Exercise: Mimed Relationships

Clear relationships onstage make characters’ interactions that much more interesting and engaging for the audience. The audience needs to know immediately how one character relates to another. No matter what the relationship is, whether the characters like or dislike each other, or whether the interaction onstage is positive or negative, students must work together to make strong choices on the stage.

The following exercise challenges students to do just that: perform a short scene featuring two characters who are connected in some way. But the wrinkle is… the scene must be performed without words!


1. Divide students into pairs.

2. Give each pair a relationship for their characters, using these relationship prompts. You can have pairs draw slips out of a hat, or assign each pair a relationship.

3. Give students five minutes to prepare a short (30 seconds to a minute) mimed scene that demonstrates the relationship. It’s up to the students to determine what’s going on in the scene, and how they can clearly demonstrate the relationship. 

For example, if the prompt is a toddler and a daycare teacher, perhaps the students will have the daycare teacher do a counting lesson, or help the toddler put on their winter coat. They also need to consider how they will make clear choices. How would they differentiate the toddler/daycare teacher relationship from a toddler at home with their parent?

4. Remember: with mimed performances, there is no speaking. All actions and facial expressions must be communicated without words. Encourage students to use large gestures and lots of facial expressions. Make the movements exaggerated. For this exercise, bigger is better!

Decide if you want to allow students to use sounds. If you wish, allow them to select a piece of background music.

5. After the preparation time is up, have each pair perform their mimed scene for the rest of the class.

6. After each pair performs, discuss: 

    • Is the relationship clear? How can you tell? What evidence onstage indicated that? 
    • What worked well? What didn’t work?
    • How might students show the relationship between the two characters in another way? 

Rehearsal Exercise: If you are working on a class or school production, have your actors try this exercise as an acting challenge. Have students perform their scenes without speaking their lines — only gestures and facial expressions allowed. Are their movements enough to tell the story?

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