Saturday, June 29, 2013

Teaching Drama: How to Begin Creating an Ensemble on Day 1

by Denver Casado

It can be tough producing a show with young actors. If your students aren't working together and respecting each other, your production will be that much tougher.

It's important from Day 1 to establish a positive ensemble that understands they're working together toward the same goal.

Often on the first day of rehearsal/class kids are coming from all different backgrounds, age groups and experience. It can be intimidating for a younger kid, or someone who has never acted before.

That's why the activity below is the perfect way to break down some barriers, allow the kids to get to know each other, and have some laughs along the way.

Drama Game Activity: Toe to Toe

  1. Create a standing circle with the kids in a large open space.
  2. Tell them that when you begin playing music, you want them to silently roam around the space, being cautious to not bump into anybody. When the music stops, they should freeze and listen for your command.
  3. Begin playing music (the music can be anything, but ideally each time you play a new track it will have a contrasting emotion. Consider playing the soundtrack to the musical you'll be rehearsing, or have your music director improvise, or just play your favorite songs from your iPod).
  4. Stop the music. The kids should be frozen. Tell them "Silently connect toe to toe with someone you don't know in this room. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1" (if there's an odd number of students there can be a group of three).
  5. Tell the kids "Introduce yourself to your toe partner and tell them what your favorite food is and why."
  6. Give the kids about 30-60 seconds do this.
  7. Tell the kids "When I begin playing the music again continue roaming around the room. When it stops, freeze and listen for my command."
  8. Play the music. Encourage them as they roam to put the music in their body, stary dancing to it, let loose.
  9. Stop the music. The kids should be frozen. Tell them "Connect elbow to elbow with a different partner, someone you don't know. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  10. "Introduce yourself to your elbow partner and tell them your favorite movie and why."
  11. Give the kids 30-60 seconds do this.
  12. Begin playing the music again. By this time they should know what to do. Again encourage them to really bop along to the music as they roam around.
  13. Stop the music. "Hip to hip with a different partner. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  14. "Introduce yourself to your hip partner and tell them your favorite thing about acting and why."
  15. Give the kids 30-60 seconds do this.
  16. Begin playing the music again.
  17. Stop the music. "Connect high-fives with a different partner, someone you don't know. And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  18. "Tell your high-five partner your favorite thing to do on the weekends and why."
  19. Give them 30-60 seconds do this.
  20. Begin playing the music again.
  21. Stop the music. Tell them "Reconnect with your original toe-to-toe partner! And go! 3 ... 2 ... 1."
  22. "Now, staying connected with your toe-to-toe partner, connect with your elbow partner!"
  23. "Now, staying connected with your partners, try to connect with your high-five partner!"
  24. By this time they should pretty much be in a messy human knot. If they can't completely connect with their high-five partner, tell them to just do the best they can.
  25. Finally, if they can handle it, tell them to try and connect with their hip-partner, staying connected. Usually this is impossible, but let them try.
  26. After the chaos has reached it's peak, tell the kids to relax and go back to a large standing circle. Take a couple deep breathes as a group to calm the energy.
  27. Ask for a volunteer to share one thing they learned about somebody in this group they didn't know before. Continue asking volunteers to share information they learned about their partners.
  28. Remind the students that over the next ___ weeks they will be working closely as an ensemble, and the better connected they are, the better they work together, the better the show will be.


The instructions you give after each "connection" that get the students to talk are completely up to you. If the show is already cast, here are some variations:

Introduce yourself and ...

  1. ... tell your partner about what your character is like in the show.
  2. ... tell your partner which scene you're most looking forward to rehearsing and why.
  3. ... tell your partner why you enjoy acting.
  4. ... tell your partner one thing you're a bit nervous about and why.

Allowing the kids to share with just one other person first allows them to build their confidence in a way that might be intimidating in front of a whole group. By starting small, it creates an easy way for even shy kids to begin feeling comfortable within the group.

About the Author

Denver Casado is the founder of Beat by Beat Press, a new publisher of musical plays for kids to perform based in New York City. Visit Beat by Beat to download a FREE ePerusal script of any musical at

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