Skip to main content

Character Improv

Lesson 7 - Character Improv

Objective: Students will demonstrate their ability to perform with a specific character in improvisation by performing a partner scene.

Essential Question:

  • How can specific choices enhance a scene?
  • Why is character important to acting?
  • How does a specific character help you make choices as an actor?


  • Open Space

Hook: Freeze (5 minutes)

  • Two students are told to create a scene, with specific circumstances and clear conflict
  • When the characters are in an interesting position, one student yells “freeze!” The two performers do so. The student who yelled freeze then taps one of the performers on the shoulder and takes their place, assuming the position they froze in. 
  • The instructor yells, “Go!” and a completely new scene with new characters and plot begins, based off of the frozen position that the actors started in.


  • What are the 5 rules of Improv that we have been learning about?
    • Establish a specific situation, conflict, listening, plan less, yes and
  • What rules are easier? Which are more difficult?

Activity: Create-a-Character (adapted from a lesson taught by Reese Purser at BYU)

The purpose of this activity is to focus on creating specific characters. 

  • Students are divided into groups of 4-5 people. Each group sits in a circle together. They are told to create a character. Students are not given time to prepare. They are expected to create on the spot! Go around the circle, giving each person in the group one minute to introduce their character (this can be: where they’re from, what they do for a living, facts about their family, their likes, dislikes, etc.). Model this for them before beginning. You should have a timer so that students know when to stop.
  • Go around the circle again, talking about an object that is important to their character (30 seconds).
  • After everyone has introduced their characters, go around the circle again, with the character talking about someone they hate. (30 seconds)
  • Around the circle again, only this time they have to talk about a person that they love (30 seconds)
  • One more time around the circle, stating what they want from the person they love or hate (30 seconds). Remind students that there are no right or wrong answers here--it’s all completely made up and whatever you want to be. 
  • Break out of groups. Tell everyone to take a break as their character (go get water, etc.).
  • Have everyone walk around the room as their character would, paying attention to facial expressions, how they carry themselves, how they feel, etc. (do not interact with other players at this time).
  • Tell the students to continue walking, tell students to get into pairs and create 30-second scenes as their characters. Remind them that this is low-stakes, and the only thing they can do wrong is not fully commit to their character. 
    • Repeat this a few times allowing students to find new partners


  • Ask students to find one last partner. This time, instruct students to decide on a Where and what their objectives are. Students maintain the character they created during the previous activity.
  • Each partnership will perform a 1-minute improvisation scene for the class.
    • The audience needs to watch the scenes critically and be prepared to share their observations.
      • Each student should prepare 3 pieces of feedback following the structure: “I liked,” “I noticed,” “I wondered.”
      • After each performance, ask the audience for observations
  • Final Discussion
    • How clear were the scenes after you had created specific characters?
    • How did the characters help inform choices?
    • Why is it beneficial to create specific characters in improvisation?