Improv Day

Lesson 7-Improv Day

Learning Objective- Students will demonstrate knowledge of the conventions of Commedia performing by outlining a 2 minute improvised scene using dialogue.


CONTENT STANDARD 1: Script writing by improvising, writing, and refining scripts based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history.

  • Achievement Standard: construct imaginative scripts and collaborate with actors to refine scripts so that story and meaning are conveyed to an audience.

CONTENT STANDARD 2: Acting by developing, communicating, and sustaining characters in improvisations and informal or formal productions.

CONTENT STANDARD 5: Researching by evaluating and synthesizing cultural and historical information to support artistic choices.

  • Achievement Standard: identify and research cultural, historical, and symbolic clues in dramatic texts and evaluate the validity and practicality of the information to assist in making artistic choices for informal and formal productions.


Materials Needed-Copies of Tartuffe, Copies of Character Sheets, Outline of a Scenario



Welcome. Give the students 3 minutes to show their masks they have painted and decorated to their classmates.


Step One- Discussion

Recap. Last week we made masks but the class before that we read a section from Tartuffe. Ask the class, What did you like about the play? What were your overall observations?


Step Two-Partner Discussion

Turn to a person near you and discuss, “What different types of stock characters did you see present in the section that we read as a class”?


Tartuffe- Villian

Organ- Fool

Madame Pernelle- Fool

Dorine- Smart Servant

Cleante- Reasonable Man

Elmire- Reasonable Women


Step Three-Transition

Review with the class—Commedia originated as performances that happened in the courts or town squares. Actors were assigned to troupes for their whole career and played the same character the entire time. Ask the class, how much of the lines do you think were actually improvised? That is a part of history that historians debate over. They had lines they drew from to use in situations but they didn’t necessarily know what situation was coming. Thus the debate if it is true improvisation. 


Step Four- Instruction

Ask for five volunteers. Split them into two groups—one of three and another of two. Give each of them a basic outline of events that happen within a story. (Example-visiting the dentist, job interview, firing someone, getting a signature) Then have them improve the story using dialogue in front of the class.


Step Five-Performance

Have the two groups perform the improvised scenes.


Step Six-Discussion

Ask the actors what was challenging about this? What worked well? How was it working with one another? What does this exercise tell us about the skill of the actors that performed in these companies?


Step Six- Instruction

Have the class come up to the front of the class and write their names under the type of stock character they shaped their mask after. Divide the class up into companies taking a few from each character (5-6 people each). Introduce yourself to one another this is the group of actors you will be working with for the rest of your life.   You will create and practice a 2 minute outlined scenarios that will be performed in front of the class. Do not write dialogue.


Step Seven- Practice

Give the students the rest of the class time to develop their outline for their scenario. Discuss each of the characters they will be playing and how they interact with the other people in the scene.


Step Eight- Instruction

Over a period of time scenarios were refined and passed down from one troupe to another. More than 1000 were preserved. Each troupe had their own stock characters. They all drew upon the basics but individualized them to make their troupes characters stand out from the neighboring troupe. Tell the students when they are creating their characters they can take the time to individualize the character to themselves and the company as a whole. In the 1600’s Commedia Dell’ Arte started to decline and the Neoclassical period started to inspire comedy more.


ASSESSMENT: Students will write an outline of their scenario