My earliest memories of drama class involve the teacher instructing us to become zoo animals. If I remember correctly, I was a monkey. Now, keep in mind, this was not a kindergarten class. This was 9th grade. There we were, a menagerie of teenagers jumping around the room. We spent the afternoon pretending to be elephants, walruses, and giraffes. At the time I thought it was pretty silly.
But now that I look back on it… okay, it’s still sort of silly. But it’s fun!
For Students (Ages 5 – 9):
Acting like an animal helps younger drama students to physically assume different poses, not to mention adopt different perspectives. When I work with young students, they perform similar activities. But instead of just assigning them a random animal, I like to give them a specific setting:
- A pet store after closing time.
- Farm animals at the county fair.
- Canines at a dog show.
First, the performers are instructed to act as realistically as possible. The students bark, moo, and oink to their hearts content. Next, they replay the scene, but this time they talk to one another. They use improvised dialogue to create personalities and conflicts. Encourage the performers to have fun – but remind them not to get too wild!
For Students (Ages 10 and Up):
When I work with older students (ages 10 and up), we go beyond improv activities. First, we brain storm to come up with a subject. It might involve animal characters – but I’ve expanded the assignment to incorporate any non-human characters. Here are some examples:
- Food and Condiments complaining about life in the refrigerator.
- Chess pieces arguing with each other during a game.
- Art paintings in a museum converse with the statues.
- Organs in the human body brag about who is more important.
- Orchestra instruments take a break in between songs.
Using imagination (and a bit of anthropomorphism), the students then write a brief monologue for their character. For example, my students and I developed cartoon-styled characters you might find living in a fridge:
- An container of energetic yogurt
- A grumbling patty of ground beef
- A paranoid pickle
- A neglected pitcher of orange juice (with just half a swallow left)
The basic idea is that each character possesses a distinct personality trait as well as a specific attitude about their setting in which they exist.
Once the writing process is complete, the performers then practice reading their lines, and finally perform each monologue, one right after another. The result is a quirky, funny exploration of a completely different point of view.
With my drama students’ permission, I’ve posted samples of their non-human character monologues in the Plays / Drama Forum. Feel free to read and share your own.