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Strange couples: creating new relationships

For the next exercise, students will begin by individually creating and analyzing a new character (or analyzing an existing character). Then, together with a partner, they will come up with a scenario in which the two characters would meet and form a kind of relationship.

From there, you can take the work in a variety of directions. You can use it to create new characters to write theater or to work on stage. For example, if you do The superhero series with your students, you can use it as a character analysis exercise (how do characters behave when confronted with another character?); you can use it if you feel stuck in a rehearsal route and want to mix things up (get students to analyze their characters and interact with a character they don’t normally interact with); or you can use it as a standalone exercise.


1. Start by asking students to complete 20 questions about the character’s profile exercise to create a new character.

Alternatively, brainstorm a list of existing characters (Batman, Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, The Big Bad Wolf, Luke Skywalker, Dorothy Gale, Lisa Simpson) and ask students to analyze them using the same questions. You can either assign a character to each student or allow each student to select a character to analyze. Each student should have a different character.

If you are doing a class production and you want to challenge your actors, ask the students to complete this exercise by analyzing the characters they play.

2. Associate students by drawing names from a hat.

3. Ask your partners to compare their characters and create a list of scenarios (target at least five) in which these two characters would have some kind of relationship.

The nature of the relationship depends on the students. Often, when we say “relationship”, students immediately think of a romantic relationship. That should not be the case. Here, a relationship simply means “in a relationship with each other” or how the two characters are connected. Here are some ideas on how the characters might relate:

  • The characters discover that they are long lost brothers.
  • One character helps the other to do or fix something.
  • The characters are pen pals.
  • One character teaches the other something.
  • One character is the boss of the other.
  • One of the characters causes the other to have an accident.
  • The characters are study partners at school.
  • The characters disagree, but find that they have something in common.
  • The characters work together to accomplish a common goal (find treasures, pitch a tent, win a basketball tournament).
  • One character entertains the other.

4. From the list of scenarios that your partners came up with, have them choose the one they like the most or find the most interesting. They will use this to make a one-minute impromptu scene in which the characters meet and form a relationship or as a playwriting exercise in which students write a one-page scene in which the characters meet and form a relationship. (If your students are overwhelmed, so are they location requests and outdoor requests could give them some ideas about where their characters might meet.)

Because there is a one minute / page limit, students need to get to the heart of the matter right away and be very clear.

5. If time allows, ask the class to either watch the impromptu performances or listen to a reading of the written scenes.

6. Afterwards, discuss relationships as a class:

  • What was the relationship between the two characters?
  • Was the relationship clear?
  • Has it settled down quickly?
  • Did it make sense (even if it was stupid)? Why or why not?
  • What worked well on stage? What went wrong?

7. Students will complete and submit individual reflections (found below).

Click here for a free reflection

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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