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Basic Acting: The Five Ws

Context for this Lesson

Teaching Strategies: 

 Focus Questions: Today we are going to be a traveling acting troupe. What makes a good acting troupe? What makes a good actor? What is an actor’s job?

Basic acting - Students will leave with a basic understanding of how to incorporate who, what, why, where and when through various exercises. This will allow them have a basic understanding of how to set up and accomplish acting objectives.


Creating an Acting Troupe

Today we are going to be a troupe of actors who perform together. What makes a group work well together? (Listening, working as a team, supporting each other, not judging) What makes a group not work well together? (Not listening, being distracting, always trying to be the center of attention, yelling, talking when someone else is talking) There should be a short discussion of basic respect among the group covering the rules.

Guide them into coming up with the following five rules and write them on the chalkboard. Now that we have decided our five rules for the acting troupe, I’m going to count to five and after each number; you say the rule for that number:
1. No physical hurting

2. No hurting one another’s feeling – always support!

3. No judging of each other’s ideas

4. When speaking, talk clearly and project.

5. Respect one another - we are a team

 Name Ball OK – working as a team, you are going to throw an imaginary ball to another person and say their name as you throw it. Throw the ball to someone who hasn’t had it until it comes back to me. You must remember who threw it to you and who you throw it to because this will not change. We are trying to establish a pattern. If we focus, we will get into a rhythm as a group. I will know you are ready to begin when you are still with eyes on me. Begin the exercise until a rhythm is evident, then add an imaginary second ball a few seconds later following the same pattern.


TRANSITION: Great! We really worked together as an ensemble of actors and created a rhythm. Now, what do you think makes a good actor? What is an actor’s job? (A good actor creates an interesting character and their job is to help tell a story) Has anyone heard me talk about the five Ws? What do you think the five Ws could be? (Who, Where, What, Why, When) In order for an actor to create an interesting character, they have to be able to answer the five Ws. They need to know who they are, where they are in the world, what they are doing there, why they are doing what they are doing and when they are doing it. Today we are going to concentrate on three of them: Who, Where and What

ACTIVITY ONE: Who Exercise – connecting a “who” to a task We will start with a “Who” game. Find a space in the playing area to be. I am going to call out several tasks and ask you to perform them. OK, hammer a nail – concentrate on the details – feel the weight of the hammer in your hand – is it almost too heavy or is it a smaller hammer? What are you hammering? A really big nail or a teeny tiny one? Great! Now, who would perform this kind of task? (They answer: a construction worker, a person who builds houses, etc.) Call out a few more tasks asking them to be extremely detailed and then asking who would do these tasks: Sewing a dress, typing at a computer, practicing the piano, cooking food, painting a picture. Do you see how when you do your tasks very very clearly, you create a “who” or a character? Good work!

TRANSITION: Now speaking of details, let’s move on to a “where” game and eventually we are going to put who, where and what all together! You all just performed physical tasks in a detailed way to come up with a “who”, I now want you to be just as detailed in creating a “where.” OK, sit where you are just for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a place, but don’t say it out loud – concentrate very hard on the details of the place and don’t talk to your neighbor or out loud – just think about it in your mind. It could be your favorite place, a place you want to go, a place you are scared of: Is it light or dark? Are you up high or down low? What is the temperature? What do you smell? What do you hear? Is there anything you can taste around you? Is the air humid or dry? Are you outside or indoors? Can you feel a breeze? Can you hear a noise? Is it background noise or really loud? Are there other people there or are you alone? Can you hear music? Is anyone talking? Do you like being in this place? Do you hate it? Are there objects in the space? Are you walking in the space or sitting? Good – I hope your imaginations are working!

ACTIVTY TWO: Acting in “Where” or Environments I am going to assign you a place that only you and I know. You will start the scene doing an activity in the place and will get to be in that place for a full minute – I will use this stopwatch to actually time the minute. After a minute is up, when someone else thinks they know where the person is, quietly raise your hand and I will tap you on the head to let you know that you can enter the scene. I will only let a maximum of four people be in the scene. You can ONLY enter if you are quiet and I give you permission – you may not just jump in. When there are four people acting in the scene, don’t be upset that you are not in it – you’ll get another chance. I ask that you be a very supportive audience member and be attentive to your classmates. Assign the “Where’s”: In a supermarket In a hospital In a library At a carnival In a restaurant At a football game In a museum In the woods At a farm At a music concert In a jail In a courtroom In a garden In a zoo At a salon or barber shop The group sits facing as large an open space as possible. A volunteer enters the space and begins doing an activity that would take place in a specific location. For instance, he/she begins to wait on a table, and those watching realize the space is a restaurant. They cannot mouth words. They are focusing on an activity or a series of activities and making that action real. As soon as someone knows where the activity is taking place, they enter the space and begin doing another activity that could also take place in that location. People keep entering the space until, ideally, everyone is in the space by the end of the round. There is no talking and no interacting with each other. Everyone is silently focused on the physical world and activity they are creating in that same space. After a short period of time, let everyone guess the “where”.

TRANSITION: That was great! We are really getting good at building characters for our acting troupe. So we have covered Who and Where. Now we are going to do a “What” game.

ACTIVITY THREE: Freeze! What an actor is doing is very important. What we are doing as actors has to be very clear and not fake. What do I mean by fake? (Not fully committing, trying to “entertain” an audience instead of concentrating on the “what”) OK, for this game, I want half of you to go into the playing area and just start moving around any which way (but be aware of one another so you don’t hurt anyone!) You can be random and silly or as weird as you want. At any moment I will call out Freeze! You MUST stop at that very moment and I will call out whoever’s name and ask you what you are doing. It must make sense with the position you are in. You will have to use your imaginations and think quickly. I may ask you other questions too. Just be very aware of what you are doing and commit to your action. Let the first group experience the activity and help them along as needed. When they all have had sufficient time, let the groups switch.

TRANSITION: You all have done amazing work today and really used your imaginations to create interesting situations. Let’s do one final group activity.

CLOSING: Counting as a group The group sits in a circle and closes their eyes. The facilitator calls out “one” and the group builds from there. No one can say a number in a row. If two people say a number at once, the group must start over from “one”. Give the students a few times to beat their highest number.


Describe: What activities did we do today? Who can list the five Ws?

Analyze: Why did we do each of the activities we just listed? How did they help with understanding Who, Where and What?

Relate: What skills did the activities highlight that might help in your life situations?