Creative Drama For The Classroom: Line Games

classroom

Pocket Lines: Pulled it Right Out of Their… Pocket

The first lines acting game requires a great deal of preparation from the teacher beforehand. As the teacher, you must compile a variety of numerous different brief lines that might be said by someone. Examples could be: “Who are you calling shrimp?” “Who are you trying to impress?” “You stick your tongue in a burrito and suddenly everyone thinks you’re nuts…” I base it off of a lot of inside jokes my class and I have together. The point is to be particularly random and a bit silly. You should prepare anywhere from three to five lines per student (I generally use three for my younger students, five for older), and then add two or three times that number because they may want to play the game over and over again!

Whose Line Is It, Anyway?

Next, without looking, give each student their lines (again, three to five should do, depending on age and/or reading level– but be fair and give each student the same number of lines, of course)! Make sure your students do not peek at their lines, but instead that they put them straight into their pockets or hold onto them.

You may have the other students suggest a place, characters and character relationship, and perhaps a problem or conflict. Remind your students what the character’s goal of the scene is, and how they can try to overcome the conflict.
The students will do the scene. With younger students, it may help to clap and then say the student’s name to pull the line out of their pocket. If the student is older, they may be able to figure out the timing on their own.

Wrap It Up

That’s it! The students will have fun being thrown off by the lines, working to incorporate them into their scene, and still pursuing their original objectives. This is one of the games my students always request, and for months after we play it they will still be quoting the funny things they say during the scenes. The game definitely helps them start to get comfortable with thinking on their toes while having a blast in class.

Repeated Lines

This activity does not involve as much preparation as the one before, but still takes a little bit of time. Again, you must prepare some lines and responses to those lines beforehand. However, you will not need as many lines, as each student only gets one. Here are some I have had success with:

• “Help me” and “I can’t.”
• “I’m sorry” and “It’s all your fault.”
• “Stop it” and “Make me.”
• “What are you doing?” and “What does it look like?”
• “It’s time to go” and “Not yet”
• “I need you” and “Just a minute.”
(Modified from CreativeDrama.com)

Repeat Yourself, Repeat Yourself, Repeat Yourself…

Select two students to perform the lines in the first bullet above. Assign each student a line; for instance, Student A may say “Help me,” and Student B may say “I can’t.” Have your students just say the lines back and forth to one another. They may try to add some feeling to it, but without an understanding of a situation and environment, their attempt is not likely to be entirely successful . Any emotion that may be built when performing the lines is likely come from their nervousness associated with performing, frustration in understanding the activity, or ambition to do well. This is all normal. Just let it happen. The repetition is a lovely thing. It will also help get them comfortable as you add on.

Let them repeat for a while and then find a good place to politely stop them. Next, allow your students (or help them) to create a scenario, preferably something realistic or relatable. Let them take off with it!

Notes You May Find Yourself Giving:

• Find an arc (do not start off with too much intensity, because then there is nowhere to go). Lead the journey!
• If something your character is doing does not work, try a different tactic, keeping the objective in mind. This sort of feedback can be modified depending on the age group you are working with. You could substitute for the word “objective” by saying “What does your character want? What might you do to try to get there?” or, “Would you start off that angry?” etc.
Again, the repetition is a good thing. Your students may respond quickly and instinctively, or they may take pauses and wait until they feel compelled to say something– this is all fine as it’s part of the learning process. Let them do the lines several times and play with them. The most creative moments happen when the scene has been going on for a long time, perhaps a bit too long, and the student is running out of “pre-planned” ideas, and is forced to think in the moment as their character.

Analysis and Growth

Talk with your students! What did they discover? What tactics were the most effective in their scene? How will repetition help their acting? Your students may find that the lines can have many different meanings (different subtexts). Also, remind your students that this sort of method is helpful in memorizing lines, as it aids them keep a fresh eye about what they’re saying and helps ensure they won’t get into the habit of saying a lines the same way and getting stuck. This activity certainly helps to encourage a more creative process, and build the potential for a well-rounded young actor!

  • This Author:

    Paul Mroczka

    Paul Mroczka has served Theatre By the Sea as associate director and playwright-in-residence. He has directed for companies including North Country Center for the Arts, Pontine Movement Theatre, The Theatre of Newburyport and the Palace Theatre. A former National Endowment for the Arts fellow in playwriting, he has also garnered a Shubert Fellowship, the Jason Miller Award and has received grants from the New Hampshire Council for the Humanities. His plays have been performed at New York’s La MaMa La Galleria, Nat Horne Theatre, and Manhattan Punchline Theatre, among others. His interactive planetarium show, Pathfinders, is running at the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium in Concord, NH. Recent directorial assignments include Good People, Steel Magnolias, and The Complete World of Sports (Abridged) at The Barnstormers Playhouse in New Hampshire, and Rumors, Orpheus in the Underworld, and The Glass Menagerie at PSU. This summer Paul finished an initial draft of his new play, Smart Money ... Read Full
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