This rehearsal exercise takes its name from one of my favourite improv games, Scenes from a Bag. If your actors are feeling a bit shaky or uncertain with their lines during the rehearsal process, try one of these three simple rehearsal exercises. The basic premise of each variation is drawing a slip of paper out of a hat and starting a scene using the prompt that’s on the slip. This keeps your student actors on their toes because they don’t know what will be drawn from the bag! You’ll need some small slips of paper, a writing tool, a bag to draw the slips of paper out of, and a copy of the script for reference.
1. Write each actor’s name on a small slip of paper and put the slips in a bag. Draw a name. That student will say any line they have in the play — any act, any scene. The next student must say their line, then the next, and so on to continue the scene. When you get to the end of the scene or the beginning of a song (if you’re rehearsing a musical), draw a new name and start again.
2. Select some random lines from the script. Write the lines on small slips of paper, but don’t write the character name. Put the slips in a bag and then draw one at random. Start and continue the scene. For a bigger challenge, only put the first few words of the line on the slip of paper and have the student recite the rest of the line. (You may want to write the act, scene, and character name in small letters on the edge of the slip in case you don’t think you’ll know who is supposed to start the line — just don’t share it with the students unless they get really stuck.)
3. Write a selection of numbers on small slips of paper that correspond with the number of pages in the script. Then draw a number out of the bag and turn to that page in the script. Have a student choose a second number between 1 and 10 to determine the starting line. Count down the page to the selected line number — for example, if the number is 4, count down four lines from the top of the page. (If there are fewer lines than the selected number — like if the line is at the end of a scene — choose the closest applicable line.) Say the line aloud, but don’t include any vocal intonations or the character’s name that says the line. Students must continue the scene.
If your students enjoy some friendly competition, divide them into two teams. Students who say their lines correctly and in the correct order earn points for their team — one point per correct line. The team with the most points at the end of the session wins. To make it extra challenging, if a student forgets their line or needs to be prompted to say their line, they lose a point for their team.
This exercise is a good way to see for yourself how your students are doing with their line memorization work. After the exercise, you may wish to check in with your students and see how they’re feeling. Some students might be feeling anxious or unprepared. Ask them, “What is the next step? What action can you take today to help make you feel more confident for the next rehearsal?” You can share 9 techniques to help students memorize their lines to help them out. Then, re-visit the Lines from a Bag exercise at a later rehearsal to see how far they’ve come with their memorization work.
by Lindsay Price, by Kerry Hishon
The Drama Classroom Companion is filled with articles and exercises to build the skills needed for theatrical performance as well as real world skills like creative thinking, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.