The following exercise challenges students to explore character movement by focusing on movement speed. This exercise is mental and physical – students will think of a list of fast-moving characters and a list of slow-moving characters. Then the students will stand up as a group and play the different characters.
1. In small groups, students will write a list of characters who move slowly, for example an elderly person, a baby who is just learning to walk, a person with leg or foot injuries, a snail or a turtle . Each group must come up with at least 10 ideas.
2. Next, students will brainstorm a list of fast-moving characters, for example, an Olympic sprinter, a horror movie victim pursued by a villain, a cheetah, a busy personal assistant, or a superhero with super speed. Again, come up with at least 10 ideas per group.
3. Collect all the lists of ideas.
4. Have students stand in the middle of the play space. Using the analyzed character lists, the teacher will call one of the fast or slow characters. Students will move around the room as that character, using different postures, gestures and facial expressions to enhance their characters.
Encourage students to really work at different speeds – make slow characters very slow and fast characters very fast. With fast characters, students need to make sure they are aware of their surroundings (not bumping into each other) and that their movements are clear enough for an audience member to understand what they are doing.
5. Repeat with at least three fast characters and three slow characters.
6. Now we make some changes. This requires quick thinking on the part of the teacher. Call on a fast or slow character, and at some point, while the students are moving around the room as the character, add a prompt that makes a fast character move slowly or a slow character move fast. For example, an elderly person trying to catch a bus, a sprinter with an ankle injury, a cheetah chasing newly discovered prey, or a snail on a skateboard. How does this affect how students portray the character?
7. For an extra challenge, have students try to move in and out of the play space in character or do a mini-scene change by moving an item such as a rehearsal box, chair or bench in time what are in the character.
8. At the end of class, have students answer the exit question (found below in the giveaway).
Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.
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