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Teaching Drama: Acting and Emotions

written by: Beth Taylor • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/14/2012

Drama Game to help teach drama students to show, not tell, their characters' emotions while responding to surroundings and events. Strategies for teaching performing arts acting skills.

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    When we teach actors to show emotions, we need to go beyond showing a sad face, or an excited child. We need to give the actors context in which to show the sad face, or any other emotion.

    To focus on emotions, write down a list or ask for suggestions from your class. Feel free to use the list I have provided at the end of this article, and add to it if you like.

    For the emotion (or quality) "angry," have the students suggest situations that make them angry. For example, a person might feel angry if they get fired from their job. A person might feel angry if their best friend lied to them about... Do this for all of the emotions.

    Divide the students into pairs. Each pair receives or picks one of the emotions and a situation. Give them a few minutes to confer and rehearse a pantomime with each other.

    Bring the class back together and each pair can perform a pantomime that displays the emotion.

    Pantomime works best with this exercise. When students rely on the use of words, they are less likely to show, and more likely to tell.

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    Booster for this Activity

    A great way to boost a performer's capacity to show us what they are feeling is to have the student stand in front of the group. For the quality, "powerful," the student must continually repeat the phrase, "I am powerful." As the student does this, you will start to observe changes in voice and posture. This is a good time to stop and have the rest of the class talk about the changes they observed as their classmate became more "powerful."

    Do this exercise right after a skit from above is performed. Then, have the students repeat the skit, and let the class discuss the difference in the two skits and the improvements (most likely) in the second skit.

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    List of Emotions/Qualities

    * Sad * Terrified * Sly

    * Cold * Cheerful * Annoyed

    * Triumphant * Warm * Stubborn

    * Lonely * Hesitant * Tepid

    * Energetic * Excited * Disgusted

    * Exuberant * Bossy * Bored

    * Indecisive * Jaded * Impatient

    * Suspicious * Exhausted * Depressed

    * Amused * Arrogant * Sulky

    * Anxious * Angry * Mischievous

    * Friendly * Relieved