSON 2-Background Work


Educational Objective: Students will create character backgrounds and relationships with scene partners by analyzing clues from the script and creating a Facebook profile for their characters based on their analysis. 


Supplies Needed:


Hook: Play the I Have Never game in small groups.  Divide the class into 5-6 smaller groups.  Tell them that they must keep one hand visible to the group at all times.  Their fingers should be extended and palm spread.  Each person in the group takes a turn telling the others one thing that they have never done. For example: “I have never been horseback riding.” The other members of the group who HAVE been horseback riding then need to curl or bend one finger down.  If you lose all your fingers you are out of the game. NOTE: This is meant to get them thinking about their past experiences and may even help them open up to peers who might ask about it. It is also a great get-to-know you game.


Step 1 Explain that we will be doing scene work, but that in order for them to perform effective scenes they need to understand their character’s background; things they’ve done or have not done, experiences they’ve had that could influence their personality.  They also need to know what their relationship is with the other character(s) in the scene. For example: Has Peter Pan ever had a job?  What is his relationship with Wendy? Etc.


Step 2: Assign scenes and partnerships. Allow 5-10 minutes to read through the scenes together and mark their parts.  As they read together have them pay attention to anything that gives them a clue as to their character’s personality or background. They do not need to act it out, but read it together and become familiar with what characters they will be playing.


Step 3: Begin your discussion about character backgrounds by asking them what they found in their script that helped them understand more about their characters. Have them share with the class what they have found.


Project a script page from a script you are familiar with and show them how you would highlight or look for clues. 


Step 4: Ask them to highlight one thing about their character’s history that is revealed in the script they think is interesting or that would affect their character’s mood, personality, or physical attributes in their scene.  Example: they found out in the previous scene that their dog died.  Or they served in a war and still have shrapnel in their left leg.  Explain that it’s important to not only note this in their scripts, but to also keep all the information in one place where they can look back at it.  NOTE: You may also need to explain that some of them may not have a whole lot of background information revealed in their scripts.  If this is the case, then they need to either look up information about the play or fill the in gaps on their own.  This will allow them ownership and a way to use their creativity when developing their characters.


Step 5: Ask them if any of them currently have a Facebook account.  Ask them:  What can you learn about a person from their profile? (residency, travel, who their friends are, where they work, big events, favorite books, movies, tv shows, music, you can learn about their personality from the YouTube links they’ve shared. Etc.)


Step 6: Project an example of a Facebook profile for a character.  For this lesson, we used Peter Pan.  See Supplements. What things do they learn about Peter Pan just from the profile page that was made for him? 


Step 7: Tell them that they have 10 minutes to work on their background based on what they know already about their characters.  It’s ok if they don’t know a ton of detail, the purpose is to just get them thinking about their characteristics and background.


Step 8: Have each of them present their character profiles or portions from the profile.  Remember to ask questions like: How could your background influence the way you perform the scene/ say the lines?  Why did you decide that your character is from ____?  What other information in the script did you use to create the background?  Etc.  Encourage the class to keep these things in mind as they develop their characters and scenes.  Tell them that MUST keep their Facebook profiles for the rest of the unit.  They will need them to refer to and add ideas to.


Step 8: Introduction to memorizing techniques.  Have them brainstorm different ways to memorize.  Have a student list them on the board.  Explain what each method entails.  Ask them which techniques would be best for someone who learns visually or aurally? Consider asking them how they memorized their addresses or phone numbers growing up.


  • Listening over and over to the cue line and the line.
  • Writing or copying the lines many times
  • Remembering the order of big ideas or the important words in each line- also known as a grocery list. Take the key word or phrase in each line and make a sequential list.  Use the list to clue you on what line comes next.
  • Breaking up the memorization (use beats or divide large monologues into shorter sentences or sections.
  • Practicing with a mix of listening to and reading the lines.
  • Have some quiz you.
  • Write the lines on a mirror or a board with dry erase markers and slowly take away small words and phrases so that you have to read the line and fill in the blanks on your own.
  • Write just the beginning letter of each word in the line and try to say it
  • -Jingles-put the lines to a song (more time consuming)


Step 9: Have them write them down 3 that they are interested in trying.

Have them pick one technique and use the rest of the time to work on using it to memorize the lines.