Context for this Lesson
FOCUS QUESTION (what do you want students to think about): What is fame? What defines a celebrity in today’s world? What do you gain and lose by being a celebrity?
Materials: (if any) Paper, pen/pencil, white board/maker
*note TTW stands for the The Teacher Will…
ENGAGE (Activity One): Begin by asking seated participants to respond to the following brainstorm question: When you hear the word “FAMOUS” what do you think of? Write down answers that are given. Prompt participants to think further about: What do famous people do? Which professions (if any) do you associate with celebrity? Are there other reasons why someone might be considered famous in today’s society? Be sure to include broad categories of celebrity (wealth, sports, scientific discovery, entertainers, political figures, etc.). Move students to a seated circle on the floor or around a table if they aren’t there already. Place an object in the center of the circle to represent a microphone.
TRANSITION: I invite you now to take on a character, a famous person. This is not a real person. You can use your own name or a made up name. I invite you to close your eyes and think more about who this person is. How are they dressed? How do they sit in their chair? Begin to form your body into this famous persona. What does your voice sound like? How do you deal with the other folks around you? I’ll know you have become this new person when your eyes are open and you are looking at me. After all participants are in role, TTW takes on a role as a DJ. Thank you. You will all know that I have stepped into role when I put on my sun glasses.
TALK SHOW TTW introduce themselves as a talk show host. Hey there all you sweet people in radio land this is KD the DJ ready to bring you a very special show. I have the straight talk from the world’s most FAMOUS PEOPLE! That’s right they are all here to talk to you sweet people. Let’s begin by letting you know who is in the house. We’ll begin by going around the circle and letting each of our famous people introduce themselves and say WHY they are famous. Each guest is asked to introduce themselves. TTW prompt guest to be specific and offer detail about their lives. The teacher can make connections about what each guest has done, helping to raise the stakes and deepen commitment to character.
- a. After all guests have been introduced TTW ask the full group: What do you enjoy? What’s good about your life? What’s the best part of being famous? TTW encourage as many participants to answer with specific details as possible. She also encourages connections between guests. When conversation has slowed she asks:
- b. What’s hard or difficult about your life? What challenges do you face? What’s the downside of being famous? TTW encourage multiple answers trying to pull in specific ideas from the original brainstorm about fame where appropriate. When all students have offered some details the radio announcer thanks the guests for coming on the show.
Transition: TTW step out of role and narrate the next information. It was indeed a lively discussion at the radio studio. Later, as each celebrity stepped out of the studio and back into their waiting cars and limousines, they each pulled out a photograph from their pocket. This was a picture they always carried, a picture that they had since they were a small child. It’s an important picture, a picture they kept to remind themselves about who they are, where they’ve been, who they want to be, and who they will never be again. Can pause here and discuss with group why someone might keep a photo like this if needed.
Activity Three: A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS (IMAGE WORK) Divide the group evenly into groups of three or four. Explain that each group will stage a picture for each Famous Person. Please consider how a moment from our past might shape the person we become. The Famous Person character gets to decide who is in their picture (the other participants are not their famous people roles but characters in the Famous Person’s life) and place themselves in a prominent position. It may be useful to discuss what makes a strong image (faces forward, strong point of view, levels, etc.) prior to working on images. While they are working, the TTW move between groups helping participants to deepen their commitment and choices. Once groups have completed their images share the images one at a time. Ask the audience to close their eyes so the image will appear completed before them.
When images are shared ask the audience to: Describe what the bodies are doing. What is happening based on the body shapes we see? How are these characters feeling? Why might ___ have kept this photograph? Why else? Why else? (Try to have the final “why” answers to serve as sort of choral poem, offering a ritualized space for the Famous Person to hear suggestions about issues or fears that the FP might be dealing with from their past.) Have all groups share their images in this process.
Transition: Thank you for thoughtful responses. We are moving back to real time. Our Famous People have gotten into their car and have decided to make a decision. There is a major event coming up … a speaking engagement, a gig, a premier, a game, a ceremony that our famous people cannot attend. The talk show, the picture on the pocket, something has happened and the Famous Person has had enough. Each of our characters decides to call their agent/their coach/their manager/their publicist to get out of an upcoming event. The famous people can decide whether or not they want to tell the true reason why they need to get out the event. Take a moment to consider how you will move your character forward. I’ll know you are ready when your eyes are looking at me.
Activity Four: BACK TO BACK PHONE CALLS: a moment of crisis Put participants in pairs. One partner is A and one partner is 1. The A’s play agents/advisors/etc. Remind them that their job is to get their client to their gig. The 1’s play the Famous People character. Remind them that they don’t want to go and they don’t have to tell the truth why. Have partners agree on what event is going to be missed. Then the call can be improvised. All students play in parallel play. Freeze conversations and listen in to some of what is said. After a few minutes, switch roles. Freeze conversations again and listen in.
Transition: The TTW step out of role to narrate what happens next. After the phone calls all the agents were, understandably, upset. Fortunately they had their monthly client meeting and they all rushed off to arrive on time. At the meeting, all the agents spoke out about their challenging phone calls and difficult clients.
Activity Five: AGENT MEETING Ask all participants to stay in role as the agents. They are at a meeting to discuss what has happened. Invite the group to go around and talk about what has happened. TTW encourage detailed choices that raise the stakes and increase the drama. Start the meeting by asking: So I heard you all had a really hard day. Tell me what happened? Allow all participants to share some information about their famous people clients. Offer some small conversation about the difficulty of working with celebrity clients.
Transition: TTW step out of role. Thank you. Meanwhile, the famous people were having such a difficult time. They were reeling from their conversation with their agents. They feared what might come out in the papers. Sometimes when we are anxious about things in our lives, we have nightmares that are hard to forget. What are some things that we know about nightmares? Scary, memorable, disjointed, feeling of falling, etc.
NIGHTMARES: So thinking about all of these things, I’m going to invite you to create a short nightmare in groups of 6. We won’t have a long time to create these dreams, so I would suggest brainstorming things that you want to include in your movement/sounds and then try it out. We will share these with the whole group in about 5 minutes. Break groups into 5-6 people. Visit each group to facilitate discussion and move toward a final sequence of movement/sounds. Share out the nightmares.
Transition: (After all have shared) Thank you. These nightmares continued to happen over the next few weeks until one morning, the Famous People received a letter in the mail. This letter is from a huge fan of the Famous People. The person has been inspired in their own life because of the Famous People. This may be a child who wants to play sports, an aspiring actress auditioning in NYC, or a parent who appreciates the difficult decisions that Famous People have to make.
LETTER FROM A FAN: I’m going to invite you to think about who might be your biggest fan. In a moment you will get the opportunity to write a letter to the Famous People from your biggest fan. As a group we will share out a few phrases from your letter. (During this description, pass out paper and pencil/markers. Play music while writing letters.) Reread your letter. Think about what words or short phrases resonate or jump out at you. In a moment, we will begin sharing just one word or one short phrase from your letter. We don’t need to go in any specific order. You can choose to talk whenever you would like to. And begin.(Share out popcorn style.) We will move forward in time now. It is six months later. On the cover of the celebrity section of the paper a headline offers some final information about what happened to each of our Famous People characters as a result of their personal crisis.
Activity Six: HEADLINES (the conclusion) Give each participant a large piece of paper and marker (Maybe tape up a large butcher paper on the wall and everyone write their headline). Ask them to write a headline for the story which told what happened as a result of the celebrity’s moment of crisis on a large piece of paper. Did they cancel the event? Did the truth about what was happening finally come out? Participants create headlines (and possibly the first paragraph of the article if there is time).
RITUAL: OUR DRAMA OF THE FAMOUS PEOPLE The Teacher reads each of the headlines and participants repeat: ‘This is our drama of the famous people.” TTW conclude the lesson by facilitating a final discussion with the group out of character.
3. REFLECTING ON THE WORK :
Describe: What happened to our Famous People?
Analyze: What surprises did you hear when the articles/headlines were read? Were these realistic stories that we created? If so, why? If not, why?
Relate: Thinking back to our first discussion about Fame at the start of class, is there anything we want to add to our brainstorm about what Fame means? Would you want to be a celebrity? Why or why not?