If you’ve spent approximately 3.1 seconds on the internet, you’ll have encountered a meme. If you’ve seen or heard of Grumpy Cat, Condescending Wonka, Surprised Pikachu, Woman Yelling at a Cat, or the Ermahgerd Girl, those are all long-standing, well-known memes. New memes pop up every day — at the time of writing, a Google search for “theatre memes” brought up 17.9 million results. Memes have become so prevalent that there’s even a card game series called “What Do You Meme.” (And just in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s pronounced “meem,” not “me-me.”)
Here’s an interesting fact: the word “meme” is a derivative of the word memetics and the Greek word mimema, meaning “imitated.” British biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the word meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as an attempt to explain how ideas replicate, change, and grow. The official dictionary definition of “meme” is “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.” It’s interesting to see how the word’s meaning has evolved!
Most long-standing memes originated on forums such as Reddit, but have since moved to places such as Instagram and TikTok. Your students can undoubtedly introduce you to the current meme trends, as they are always changing. Memes aren’t going anywhere though, so why not harness the power and hilarity of memes and use them for inspiration for drama class activities? Here are 10 ideas for using memes in your drama classroom.
1. Make a collection of favourite drama class / theatre memes and display them on the wall in your classroom. You could also use them to decorate your drama classroom door.
2. When studying a play, have students find memes relating to it. (For example, a Google search for “Romeo and Juliet memes” turns up nearly 2.3 million results.) Analyze where they come from in the play. Do they make sense? How could one alter them to make them funnier or more accurate?
3. Create a meme (or series of memes) using a current meme trend, either related to your classroom or to a play you’re studying. If you have a school social media account, share them!
4. Choose a character from a play or musical. Find five memes that describe or relate to that character. Use these memes to make a character description presentation, either as a video compilation or mood board. Why did your students select the ones they did?
5. Make a tableau scene where students recreate a popular meme onstage.
6. Do the Drama Class ABCs project using drama- and theatre-related memes to illustrate the ABCs.
7. Write a scene in which the characters refer to a meme at some point during the interaction. How can students incorporate the meme without making it obvious or awkward?
8. Write a scene in which characters from different memes meet each other. For example, Ridiculously Photogenic Guy meets Kermit Sipping Tea. How would they meet? What would they talk about? What do they have in common?
9. Write an origin story for a meme character. Where did they come from? What are their likes and dislikes? How did they become the person they are in the meme?
10. Write a monologue from the perspective of the person/object in the meme.
Bonus Activity: Share memes that were popular from when you were your students’ age. (For example, the first viral meme is considered to be the Dancing Baby, which came out in 1996!) How have memes evolved and changed since then?