Playwriting Exercise: Who belongs to this?

Craig forwarded me the link that inspired today’s exercise with a “this sounds like a Lindsay Price blog post.” And it does indeed.

What you can see over here are pictures of the contents of suitcases from patients who were locked up in an mental institution their whole lives. The suitcases are what they took in with them, which were subsequently packed up when they died and stored in the attic.

It’s amazing what you can learn and at the same time not learn by what people put in a suitcase. What a person holds hear and dear. What clues the objects reveal to their personality. All of the suitcases came from the early to mid part of the 20th century where the reason why a person was locked up may not be as obvious as today – people suffering from Epilepsy could be committed, for example.


  • Choose one of the suitcases profiled in the article and write a character profile for this person based on the objects in the case.
  • Decide why this person is being committed to a mental institution.
  • Write a scene in which the person enters their room at the institution for the first time, holding their suitcase. What happens?

Another great exercise would be to imagine that you have to leave your home for good with one small carry on suitcase. What are the objects that you put inside? What is near and dear to you? What makes you choose one object over another? What are the stories behind your chosen objects? These are the kinds of details can really flesh out and bring to life your characters.

About the author

Lindsay Price


  • I just stumbled on this post today as I was browsing the website about to order some items for my theatre classes next year. I can’t tell you how THRILLED I am to find this blog. It is exactly the kind of thing I have been looking for. This particular post is haunting and stirs my imagination wildly. I can come up with a thousand jumping off places for this concept. What a gift! I expect to be a regular reader—if not stalker (ha!) of your blog. Thank you for having this here for me to find. I am going to start developing a unit for my classes called “Suitcases” right this second Thank you again.