Performance Pre-Assessment and Patsy Rodenburg

Lesson 2 – Performance Pre-Assessment and Patsy Rodenburg


Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of Patsy Rodenburg and her pedagogy by verbally explaining to a partner what the three circles of energy are.


Essential Questions

  • What are the Three Circles of Energy?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of each Circle?
  • What is presence?
  • Who is Patsy Rodenburg?


National Standards

  • TH:Cr3.1.II.b. Use research and script analysis to revise physical, vocal, and physiological choices impacting the believability and relevance of a drama/ theatre work. 

State Standards

  • Standard L2.T.CR.5: Explore physical, vocal, and emotional choices to develop a performance that is believable, authentic, and relevant in a drama/ theatre work.





Pass the Snap

  • The purpose of this game is to warm up minds and bodies and help students become more present with themselves, the space, and each other
  • Set-up: Invite students to stand in a circle
  • Instructions: Explain these rules to the students. This game is about sending and receiving a snap. You receive a snap by snapping towards yourself. You send a snap by snapping towards someone else in the circle. It is important to be clear who you are sending the snap to. The snap can jump around the circle in any order. 
  • Practice passing (sending and receiving) the snap a few times. When you see students understand the basic concept, move on to these next instructions.
  • Instructions pt.2: As we get better, we will create a rhythm with the snaps. It is important to keep this rhythm going. If someone messes up, or if the snap is not sent clearly, try your best to keep on going. Stay focused and continue to send the snap
  • Play this game for a few minutes. Every so often, invite students to go faster
    • Side-coaching: Keep the snap going. Be clear to who you are sending it to. Be aware of the snap. Always be ready to receive. Keep the rhythm. Let’s go a little faster!


  • What skills are you using to be successful?
    • Listening, responding, always being ready, keeping the rhythm, being clear in sending the snap
  • How can these skills help you in performance?



Tell the students that they’ve already done a written pre-assessment for the unit. Now we will be doing a performance pre-assessment. Let them know that they will be asked to do things that are completely unknown to them or uncomfortable. Ask them to try their best. There won’t be an explanation of these activities yet. The explanation of terms will come at the end of the lesson and in future lessons.


Performance Pre-Assessment

The Pre-Assessment shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes. Move to each activity as soon as you finish the previous one. Keep comments brief. The discussion at the end of the pre-assessment can take more time.



  • Students have worked on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18. Inform students that they will each perform this sonnet in front of the class. Ask them to perform it while being present with themselves and their imaginary partner. Instruct them to choose a spot on the wall in front of them and imagine it as the person they are speaking to.
    • Students do not have to have the sonnet memorized for this performance, but they will need it memorized for the final.
  • Have each student perform the sonnet. As they perform, score them using the rubric (provided below)
  • After each performance, ask one student to analyze how present the performer was. Did they listen to their partner?
    • This is also on the rubric (Observation of Second Circle). Make sure every student has the chance to analyze a peer’s performance.


Walking in each circle (Physicality of the circles of energy)

  • After all students have performed, ask them to find their own place in the room.
  • Inform the students that you will be using unknown terminology and ask them to try their best to make choices.
    • It is likely that when you invite students to stand in First Circle, students will make odd circle shapes with their bodies.
  • Instruct students to stand and breathe in First Circle. Now ask them to walk around the room in First Circle. Ask them to stop. Now repeat these instructions for Third and then Second Circle (Stand, Breathe, Walk, Stop).


Eye to eye (Sitting in Second Circle)

  • Tell students that the last part of the pre-assessment is called eye to eye. Ask students to find the person they know the least and then sit across from them.
  • Their goal for this activity is to maintain eye contact with their partner for a few minutes. Ask them to take this activity seriously and try not to joke around with it. This is a silent activity.
    • Set a timer for 3-5 minutes.
    • As they sit, encourage them to continue keeping eye contact.
      • It is possible that some students may be very uncomfortable or try to laugh. Just remind them to keep eye contact and be silent.



  • What was your experience with these activities?
  • What were some questions you wanted to ask? (Do not answer these questions, merely discuss them)
  • What do you think this unit will be about? Why do you think that?



Inform students that we will now start learning about what First, Second, and Third Circle mean and how they can help us as actors!



Instruct students: Patsy Rodenburg is a British Vocal Coach, and she didn’t agree with teachers who said that some actors had ‘it’ and some actors did not (‘it’ referring to a quality that made them great). She recognized that ‘it’ was presenceand it was something that everyone could do: everyone is born with it and we need to learn how to access it. 

  • Ask students: What is presence?
    • “Being present means fully enjoying the moment that you are in. It is the moment when you are calm and you know exactly what you want. You are focused on what you’re doing without thinking about anything else”( Presence also means “being, existing, or occurring at this time or now; current” (

She noticed that we live in three different circles of energy, and one circle was connected to being present. Everyone has all three circles, and we can switch between the circles quickly. (Write each circle and important details on the whiteboard as you instruct students).

  • First Circle
    • The circle of energy we live in when we are absorbing energy inwards and the energy we send out falls back within ourselves. This is the circle of introspection and reflection. In this circle, we are often thinking about the past. Energy sent out falls short of its target.
  • Third Circle
    • The circle of energy we live in when we are sending generic energy outwards. This is the circle of bluff and force. In this circle, we are often thinking about the future. Energy sent out pushes past its target.
  • Second Circle
    • The circle of energy we live in when we are sending and receiving equal energy to the object of our focus. This is the circle of connecting, intimacy, creation, equality, and survival. In this circle, we are focusing on objects and events that are directly around us. Energy sent out goes directly to its target and is sent back to the individual.


Tell students that we will watch two videos of Patsy Rodenburg speaking. These videos will explain more about the circles of energy and performance: 



  • What moments resonated with you in these videos?
  • What did you discover about the Circles of Energy?
  • What are the advantages and limitations of each circle?
  • Why is it important to perform in Second Circle?



Instruct: It is important to note that all three Circles are necessary and we use all three in different circumstances. While Second Circle is the circle of creativity and survival, it can be exhausting to be in the circle for too long.



Invite students to turn to a partner and ask them to try and explain the three circles of energy. After they’ve done that, ask students to put up fingers (1-5) of how well they feel that they understand the circles of energy (1-not at all, 5- completely)


Tell students that they will continue practicing and defining the circles of energies and how they apply to performance.


Remind students that there is an online lesson that they will need to complete before the next in-person class. They will need about 30 minutes to complete this activity. If you have time, pull up the assignment on the projector to show them what they will need to accomplish.