Drama Exercises To Develop Characters

Drama teachers and acting students can work together with drama exercises to develop characterization.  Drama exercises are a powerful way for students to learn how to build character.

Learning about characterization is something that shouldn’t get overlooked.  Understanding the basic foundation of constructing a character for a role is important to instill in young acting students.

For purposes of this article, we would like to go over a few good acting games for building a character.

5 Questions

Number One – 30 second character monologues.  Assign each student a short monologue.  Have them read it aloud.

Ask the following questions:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What do you want?
  3. What will you do if you don’t get what you want?
  4. What do you do for a living?
  5. Where do you reside?

Hair 

Have your actors completely change the style of their hair.  They must wear their hair completely different to how they normally wear it.  Next, they walk around the room giving themselves over to their new hair style and exploring how it affects the changing of their personality.  This is an exercise that makes room for the external character trait to influence the internal.

Drinking A Glass

The idea is to explore the lower/middle/upper class in society. The actor must take three sips of the same cup but each sip expresses a character from a different social class.  Next, the actor takes another 3 sips, but this time they will not only express the social class but also a different country. It does not matter if what the actor expresses is right or wrong.  What matters most is the imagination.

Make-Up and Prop Box

There will need to be a make-up and prop box provided that will have items such as fake teeth, mustaches, wigs, canes, hats, beards and more.  Be as creative as you wish to be.  Costume stores are a wonderful resource for such items for drama class.

Each actor must choose only three items from the box and make-up kit to create their character.  Once the actors have selected their three items, they need to go on stage and tell us “where they came from” and “where they are going”.

Portrait Photography Book

Bring in a portrait photography book and have each acting student choose one.  Their task is to provide an entire backstory of the person they chose.  The story needs to be about one minute long.

The background story can incorporate some of the following character information:

  • Where is your character from?
  • Do you have any siblings?
  • What is your character’s dream?
  • What is your character’s secret?
  • Are you close with your parents?

Example: “I’m someone who was raised in Alabama and I love my southern accent.  I take great pride in where I’m from and if you make me angry I have a vocabulary that will leave you speechless.  One day I’d like to go traveling to Australia and experience a Safari because my biggest dream is to be a zoologist.  One time I saved a little bird’s life.  My window was open and a little bird came flying into my room and smacked itself up into a wall.  It was dazed but I nursed it back to health and set it free.  I never told anyone that before.  I have one brother who is annoying and I am closest with my Dad.”

The character backstory is unlimited with possibilities.  This is a clever drama exercise for young creatives to use their imagination for character development.

Conclusion

Drama exercises are a fundamental way acting teachers can work with students without scene study.  The benefits are great not only for character study but also imagination and collaboration as well.

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