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Devising Exercise: Playing With Change

Devising: A project that starts with an idea/concept/source material rather than a completed script

The culminating activity for collaboration in the drama classroom is to have your students work on a devising project. It will definitely show you how well your students work together! More on devising in the next blog post, but here’s an exercise to get your students in the right frame of mind.

To devise effectively, students have to not only be able to come up with ideas based on a topic, but to change, develop, and accept feedback on those ideas. The biggest misstep of a devised piece is to set everything in stone too early. Devising is a process and change is a part of that process. How can you get your students used to looking at an idea from as many different angles as possible?

Exercise

  • Start by having three volunteers improvise a scene. Something simple with three characters, a relationship and a location.
  • Afterward, write the scene down as a class. Don’t worry if they don’t get it exactly right. The point of writing it down is to have a frame of reference. It’s not a script to follow.
  • Divide the class into groups. Each group should have a copy of the scene, so everyone starts on the same page: a three character scene with a relationship and a location.
  • Give each group a new directive for the scene. They’re going to completely turn it on it’s head in some way. Some suggestions are
    • Turn the scene into a dance.
    • Present the scene as animals.
    • A tornado is happening during the scene.
    • It’s now the future. They are all robots.
    • It’s the future, they’re all robots and no one can speak english.
    • It’s a movement piece. Every line has to be turned into a gesture.
    • Turn the scene into a song.
    • Turn the scene into an instrumental techno piece.
    • Turn the scene into art.
  • The first reaction is probably going to be “We can’t do this!” Let students have this reaction. But be firm. They have their assignment. The purpose of the assignment is to work with change. Some of the changes will be more successful than others. What you want to see is the effort in the change, not whether or not the change is spectacular.
  • Don’t give students too much time to make their changes. You want them to work and make choices instead of thinking about how their choices will fail.
  • After each group presents their version of the scene, discuss the process. Instead of talking about the final product, talk about the process of being forced to make a change. How did they work in their groups? How did they make choices? Was it frustrating? Were there fights? How did they deal with these issues?
  • You can also turn these questions into a written reflection where students talk about their experience with the exercise.
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Related Articles

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12 Days of Classroom Exercises
Classroom Exercise: Round Robin
Classroom Exercise: Round Robin
Devising Exercises for the Drama Classroom
Devising Exercises for the Drama Classroom

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