Getting in the Contemporary Performance Practice Mindset


An Introduction to Playwrights and Their Work



Grade Level:

10-12 grade, 77 minutes



National Standards:

Content Standard #1:

Script writing through improvising, writing, and refining scripts based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history


Content Standard #2:

Acting by developing, communicating, and sustaining characters in improvisations and informal or formal productions


Content Standard #4:

Directing by interpreting dramatic texts and organizing and conducting rehearsals for informal or formal productions


Content Standard #6:

Comparing and integrating art forms by analyzing traditional theatre, dance, music, visual arts, and new art forms


Content Standard #7:

Analyzing, critiquing, and constructing meanings from informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media productions


Content Standard #8:

Understanding context by analyzing the role of theatre, film, television, and electronic media in the past and the present



Materials Needed:

Brainstorm worksheet  Lesson 7.Contemporary Performance Practice Brainstorm Worksheet, teacher answer sheet  Lesson 7. ideas of instructor on Brainstorm Worksheet, Harlem Shake clip



Learning Objective:

Students will practice applying the performance practices they just learned about by coming up with ways they could apply them to the famous scenes they recently saw performed. Students will also discuss and analyze how these performances should give new perspective and interpretation to the original plays.



Hook (3-5 minutes):

Briefly review the discussion from the class period before. What did you like, what didn’t you like? Did any of the performance groups stick with you? Were you particularly interested or disinterested in any of the groups? Why? If you didn’t like them, what should they do differently?




Can you think of ways to implement their practices?



Activity 1 (40-45 minutes):

Pass out the brainstorm worksheet. Everyone will turn this in today for a grade, so make sure you’re working. Get in small groups and one by one we’re going to go through 5 different shows that we saw our class members perform. You’ll have about 3-5 minutes to discuss as a group how you could perform or adapt the original play using the techniques we’ve been discussing over the past several days. Let’s start with Neil Simon’s play The Star-Spangled Girl. Can anyone remind us what the scene was about? Can the performers remind us what the entire show is about? Your ideas could have to do with the scene specifically, or even the entire show. Tell students that after each brainstorm round we’ll be briefly sharing and discussing, and where I will be calling on different people/groups to share. So you’d better be prepared!

Allow students 3-5 minutes to discuss in groups ways that they could perform these shows/scenes using contemporary performance/playwriting practices that we’ve been discussing. After time is up call on 2-3 different students to share some of the ideas that their groups came up with. You can also ask after each round if any group has any really great ideas that they’re dying to share. After this, especially if the students are stumped, share some of the “teacher ideas.” The idea is to get students thinking in this way so that they are prepared for their next major assessment.

Repeat this process for the other 4 plays/playwrights listed. (August Wilson, Moliere, Frederico Garcia Lorca, and Samuel Beckett are left.) Again, the students should all be familiar with these scenes/shows from our recent presentations.



Activity 2 (30 minutes):

Contemporary Performance Workshop/Challenge!
Students will make a participate in a mini contemporary performance practice workshop. Last class period they were most resistant to the use of media in performance so that’s what we’ll specifically practice today. Students will make a short performance around one of the most popular viral trends of 2013: the Harlem Shake video. There is a wide variety to pick from, but the one the students will watch is one of the original videos featuring the Norwegian army.

Watch the video, and then split them up into 4 groups. Give them about 15 minutes to work and tell them to come up with performances that are about 2-3 minutes long at most. This doesn’t mean that they should come up with their own Harlem Shake video, but rather their performance could feature the video in some way, deconstruct it, interpret possible themes, create a story behind it, etc. This activity also doubles as an informal assessment as they will be implementing the thinking process that they’ve been practicing all class period. It’s a challenge because a) there isn’t an inherent story behind the Harlem Shake videos so they’ll have to get creative b) the group with the best performance wins a prize!

Allow the last 10-15 minutes of class for students to perform, and then declare the contemporary performance (media edition) winner!



Wrap-up (1 minute):

Thank you so much for your hard work today, and keep thinking about how we can apply these performance practices into our everyday work!