The lesson plan lay up: teaching action & tactics

Fellow Theatre Educators,

If you’re anything like me, you’re approaching the malaise that sets in at the end of the first quarter and you wish you had an assist on a lesson plan.  Well, look no further!  Here it is.

In my Acting for the Stage class (first level acting), we’re getting into Motivation & Behavior (objectives, obstacles, tactics, etc.) and Blocking & Stage Directions.  After teaching this information many years in a row, I’ve begun to re-strategize these two topics to make them more accessible to my students.

I teach these concepts in conjunction, because I want my students to learn that their tactics will motivate their movement in a scene, while also understanding how they can incorporate motivated movement in their blocking of a scene.  My partner teacher and I have spent our first two classes of this unit covering the following points:

  • Objective, Obstacle, Tactics
  • Motivation & Stakes
  • Creating a character (external & internal traits)
  • Applying motivation to character

We’re about to continue our work towards an Open Scenes Project, which will assess our students grasp on the above points as well as blocking.  I’ve attached our student packet for your own use, if you’d like to incorporate this project into your lesson planning.

In order to help our beginning actors succeed in this project, we break our classes (75-80 minutes each) into the following topics:

  • Day 1: Behavior & Motivation. This covers objective, obstacle, tactics, motivation & stakes
  • Day 2: Creating a Character. We focus on creating a unique character based on answering a character question inventory. This covers external & internal character traits.
  • Day 3: Table Work. We introduce the Project, assign partners/groups, and table work the open scene using the packet above.
  • Day 4: Blocking & Stage Directions. For homework the night before this assignment students watch this Flipped Lesson video and take notes using Crash Course in Blocking Skeleton Notes 

We begin this class by reviewing the points of the video and then focus on how to create motivated blocking

  • Day 5: Blocking Open Scenes & Recording Blocking. The last day of prep for this project allows students a chance to review blocking & stage directions and create their own blocking for their Open Scenes. Then we teach them how to record the blocking in their scripts.
  • Day 6: Presentations!!!!

One More Helpful Tool

After years of getting fed up with trying to instill in my actors ‘playable action’ and getting back, “I know my character is angry/sad/happy/insert feeling word here,” I decided that I could no longer waste time on bringing the mountain to Muhammed.  So I’ve come up with the Feelings to Actions Handout which provides students with a plethora of playable tactics related to a wide range of emotions.  It’s not the be all, end all, but it’s a good reference for struggling students.