Day 1: Modeling and Monologue Writing: Mississippi Past- the Pillars That Help (People) Endure

Day 1: Modeling and Monologue Writing: Mississippi Past- the Pillars That Help (People) Endure

DreamYard/ Mississippi Whole Schools Institute Workshop-

Theater Arts in the Curriculum

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

July 17-22, 2005

Day 1: Modeling and Monologue Writing: Mississippi Past

Introductions/ warm ups- Name and gesture Game or Name and One Adjective Game

Discussion: Goals for the week

Model of a Theater Piece in the Curriculum

“Dreams and accomplishments”- Mississippi Past, Present and Future

Tim and Jason present a model of the project the teachers will be creating over the course of the next four days. It will be a piece based on our hometown, New York; the teachers will create a piece based in Mississippi characters and history. The piece will include monologues and first person stories based in photographs, scenes and monologues based on contemporary figures and poetry about visions for the future and activism in imagining the Mississippi, and New York, of the future.

Planning a creative project

Circular planning- how does one plan a step by step process to create a project ending up with a final production? What are the key elements to planning a project?

Writing Warm-ups for Monologue: Point-of-View Games

“I am…” Improv Game- Pick an object out of the hat and describe “yourself”. The rest of the group has to guess what you are. Discuss point-of-view- seeing the world through someone else’s eyes…

Offer and Accept Improvisation Game

Discussion about elements of a character: Every one is a different person depending on where they are…Home, work, community/geography, political, religion/worship, who they love

Break into groups. Each person chooses a picture of a character about whom they would like to write. Remember that you will be writing in the FIRST PERSON.

Creating a Monologue- Key Steps

Look at your historical photograph and read accompanying text

Discuss as a group the character you will be writing about. Each of you decide which part of that person’s life you will be concentrating on: Home, Work/School, Community/Political Life, Love, Religious/Worship, etc.

Each person in the group should work through the character worksheet

Monologue criteria discussion: What makes for a compelling and well-written monologue. Discuss interior/exterior monologue. Hear a monologue again with criteria in mind.

Write monologue

Present monologues with photograph in background.

Reflection and questions – What challenges do you foresee in doing a project like this in your classroom or your school? We will brainstorm responses as a group.

DreamYard/ Mississippi Whole Schools Institute Workshop-

Theater Arts in the Curriculum

University of Southern Mississippi

Hattiesburg, Mississippi

July 17-22, 2005

Day Two: Making Character Masks and Writing Theater Scenes in the Curriculum

1. Discussion

What do you think of when you think of theater. What types of theater have you seen. What do you like or dislike in the theater that you have seen.

2. Warm- up

a. Create Physical Characters. Discuss specificity in creating characters…physical, emotional and psychological.

b. Red Light – Green Light

  1. Offer and Accept Game and/or “Yes, And” Game

3.Using Character Worksheets, Create an “essential emotion” for your character

4. Using the “essential emotion,” create a half-mask of your character expressing that emotion and your character’s personality and core characteristics

3. Developing a Glossary & Criteria

Tim and Jason read their scene. Discussion follows about scene writing elements and criteria. When thinking about writing a play, what are the conventions and terms that are important to know. For example: plot, setting, motivation, conflict, tension, etc. Develop a criteria for elements that we want to see present in a well written scene. Read Tim and Jason’s scene with these criteria in mind.

4. Partner with another member of another character group. You will be working in pairs for this exercise. Read each other your monologues that we shared the day before.

5. Before discussing each other’s monologues, create two lists.

First create a list of themes that were conveyed by the monologue that your partner has read. Next make a list of specific character traits that stuck out as you listened to the monologue.

c. / Character Traits:

After you have made the list, share your lists with each other. Discuss your lists and how similar or not your ideas were to those of the author of the monologue. If you wanted students to revise based on peer-review this would be a good place.

6. Scene writing – gathering information

You will both work together to create a scene involving your two characters. Together, being as specific as possible, answer the following questions listed below. Your scene must incorporate the answers to all of the questions.

A. What is the time of day?

B. What season is it?

C.Where are you when your scene takes place?

D. Decide on a disagreement or a misunderstanding that you both must try to overcome. What is it?

E. Pick a historical event or theme that both characters have had to deal with and find a way to address it in your scene.

F. Base on the character profiles you developed yesterday, try to establish a relationship, based on family, politics, love, religion/worship, work, ancestry or theme. What connects your characters? Is one descended from the other? Do they care about or want the same things, or different things?

7. Tell the story of your scene.

Together, as you make your list talk with each other about what the story of your scene is. Think about all of the above questions. After you have spent time talking, each of you take time to write down your version of the story. It is okay if it is not exactly the same as your partners.

8. Together create an outline for your scene.

Discuss scene writing criteria. What is the beginning middle and end? Find an appropriate place in the scene where your character can step away and deliver your whole monologue. If the whole monologue isn't appropriate, are their a few sentences that you could use?

9. Write the scene using the following structure, using your character’s names, of course…

Person A:

Person B:

Person A:

Person B:

10. Read and revise your scene.

11. Present your scene to the rest of your group.

12. Reflection and questions – What challenges do you foresee in doing a project like this in your classroom or your school? We will brainstorm responses as a group.

DreamYard/ Mississippi Whole Schools Institute Workshop-

Theater Arts in the Curriculum

Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi

July 17-22, 2005

Day Three: Poetry and Theater in the Curriculum

1.Share scenes written yesterday with masks created yesterday.

2.. Discussion:

What is Poetry? Where in our lives do we find poetry? What have our experiences been with writing and reading poetry

3. Poetry Warm-up

a) Poetry Association – In your journal write an image and an associated emotion

  • Make a list of 5 places and an associated emotion. E.g. Graveyard - Grief

b) Poetry of celebration

  • Divide the class into two groups. Group A face Group B. One person step forward and using a simile say something about the person facing you. Your ears are like tulips.

4. Getting Started

Tim and Jason read their poems. Make a glossary of key poetic terms with definitions. For example:

  • Metaphor: the application of a word or a phrase to somebody or something that is not meant literally but to make a comparison, or to symbolize something e.g. saying that sombody is a snake.

5. Sharing a Model

In a circle read aloud the two poems in your handout. Langston Hughes, “the Negro Speaks of Rivers” and Willie Perdomo, “Where I am going.” Discuss the two poems and as a group develop a set of criteria for what makes for a well written poem. Look at the two lists of criteria developed by a 4th grade and an 8th grade class.

6. Poetry Writing Exercise: Research

Using the questions below we will make several lists that will be useful resources to draw upon as you write your poems.

List 3 things that you associate with Home




List 3 memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.




List 3 dreams that you have for yourself and your future.




List 3 dreams that you have for your community.




Using the worksheet provided, follow the instructions to write a poem. Try to use some of the images and thoughts that you wrote down in your four lists.

6. Share Poetry

Before we share our poetry we will discuss what it means to be a good listener and audience member. As we listen to the poetry write down words and phrases that make an impression on you. You will write on slips of paper that will be collected. This is important for it will inform our work later in the workshop. Discuss each poem.

7. Performing Poetry

Nursery Rhyme game. Everyone should take a moment to think of 4-6 lines of a nursery rhyme that you can easily recite by heart. For example: Mary had a little lamb who’s fleece was white as snow etc. Based on what we saw and heard in the nursery rhymes, together create a criteria for performing poetry. See the handout created by a 7th grade class.

Share the lines and words that were collected from the “I am From …” poems. Combine poetry into a group poem by selecting favorite lines and favorite words from each person’s poem.

As a group we will choose a song that we can use to underscore the piece.

8. Rehearsal

9. Reflection for presentation for final project. Thinking about Tim and Jason’s monologues, scenes and poetry, the group will brainstorm how the two of us should put together our final piece. We will share our piece, based on your recommendations, first thing tomorrow.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

By Langston Hughes

I've known rivers:

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy

bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Where I’m From

Willie Perdomo

Because she liked the “kind of music” that I listened to and she liked the way I walked as well as the way I talked, she always wanted to know where I was from.

If I said that I was from 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, right in the heart of a transported Puerto Rican town, where the hodedores live and night turns to day without sleep, do you think then she might know where I was from?

Where I’m from, Puerto Rico stays on our minds when the fresh breeze of café con leche y pan con mantequilla comes through our half-open windows and under our doors while the sun starts to rise.

Where I’m from, babies fall asleep to the bark of a German shepherd named Tarzan. We hear his wandering footsteps under a midnight sun. Tarzan has learned quickly to ignore the woman who begs her man to stop slapping her with his fist. “Please, baby! Por favor! I swear it wasn’t me, I swear to my mother. Mameee!!” (Her dead mother told her that this would happen one day.)

Where I’m from, Independence Day is celebrated every day. The final gunshot from last nights murder is followed by the officious knock of a warrant squad coming to take your bread, coffee and freedom away.

Where I’m from, the police come into your house without knocking. They throw us off rooftops and say we slipped. They shoot my father and say he was crazy. They put a bullet in my head and say they found me that way.

Where I’m from, you run to the hospital emergency room because some little boy spit a razor our of his mouth and carved a crescent into your face. But you have to understand, where I’m from even the dead have to wait until their number is called.

Where I’m from, you can listen to Big Daddy retelling stories on his corner. He passes a pint of light Bacardi, pouring the dead’s tributary swig onto the street. “I’m God when I put a gun to your head. I’m the judge and you in my courtroom.”

Where I’m from, it’s the late night scratch of rats’ feet that explains what my mother means when she says slowly, “Bueno, mijo, eso es la vida del pobre.” (Well, son, that is the life of the poor.)

Where I’m from, it’s sweet like my grandmother reciting a quick prayer over a pot of hot rice and beans. Where I’m from, it’s pretty like my niece stopping me in the middle of the street and telling me to notice all the stars in the sky.

Sample Criteria

For Writing a Poem

8th Grade:

  • The thoughts and Ideas expressed in poem should be clear and specific
  • Words and Language should be strong, descriptive, and effective: (poems include figurative language-- metaphor, simile, descriptive language)
  • Poet expresses the emotions and feelings of the story: (a variety of emotions; changing tone of voice; changing the rhythm; emphasizing certain words)
  • Poet engages and grabs the attention of the audience
  • Poet makes a personal connection and touches/affects the people reading the poem


4th Grade:

  • Poem should make sense, have meaning, and expresses how you feel
  • It has to have life in it so that people can picture it in their heads
  • Poet must express the feelings that are written in the poem and make it their own
  • Poet has to give a strong reaction in order to get a strong reaction from audience
  • Poem should be well written; creative; descriptive; with correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation

Criteria for Presenting a Poem

  • Poet projects so the audience can clearly understand.
  • Poet effectively recites the poem from memory.
  • Poet clearly conveys point of view through presentation and power of language.
  • Poet conveys energy and enthusiasm appropriate to poetic work.
  • Poet’s presentation is mindful of audience.
  • Poet’s body language and gestures match and enhance delivery of piece.
  • Poem demonstrates well crafted form– that could include thrifty use of words, the use of simile, metaphor, rich vocabulary, sensory images.
  • Poem conveys clear message - point of view
  • Poem captures and conveys a range of human emotion.

Worksheet for an “I am From” Poem

  • Begin the FIRST line of your poem with "I am from..."
  • Have at least ONE line in your poem start with "I have been..."
  • Begin the LAST line of your poem with Where "I am going..."