Talking Heads

QueenVictoriaInspiration for new stories comes to us in many forms – an overheard conversation, a piece of music, maybe even a funny cartoon we read in the newspaper. Have you ever looked at a painting, photograph or sculpture and wondered what the individual(s) depicted would say if suddenly brought to life? The assignments this time around are all about constructing monologues and dialogues based on observations about a character’s physical appearance, age, clothing, environment and any props that he or she is holding. For younger students who haven’t yet mastered the basics of script structure, these lesson ideas lend themselves to extemporaneous storytelling and role-playing skits. Older students are encouraged to draft scenes into correctly formatted screenplays as well as film them for peer review.

QueenVictoria

TABLE TOPICS

These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.

1.It’s often said that the eyes are the window to the soul. What does this expression mean to you?
2.What’s the first thing that you usually notice about people you’re meeting for the first time?
3.When you read a book, do you ever cast specific actors in the different roles? Provide an example of the last time you did this.
4.Has your first impression of a person ever turned out to be exactly the opposite of what you thought they’d be like?
5.How is writing a letter to someone different from talking to them on the telephone or in person?
6.If someone were interviewing you for the local newspaper, would you rather sit down with them face-to-face, do it over the phone, or conduct the entire interview by email? Explain your reasons.
7.Would you rather have your image painted or photographed for future generations to understand who you were? What would you wear, what would be the backdrop, and what props would be in the picture with you?

I’M THINKING, I’M THINKING…

TheThinker

Auguste Rodin’s famous bronze and marble sculpture of a male in deep contemplation was originally called “The Poet”. It was then changed to “The Thinker” and has prompted observers for over a century to speculate what sort of weighty thoughts might be consuming his attention. According to the artist himself, “"What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes."

Could he be wondering where he left his car keys? Why his pizza hasn’t arrived yet? What sort of excuse to give his girlfriend about forgetting her birthday?

Your assignment: Construct a half-page monologue that clues us in on his state of mind. And – owing to his prior title – the entire monologue must be written in rhyme.


HAIL TO THE CHIEFS

MtRushmore

When darkness falls on the Black Hills of South Dakota and moonlight illuminates the majestic heads of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, something magical transpires and the four former presidents begin to speak. All right, not really but anything’s possible with today’s computer generated imagery.

Your assignment: Choose a social issue that you feel strongly about and imagine how each of these men would think it should be addressed. Write a two-page scene in which they engage in a verbal argument about which one is right.


FRIGHT FEST

TheScream

The subject of Edvard Munch’s The Scream has just seen (or learned) something truly horrifying. Have aliens invaded Earth? Did his favorite TV show just get cancelled? Are his grown children moving back in with him? Whatever the reason, the two people in the background are annoyed that their leisurely stroll has been so rudely disrupted by his outburst and called the police.

Your assignment: Give this character a name and construct a three-page scene in which the responding officer is taking down an account of what triggered such a manic outburst.


READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP

MonaLisa

Lisa Gherardini has had quite an exciting week. The painter who asked if she’d mind sitting for a portrait seems to know what he’s doing and she’s pleased with how it’s coming along. She has even picked out the perfect place in her home where she wants to hang it up when it’s done. The artist, however, has other plans for it.

Your assignment: Write a two-page scene that reflects their conversation.


CLASSIFIED ROMANCE

BigBoy

It’s tough to be the last guy standing. Don’t let Bob’s happy-go-lucky grin fool you. This iconic mascot of the Bob’s Big Boy restaurant chain is the oldest remaining one in the United States. After decades of adorning his Burbank rooftop, Bob has decided to take advantage of technology and find someone sweet to share the rest of his life.

Your assignment: Bob has hired you to script a YouTube video for him in which he talks about his background, his hobbies, and what it’s been like to be a part of American pop culture. Write a one-page monologue for this earnest young romantic.


READING BETWEEN THE LINES

GirlReading

While trolling through a cardboard box of loose photos at an antique store, there’s something about this one that catches your eye. There are no markings on the back to indicate the girl’s name or where/when the photo was taken. What has so absorbed her attention in the book she’s reading that she’s seemingly oblivious to the presence of the camera?

Your assignment: Create a one-page character background about this girl as well as a two-paragraph synopsis of a new movie plot in which she will be the protagonist. For the synopsis portion of this exercise, be sure to identify the genre of the film, the core conflict that will drive the action, the obstacles in her path, and how the conflict will be resolved.

TAKE MY WIVES, PLEASE

KatharineParr

As the sixth wife of Henry VIII, Katharine Parr feels she has made a lot of progress in taming his temper and getting him to establish better relationships with his family and friends. There is one thing, though, that bothers her enormously and that’s the fact that Henry has yet to take down the portraits of her five predecessors. She decides to take this issue to a therapist and get some advice on how to convince her royal hugsman that it’s really time to move on and let her do some redecorating.

Your assignment: Write a two-page scene in the therapist’s office wherein solutions to the problem are discussed.

 


 

ChristinaHamlettAs part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.

 


Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 26 books, 128 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.