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Music: An Element of a Well-made Play


Students will demonstrate an understanding of the role music plays in theatre by creating a tableau inspired by a specific sound clip.


Materials Needed

  • Student's personal CD

NOTE: In preparation for this lesson, have each student select the song they think best describes their life and burn it onto a CD to be brought to class (provide each student with a blank CD if possible). The students MUST NOT write ANYTHING on the CD, nor share their selection with classmates.  It’s a secret!  Simply burn the one song onto the CD.  Or have them send an electronic music file to the teacher.

  • Way to play songs
  • An array of sound effect clips


Lesson Directions


  • Have each student take out a piece of paper
  • Play several different sound effects and have students guess what the sound is and where it could be used in a play production (i.e. thunder clap could establish that a storm is brewing; door slam could signify someone upset and leaving the room in an emotional state)
  • Play them back again while having some students share their responses to the sounds.


  • Have each student take out a piece of paper
  • Play a clip from each song brought in by the students
  • Have the students write a small 2-4 line description of what they think the person who brought that song in is like (nothing negative or derogatory, simply a personality description)


  • Once you’ve gone through all the songs, share. Have one or two students share their thoughts about each song and the one who brought it in
  • After going through them all, have each song be matched with its owner and compare the students’ impression to the reality.
  • What does this teach us about music in performance? (It can reveal character, setting, plot sometimes, mood, etc)


  • Aristotle mentioned music in the Poetics because each Greek tragedy involved a great deal of singing and dancing from a chorus
  • Today we have the modern day musicals where singing is the main way it conveys character and plot
  • What other ways is music used OUTSIDE of a musical? (DESIRED POTENTIAL ANSWERS:  pre-show/post-show; in between scenes; underscoring or short clips during important moments like in movies, etc)


  • Break into groups of four or five
  • Play a sound clip of a certain type of music for each group, giving them time to create a series of 4-5 tableaux that fit the music or that show a situation that applies to the style of the music, etc.

o   Suggested music clips “Beethoven’s 9th Symphony”, “Happy Little Working Song” from Disney’s “Enchanted”, “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC, “Variations on a Familiar Theme” by Mozart, “Screaming Infidelities” by “Dashboard Confessional”, anything from “Jock Jams”, or any other varied selection of music


  • Have each group perform their tableaux to the music. After each group presents, discuss with the class how the visual pictures and the aural sound matched up (or didn’t match up). Encourage students to delve into how music can be effective in raising the storytelling value of a visual image.

o   How effective was the music in revealing character, setting, plot, mood?

o   What worked? How could it be improved?

  • Reemphasize the importance of music and how powerful it can be in enhancing a performance.



Sound Effect and Song Response – 20 points: 5 points for bringing in a song, 5 points for the sound effects “quiz”, 10 points for the song responses

Tableau Activity - 10 pts