Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Exercise: Create a World

This short video shows a musician creating a hip hop beat out of a giant piece of paper and some scissors. That’s it. If you just listened to the music, you’d have no idea what was making the sound. He is creating a world (in this case a piece of music) and we’re along for the ride.

Students often get hung up on the notion that in the theatre, sets, costumes, props all have to meet the standard of the movies. They have to be three dimensional and real. A car must have four wheels and move. A house must have two levels and different rooms. The truth is actually quite different – a theatre audience is very forgiving. If you let them know what world the play inhabits (two people sitting side by side on cubes, one holds their hands up as if holding a steering wheel) they will believe. They will go along for the ride. A single object can be so many different things – a chair can be a chair, or a car, or a mountain. The possibilities are endless.

Try this exercise to encourage students to create worlds on stage with little to no movie realism:

  • Divide the class into groups. Each group is going to stage a location.
  • Privately, give each group their location. Some possible locations are: jail, haunted house, emergency room, amusement park ride, library, underwater, war zone, family room, tanning salon.
  • Each group must stage their location using only the following pieces: two cubes, one chair, a garbage can, and a music stand. (Change the pieces to whatever you have available. Keep it to five, and keep them simple.)
  • The groups do not have to use all five pieces, but they can’t add anything.
  • The groups can move and can talk in their location, but they can’t give away the location – “This haunted house is really scary.”
  • Each group performs their location in front of the class. The others have to try and guess the location based on what they see.
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