Playwriting and Adaptation

LESSON 1: Playwriting and Adaptation


LESSON OBJECTIVE: Students will demonstrate their ability to effectively adapt and write for the stage by writing a scene for a stage version of a given fairytale.


MATERIALS NEEDED: Fairytale storybook, stage direction examples, white board and markers, short scripts with a lot of filler dialogue (one per student) (not included), stage direction examples (not included), computer access with projector screen and appropriate connection cables, list of fairytales, scene rubrics, white board and markers

1 – Playwriting and Adaptation Rubric


HOOK: Have students sit on the floor. Read them a short fairytale, such as Sleeping Beauty. After reading the book, show clips of a film versions of the story.


Step 1

DISCUSSION: Ask questions such as: How were the two versions of the fairytale similar? How were they different? What elements were added to or taken away from the story to make it effective for the screen? What could a playwright do differently to adapt it for the stage? What could a director do differently?


Step 2

TRANSITION: Explain that the students will individually select a fairytale to be performed at the end of the unit (the example used in class will be off limits). Each student will be adapting and directing his or her own scene from that chosen fairy tale and acting in someone else’s.


Step 3

INSTRUCTION: Have students write in a word cloud on half of the white board: What makes a story interesting? Answers may include plot, action, characters, tension, etc. On the other half of the white board, have them write down how these things could be brought to life in a stage production. Answers may include dialogue, sets, costumes, acting, choreography/blocking, etc.


Refer back to the film version of the story at the beginning of class, asking students to comment on moments in which some of these things may have been incorporated. Highlight the action portion of the storytelling. Remind them that “actions speak louder than words” and that often the most important parts of a story occur when no character is speaking. Pass out or project a short scene with examples of stage direction so that they can see the writing format and style of both dialogue and stage direction.


Step 4

DISCUSSION: Ask questions such as: How can you avoid writing a story that has too many unnecessary moments? Answers may include not including too much in one scene, telling the story through stage direction, etc. How can you make your storytelling most effective? Answers may include characterization, theming or moral, relating to the audience or receiving their sympathy or admiration, etc.


Step 5

CHECKING FOR UNDERSTANDING: Give the students a short script full of a lot of repetitive or pointless dialogue. Give them a time limit in which they will edit the script, taking out much of the pointless dialogue, adding to or subtracting from stage direction, etc. Make it a competition to see who can edit the scene down to the fewest number of lines and still tell the same story. These scenes will be handed in at the end of the exercise.


Step 6

MODEL: Have the students pull out a sheet of paper and write down sections of the fairytale from the beginning of class that could be separated into different scenes. Draw a plot diagram on the white board.


Invite a student to tell you one of the scenes that they wrote down, title it, and write it on the white board.


Ask the students which moment of the scene could be the climax of the action or story in that scene. Next, ask the students what smaller moments within the scene lead up to the climax as well as what leads out of that moment to the next part of the story.


Ask the students which characters would definitely be involved in the scene, followed by which characters might or could be involved.


Finally, ask the students what the audience could learn from the scene, ie a moral of the story that could be vaguely brought out in the dialogue. Have students write down on a sheet of paper the information that they need/want to write their own version of the scene.


Step 7

INDIVIDUAL PRACTICE: Have students write a short script for the scene written on the white board, following the same format that was used in the handout scene and including stage direction.


Step 8

GROUP PRACTICE: Have the students swap scripts with a partner, editing or providing written feedback on each other’s script. Have the students swap scenes and provide feedback again with another person. Students will keep their own scene for personal reference.


Step 9

TRANSITION: Ask questions such as: As a director, what can you do to help the audience to understand a production and its themes? Answers may include concept, helping actors to bring out certain themes in the dialogue or action of the scene, stylization, visuals (body language), blocking, etc.


Step 10

DIRECTIONS: Pass out a list of fairytales to the students. The students will choose a fairytale and write a 5-7-minute scene based off of a particular moment in their fairytale as homework. Students will continue to edit this scene throughout the unit on their own. These scenes will be graded on a rubric at the end of the unit.


Step 11

ASSESSMENT: Each student’s edited scene from the in-class competition will checked for comprehension of the lesson topic.