The Objects in Space exercise is not about creating a playing space for actors. It is about learning to create an interesting, dynamic space that captures and holds the viewer’s attention.
Directing students are divided into groups of four or five. Each group gets seven objects, five of which are the same and fairly common. Those five might be a chair, a rehearsal block, an exercise mat, an 18-inch long two-by-four and paper plate. The two different objects may be a length of rope, a boot, a highway cone, a dial or push button telephone, an old tire, a kite, a length of chain, an umbrella, etc.
I use this exercise in one of the first weeks of my directing class. This exercise is appropriate for high school and college theatre classes. The exercise, including discussion of the environments created, takes 2 to 2 ½ hours.
Exercise: Objects in Space
This is a group exercise consisting of various steps. You must follow all steps to successfully complete the exercise.
Each group receives the same number of objects. All but two objects in each group are the same.
Goal: As a group to create a dynamic, visually interesting display using all of the objects. You are not creating a set on which people will act. You are not creating something realistic. You are creating a three-dimensional display that utilizes the shape, volume, textures, colors, rigidity, elasticity etc. of the items you’ve received in such as way as to make their combination uniquely aesthetic.
The first two steps are done individually. That is, by each member of the group on their own.
STEP 1: Examine each object. Look, feel, lift, etc., each one. Know each object. Also observe the space into which these objects will be placed. (10-15 minutes)
STEP 2: Draw a diagram and/or picture of how you envision the objects being placed to create the display. Experiment on paper, go back to the objects and take time to question your final (if they are) choices. (about 10-15 minutes)
STEP 3: Each member of the group presents to the group their ideas regarding the display. (10 minutes)
STEP 4: Working together, the group either decides to go with one display or to use various elements of each. Start working together with the actual objects. Once again—experimenting.
STEP 5: Discuss, change, alter, reinvent your display until the group is satisfied with it. What makes this abstract grouping of objects interesting, dramatic, dynamic, lively? How does it work on the viewer’s eye? (STEPS 4, and 5 take about 20-30 minutes)
STEP 6: Present your display. Discussion. (About 40 minutes)
Exercise Contributed by Paul Mroczka
Paul is Director of Educational Resources for BroadwayEducators.com and serves as Director of Theatre at Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH.