Movement: Generating Character Driven Blocking & Business

Day 5, Movement: Generating Character Driven Blocking & Business

(Portions of this lesson adapted from “Making Shakespeare Active” by Shawnda Moss, BYU THED Database)


Lesson Objective: Students will discover character driven movement for their scenes by choosing one prop they will implement into their scenes, creating a basic floor plan of their scene’s set, and writing out blocking for the scene.


Materials Needed: Students will need paper and writing utensils



Have some students who feel confident in their piece/memorization of at least a chunk of their scene come up and perform.  Put each of them in a pose. Explain that they will do a chunk of their scene, but they have to hold this pose and can’t move out of it.




Call up a scene group and have them sit knee-to-knee facing each other – their kneecaps should be touching and they should be looking straight into each other’s eyes.  Have them “perform” their scene without moving their knees and without looking away from the other’s eyes.



Talk with the performers about the situation you thrust them into. 

  • How difficult was it to act without moving?  Why?
  • What could have made the whole activity easier and more natural? 


Talk with the student audience about what they just experienced

  • What did you just observe?
  • What if you saw the opposite? Instead of not moving at all, they moved on every single line—were always moving? What effect would that have on the scene?
  • What ideas or suggestions do you have for natural blocking movement in the scene?  (What have students done in the past for performances to create natural, interesting blocking?)


Extension to the Hook: (if time permits, use this activity to help all students in the class have the kinesthetic experience of working with restricted/unmotivated blocking). Have students quickly get with their scene partners.  Have each start their scene either in a knee-to-knee position, or in a frozen pose that they can’t break out of. (students will likely struggle with this quite a bit) Let this go on for a minute or so.


Have students start their scene again, but this time allow them to move as the impulse strikes them.  They can use the suggestions offered earlier by other students or follow their own ideas as they go.  After the second performance, discuss with the class the difference between the two performances. 


Whole Class:

  • What kind of blocking/movement is most interesting to watch? (Motivated, character driven, objective driven, life like, natural, etc…)
  • What ideas or suggestions do they have for natural blocking movement in the scene?  (What have students done in the past for performances to create natural blocking?)
  • How important is natural, motivated blocking to a performance? 




Encourage the students to thrust themselves out of their comfort zone in order to have creative, motivated blocking. 


Encourage students to really explore different ideas in business and blocking because it is seldom their first idea or impulse that is the best idea; more often it is their five or sixth idea that really works the best for the scene. 



What sort of logistical things do the actors need to know in order to create blocking?

  • (Need to know WHERE the scene takes place. WHAT kind of room/space it is & what objects are in it.)
  • WHY are these things important?
    • Knowing your space and setting allows you to also come up with “business” for the scene that can be natural and motivated as well. 


Ask students to define the difference between business and blocking.

  • (Business=smaller life like actions character does ex-reading newspaper, clipping toe nails, eating snack, doing hair…Blocking=the big movements, getting up, moving to SL, sitting in chair, etc…)


Ask students: How can props and business be utilized in a scene and what can they convey about a character or situation? 


Ex—Patrick Stewart Macbeth production, murderer scene. In many productions, this scene is set in a chamber room. In this modernized production, the scene is set in a kitchen. While talking with two hired murderers, giving them instruction to kill his best friend, Banquo, and his son, Macbeth pulls out a loaf of bread, knife, meat, and pickles, and makes himself a sandwich. Woooh.

  • What version of this scene would you rather watch? One where the characters just sit around talking at a table? Or this production–where king, calmly makes sandwich while plotting another murder?


Explain that theatre is ordinary events made extra ordinary. Character driven business–like blocking—makes characters lifelike and the scene overall so much more engaging to watch.


Partner Application Work

Assign students to brainstorm for a couple minutes, and for each partner to identify at least one prop for their performance and discover different ways to utilize that prop as business. Have them write it down on their script—what they’ll use and how.


Assign the students 10 minutes to draw out the floor plan of their scene’s setting. Doesn’t have to be gorgeous or to-scale. It should clearly define where you’re at and include anything that you’ll use throughout your scene. Students should label any furniture props they may be using. This is a tool to help you create the business and blocking of the scene. 


When time is up, students another 10-15 mins to coordinate their blocking around those pieces.  They should explore many different ways to block the piece following their impulses until they find the best movement for each particular moment. This means going through the scene—on their feet! (If needed, remind students to write the blocking the decide on in their scripts—that way they can remember it in future rehearsals)


Float around the classroom and give ideas and encouragement to the students as they work on their scenes.


If there is time, could have a few students do their scene/share their blocking for the class. Analyze it together, look at what really works to help tell the story and identify what movement might be confusing/distracting


Wrap Up:

Explain that next time, we’ll be doing a memorization check and some partner preview work.  Make sure you are memorized. Also if you have a portable speaker that you could bring, that would be much appreciated since we’ll be breaking into groups.


ASSESSMENT: Students can be assessed on their floor plan and blocking creation during rehearsal time.