Take the challenge! This five-part series, geared for middle and high-school students, consists of one week of daily theater-making “challenges,” which can all be completed on your own. The instructor will provide an introductory video to outline the week of challenges, and each day a new challenge activity will be presented HERE on the AATP website! Sponsored by NBT Bank.
Day 1 Challenge
Your first challenge is to write down any conversation that you hear today, word for word.
You can hear these conversations anywhere: record the discussion at your family’s breakfast table; write down a conversation between reality stars or news anchors; (safely) eavesdrop on people chatting outside in the park. Wherever you are, find people who are talking, and write down whatever they say, as faithfully as you can.
As soon as their anonymous words are on the page, you get to decide which characters these words really belong to. Give each person a new name. List their likes and dislikes, their hopes and their dreams, their occupations. Answer the question: who are these people to each other? Where are they? What are they doing?
Day 2 Challenge
Choose one character from yesterday’s assignment. Today your challenge is to find out as much about this person as you can. What makes them happy? What makes them angry? What is their earliest memory? Have they ever been in love? Write as much about this person as possible. What is the greatest conflict or obstacle they have ever come up against?
Create a music playlist that expresses who this person is. What songs express their personality, vibe, or story? It can include as many songs as you like.
Day 3 Challenge
Now that you have your character’s playlist, it’s time to discover how they move through the world. Find a space where you can move around freely. This can be a kitchen, a bedroom, a backyard: anywhere where you can safely move your body.
Turn on your playlist and step into the shoes of your character. What part of their body do they lead from? Their hips, their nose, their big toe, their left shoulder? Try as many different parts until one feels right.
How fast or slow do they walk? Try different speeds. Are their movements jerky or smooth? Do they move in-step with the music, or are they off the beat? Is there a part of their body that feels heavy or light? How do they move when they’re in a rush? What might make them hurry? How do they move when they’re overjoyed? When they’re exhausted?
Afterwards record what you learned about this character. What flashes of their personality or story became apparent to you as you became more comfortable inhabiting their body?
Day 4 Challenge
Time to do the dirty work of sitting down and writing a scene. You might be ready to go already, without any prompting. If so, get to work! Write that scene!
Alternatively, you might want a prompt to get you started. Here are some options:
- Write a one-sided phone call your character has.
- Put your character in a room with a historical figure of interest.
- Write a scene where your character has to break some news (good or bad) to another character.
Day 5 Challenge
Today you’re going to hear your words out loud. Find someone to read your scene out loud with you, or read it out loud with yourself, and play all the parts. What do you notice or wonder about your scene or character when you hear it out loud? Record questions or observations you (or your scene partner) have.
Read the scene another time, but make your reading as dramatic and overdone as possible, the way a “bad actor” would. The more ridiculous you can make your acting, the better. What do you learn about the scene or the characters from the “bad actor” reading? Are there things you want to change or revise in your writing? Have you learned anything new about your character?
Keep Going Challenge
Answer the question: what is the moment before this scene? What has happened right before, and what happens right after? Can you write a scene for both? Keep writing, and keep rewriting!
ABOUT GWYNETH DAVIES
Gwyneth Davies is a born and raised Hamiltonian with a deep and abiding love for the performing arts in education. An alumna of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, she discovered her passion for teaching while interning at the Boston University Summer Theatre Institute. Since first hitting the stage in the 2004 session of the EOH circus camp, Gwyneth has studied theatre arts, classical acting and improv at Boston University, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and the Upright Citizens Brigade. She earned her Masters in Education from Lesley University in Cambridge.