Click to Teach/Click to Learn: Open Scene
In this lesson, you will create a believable scene or monologue from an "open script". An open script is a set of seemingly random words or phrases written so they can be interpreted in many ways. In order to turn this into a believable scene you will need to focus on defining who the characters are, what is happening in the scene, where the action is taking place and what each character wants. Once you have answered these questions you will be able to use the actor's tools of voice and movement to demonstrate the relationship between the two characters and give the scene a beginning, middle and end to communicate a story to the audience.
This lesson is excerpted from a model assessment titled "Open Script" designed and created by educators participating in the SCASS Arts Education Assessment Consortium for the 1997 National Arts Assessment Training Institute. Access the full model assessment here.
Step 1: Get Inspired
Open scenes allow actors freedom in the use of movement and vocal variety to communicate believable characters with strong objectives in a dramatic scene. For an example of an open scene and how it can used by an actor in varying ways, watch the video below; which shows the same open scene but with two very different results.
Step 2: Explore the Script
Here is your script for your open scene. Click here if you would like to download and print a copy. Read through the script several times to become familiar with the words. This scene is written for two actors. If you have another actor to work with have them read for one of the characters, then trade roles. Make sure you both read for both Character A and B. When ideas for a conflict or a situation arise as you read through the script, test them out, and choose the one you both feel has the best dramatic potential.
The scene may also be done by a solo actor using the "Open Monologue" script. Click here if you would like to download and print a copy. In this case, the character is talking to an invisible other. With creative use of video, you can even try playing both roles. Have fun creating a video by using simple costume items to help you create two distinct characters- recording one line as character A, pausing the taping, recording the second line as character B, etc.
THE OPEN SCENE
A: What are you doing?
B: Nothing, really, I just...
A: What? You just what?
B: Oh. Well, I was just... never mind.
A: Never mind? What's that supposed to mean?
A: I asked you a question.
B: Come on, let's not...
A: Oh, like it's not worth discussing.
B: No. Frankly it isn't.
B: Let's just drop it, ok? It's over.
A: Oh really, it's over just like that.
A. No, it's not over. What are you doing?
B: Nothing really.
THE OPEN MONOLOGUE
What are you doing? Nothing?
Huh. I just what.
Oh. Well, I just... never mind.
Never mind? What's that supposed to mean?
Please... I asked you a question.
Come on, let's not...
Oh, like it's not worth discussing.
Wait. No. Frankly it isn't.
Let's just drop it, ok? It's over.
Really, it's over just like that.
No, it's not over.
What are you doing?
Step 3: Define your Given Circumstances
In order to create a believable open scene, it's important to define who the characters are, what is happening in the scene, and where the action is taking place. Download this pre-analysis sheet, or just answer the following questions:
- Who are the two characters? What is their relationship with each other?
- Where is the scene taking place?
- What is the scene about? Are there previous circumstances that lead to this conversation?
- What does each character want from the scene? How do they use each line to try to get what they want?
- How will you use your voice to develop your character?
- What kinds of gesture, body movement and facial expression will you use to develop your character?
Make sure your scene has a clear beginning, middle, and end that the audience will understand.
photo attribution Wikimedia Commons Kaede4 / Public domain
More open scenes.....
Step 4: Rehearsal
You will be asked to video tape your final performance to hand in as your assignment. Or depending upon your class you may perform it in an online meeting room or even live. If you are playing both parts, you will need to use a device to video your performance (see step 5 for tips). Be sure to rehearse prior to creating your final video. Be certain you have memorized all of the words.
During your performance, you must use all the words in the order given and may not add any words, but you may use any actions, movements or vocal interpretations you wish. Think about the overall effect of how the characters interact with each other and their environment.
If you are playing both characters, you should use distinct movement and vocal variety to distinguish between the two characters. Using different costumes, hair, and makeup for each character is also allowed.
Step 5: Perform and Record
Option 1: Use the video capabilities of a phone or camera to record your Open Scene or Open Monologue, if you are working remotely, record you and your partner performing together in a Zoom meeting or other online meeting tool.
Option 2: Playing both characters: record yourself delivering the first line for Character A, then pause/stop the recording. Switch any costumes you need to get into Character for B, then record yourself delivering the first line for Character B. Continue pausing/stopping the recording in between each line to switch characters.
Learn more about preparing a role by playing finding and actions in Joel Deer's Fight the Good Fight available from Dramatics.org by clicking on the image below.
How does an actor use tactical actions to craft a role?
How can finding and using actions help you give depth and interest to an open scene exercise?
Open Scene/Monologue makes a great student lesson to teach remotely in 3-4 class periods. This lesson works best for High School Proficient students, but may be adapted for use by Middle Grades.
TH.Cr3.1.I.b Refine effectivephysical, vocal, and physiological traits of characters in an improvised or scripted drama/theatre work.
TH.Pr4.1.I.b Use various character objectives and tactics in a drama/theatre work to overcome an obstacle
High School Proficient
TH.Cr3.1.I.b Explore physical, vocal and physiological choices to develop a performance that is believable, authentic, and relevant to a drama/theatre work.
TH.Pr4.1.I.a Examine how character relationships assist in telling the story of a drama/theatre work.
TH.Pr4.1.I.b Shape character choices using given circumstances in a drama/theatre work.
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