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Tips: Creative Dramatics



NOTICE:  These guidelines were developed for use by a particular theatre group and its particular needs.   These are presented on this web site only as an example.  If you use these, you should adjust them for your particular situation.  These guidelines were given to each workshop leader prior to their learning the particular workshop exercises and theatre games. They would be equally useful to anyone who deals with young kids.  Kevin M Reese is available to conduct training workshops for your staff on how to lead classes in Creative Dramatics. The workshops would last approximately 30-45 minutes and were ideally conducted in school classrooms.  The ideal class size is 20-25 kids and their teacher.  The leader(s) would enter the room, introduce themselves, and take the kids through the workshop material and theatre games.  For the Creative Drama workshops, the ideal room size is a clear space big enough for the whole class to form a big circle (holding hands, extended).  Usually, the classroom was suitable if we scooted all the desks to the walls.  For older kids, (6th grade and up) we generally had bigger crowds so we tried to use the auditorium or gym.

1998, KMR Scripts.  All Rights Reserved.

General Rules for Workshop Leaders

  1. We are here for the kids.

  2.  We are trying to foster imaginations, so nothing a child suggests is "incorrect"--unless it is emotionally or physically harmful.

  3.  The leader's imagination must work twice as hard as a child's in order to accept their point of view. If a child makes a seemingly illogical choice--it is usually only because the leader cannot justify it in his or her own mind.

  4.  Be fair and flexible but do not hesitate to discipline a child if it is warranted. Disciplinary action includes: not picking the child for a while, verbally letting him/her know you do not approve of their behavior, have the child sit next to you. If all else fails, remove the child from the session. There is no sense in letting one child ruin it for the rest of the class.

  5.  It is more important for the children to have fun than to learn facts. If we do it right, they will learn through having fun.

  6.  Taboos: our function is entertainment--not social change. We are trained theatre professionals-- not therapists.   Keep away from controversial subjects--especially SEX, DRUGS, ABUSE and VIOLENCE. If a child suggests inappropriate topics, suggest something else (without drawing attention to the change).

  7.  Always keep a teacher in the room. In the long run it is safer for us (legal liability and also discipline). Politely let him/her know that YOU are in charge of the class and that they are not to intervene unless you ask them to.

  8. Always have more material available than you think you will need. There is nothing worse than having 15 minutes left to go, and finding you have nothing left for them to do.

  9.  Try to find something to praise each child about: imagination, quick thinking, willingness to participate, clarity of communication, etc.

  10.  Children seem to learn more by EXAMPLE, EMPHASIS, and REITERATION.

  11.  Never make a child participate. All activities and games are voluntary. We don't want to stress out any child. Observers tend to get just as much out of the experience as participants.

  12.  Make the activities as non-competitive as possible.

  13.  In the long run, you're better off to keep the exercises as NON-VERBAL as possible. Neighboring classrooms will appreciate it.

  14.  The more active the leader becomes in the workshop session, the better it will be. Play with them!

  15.  Never patronize a child. Never get defensive. Never underestimate the intelligence, logic or imagination of a child. If they sense any of these--you will lose control and the workshop will fall apart.

  16.  If the workshop is team-led, NEVER contradict your partner--unless physical or mental harm is at stake. Never put a leader's credibility at risk. The children must have complete confidence in the leaders.

  17.  At all cost, keep control of the workshop. Don't let one child dominate your attention.

  18.  DISCIPLINE: It is not your responsibility to teach the class discipline. It is not your job to take abuse from anyone. You have COMPLETE authority to stop the workshop at any point and return the class to their teacher.

  19.  If the workshop is team-led, take turns being the leader. It's very helpful for the passive partner to be observing--they can help judge how well the kids are getting the message and tactfully add to what the active partner says. Again, do not contradict each other and do not confuse the kids by battling for position--decide who will lead what activity and keep to it. The passive partner can contribute, but let the active partner be in control.

  20.  In relating with the kids, don't think of it as going down to their level--that is patronizing, you are an adult. Instead, think of it as bringing them up to your level. It's an attitudinal thing. Kids understand more than adults realize.

  21.  Before the workshop begins, the partners should plan the workshop content. If the kids feel you are not prepared or in control, you will loose them.

  22.  None of the activities are for the purpose of "killing time." We are theatre experts, not babysitters. All of the activities we use have a definite purpose--or we don't use them. So no playing paddy-cake or singing Frere Jacques.

  23.  It's perfectly acceptable to have a sheet of paper with notes on it at the workshop. Don't, however, read from your notes to the class--this isn't a boring college lecture.

"Creative Dramatics" is structured, goal-oriented playing. Through Creative Dramatics (CD) we help the kids explore their imaginations, learn how to communicate ideas, and learn how to feel comfortable with themselves and their role in society. The emphasis is on creation--not performance. Our belief is that sometime around the 2nd or 3rd grade, society conditions children into not utilizing their imaginations--it stresses rational and logical thinking. Through CD, we try to keep them in touch with their imagination (or help the older ones remember how to use it again). Through the use of the following formats, we explore, experiment with, and explain how important our imaginations are, and suggest how to better communicate with others. Typical Workshop Outline Grades 1-5 [Approx session length:  30-45 min] If the workshop takes place BEFORE the kids see the show that evening, we want to turn them on to us so they will get their parents to bring them to the show.

PRE-WORKSHOP: Introduce yourselves to the teacher, encourage them to sit in on the session. Arrange the space for the workshop (desks against wall, etc).

    1.  Welcome
    2.  Introduce yourselves 
    3.  If they will be seeing a show, talk about it-- get them excited.
    1. Social environments/school/church   
    2. Film/TV   
    3.  Stage
  3.  TOOLS   
    1. What do kids' parents do for a living?
    2.  Pick 2 or 3 parents' jobs and solicit tools they use in their jobs
    3.  Ask what tools actors use
    4.  Stress:  Voice, Body, Creative Imagination (mind, brain, etc)
  4. WALK    a Normal, rope attached to top of head, nose, shoulders, chest, belly button, hips, knees, toes    b Sit them down and ask:       1 What kind of animals walk each way?       2 What kind of people walk each way?
    1.  Have them walk like: baby, old person, monkey, tight wire walker, etc
    1.  Wrap up
    2.  Reiteration
    3.  Actors tools
    4.  Stage etiquette
    5.  Remind them about the show that night
    6.  Goodbye


  1. Actors' Tools: This has evolved into the cornerstone of this Creative Dramatics Workshop. Have the kids sit in a circle around you. Explain that everyone uses "tools" to do their work. Go around the class and ask the students to tell you what their parents do for a living. Rarely do kids refuse to participate in this. Be impressed with all of the responses — but don't patronize and don't let them think you're more impressed with someone who's a doctor than someone who's a janitor. Pick out one of the parent's jobs and ask the class "What kind of tools do they use to do their job?" Go around the circle for answers. Again, try to justify every seemingly incorrect answer. It's nice if one of the leaders asks the questions and the other writes the student's responses on the blackboard. Do this with two or three different jobs. Doctors, Mechanics, Carpenters (sometimes confused with CARPETERS), and teachers make good examples. Next, ask them what kind of tools they think ACTORS use. You'll get: props, make-up, swords, costumes, etc. Those are all good, but ask them to think of ones the actor is born with. What we're after is BODY, VOICE, and CREATIVE IMAGINATION (brain). Try to guide them to these--don't just tell them what the three are. If you're using a blackboard, write the three answers prominently on the board. Point out that these are also tools their parents have and use in their work--but they use them in different ways. Explain that we will be exploring how actors use these three tools during the course of the workshop session.  Be sure to review these (and other important things they have learned) at the end of the workshop.
  2.  Film vs Stage - Explain that we all act differently in different social situations.   We wouldn't act the same way in church that we act when we're on the playground.   Ask them how many have ever seen a movie. Ask them how many have ever seen a live stage play. Ask them how many have ever been in a play. Ask them how they think it is different for an actor to work on film than it is on stage. You'll get answers about getting more than one "take", using microphones, going on location, etc. Try to work touch on how actors can hear and respond to the audience's reactions. Then ask how they think is it different for the audience to watch TV or a video at home than it is to watch a play, how differently they have to act (we try to educate the kids on being good audience members). You'll get stuff about not talking, the importance of laughter and applause, etc. Ask them if they've ever seen a stage play where an actor made a mistake (flubbed a line, etc). Some will want to tell you their stories. Ask them what went through their minds when the actor made the mistake. You'll get "boy, is she dumb" or "I felt sorry for her" or "it was funny". Then ask them what they think went through the actor's mind.
  3. Animal Study (favorite animal): Have the class sit in a circle. Taking volunteers (nobody has to participate), have a student go into the center of the circle and--without using their voice--show us their favorite animal. Tell them a good actor doesn't try to trick the audience, so we should be able to tell what the animal is in three guesses--the less, the better. If the class gets stumped, ask the student to show us how the animal eats or sleeps--anything to differentiate it from all the other kinds of animals. If the class can't guess it in three tries, have the student tell what the animal is and then have the student do the actions one more time (it'll usually be obvious then). If anyone picks the right animal, give them the option of going next. If time permits, make sure everyone that wants to do it gets a turn.
  4. First Sound in the Morning: This is one of the few exercises that uses the student's voices. Again have the kids sit in a circle. Taking volunteers, have a student vocally imitate the first sound he/she hears in the morning. Again give the class three guesses as to what the sound is.
  5. Walking Exercise: Have the class stand in a big circle. begin them walking in a circle. What they will be doing is changing the way they walk and comparing the sensation to that of walking normally. Have them walk as they would if there were a rope or string attached to: The top of their head, their forehead, nose, chin, shoulders, chest, stomach, hips, knees, or toes. You usually have time for only 3 to 5--choose the ones you want (favorites are: top of head, nose, chest, stomach, and toes). In between each way of walking, have them walk normally. Depending on the size and disposition of the group have them walk each way 10-20 seconds. When done, have the group sit down in the circle and ask them to remember what ways they walked. Take each one and ask what kind of animals walk as though they had a rope attached to the various body parts. Ask for type of people that walk that way. If practical, have the partner write the list on the blackboard.
  6. Comments on the show: If the workshop takes place after a performance, this is a good way to tie the two events together. Ask them for their favorite parts, favorite characters, funniest parts, etc. Ask if they have any questions about the set, costumes, sound, or any special effects. Ask if they were afraid of the villain or if they liked the ending. Answer any question they have--you are an expert in their eyes. This is oftentimes a favorite part of the workshop.
  7. Abstraction (Favorite Color): Similar to Animal Study (above) in that the students sit in a circle and take turns acting out their favorite color. Don't let them point to their red shirt. They may act out something that is a particular color (Pink Flamingo) or surprise you with their wit (point to their belly button--naval ORANGE). Whether they are allowed to use their voices or not is left up to the leader.
  8. Tell a Joke: Have the class take turns telling their favorite joke or funny story. This may seem like a "stall tactic" activity-- but often this will help even the most timid kids want to participate. Be on guard for an occasional dirty joke. Be prepared to stop or make comment on jokes of questionable social value (making fun of minorities, handicapped etc).

ACTING/DRAMA (Grades 6 and up)
The objective of these workshop formats is to get the students using their imaginations again and communicating the results. Probably the cornerstone is: "It's OK to be silly sometimes." This age group is too old for the traditional CD format--it's too simplistic. They are old enough to grasp the concepts of characterization, willing suspension of disbelief, and surrogatism (the audience living vicariously through the characters on the stage). This age can endure more lecture time than the younger ones,--but don't push it. They want to DO--not HEAR.


  1. IMPROVISATION. This age group LOVES improvisation. Start them out with exercises that are relatively stress-free (group stuff or "around the circle" stuff). When you get to the duet and solo exercises, take volunteers (by this time you'll have no trouble getting volunteers).
  2. SCENES AND MONOLOGUES. Use age-appropriate texts (preferably comedic material). Ideal monologue length is 30-60 seconds, scenes can be 1-3 minutes. You can have the same text done a few times by different people to show how many different ways the piece can be delivered (though with this age group, this usually just points out the less talented readers/actors) or only have the piece read once and then go on to another (when you're through, you may ask if anyone else wants to read a piece they didn't' get to earlier). Use this opportunity to coach the readings. Point out how they could have read it differently and made it more comprehendible to the audience.
  3. QUESTION AND ANSWER. You usually do this first to break the ice and let them know that you really do know what you're talking about (this is where you can earn credibility in their eyes) It's usually slow going at first, but you may start by explaining the tour, your theatre training and background, any funny theatre stories you have (about YOU). This will often trigger questions from them. You might also ask what theatre/acting experience they have had or what they are presently learning in class (if you can get to the teacher before the workshop begins, ask what s/he would like you to cover)
  4. EXERCISES. Decide which of the exercises are appropriate to the age of the group. If you find the group is bored, uninterested or doesn't understand the concept taught in that exercise--move on to another. Always explain the purpose of the exercise--what they will learn by doing it, how it will help them. Don't just do "busy work."

(Printable PDF)

  1.  MIRROR Have the students pair up (any one without a partner gets to go with the instructor!). Decide which one will be the leader and which one will be the "reflection" first. The reflection must duplicate all actions by the leader. No speaking is allowed. The leader should not try to trick or confuse the reflection. At a particular time (after a couple minutes or so) the instructor will clap hands or otherwise signal that the partners should reverse roles.
  2.  FREEZE Have two students begin an improvised scene of some kind of action that requires teamwork (washing a car, making cookies, etc). After a minute or so, or as soon as they've gotten "into" the routine, the instructor will clap hands or otherwise signal them to come to a complete freeze. Either choose someone or ask for a volunteer to take the place of one of the two actors. When in place, the new actor will begin a completely new and different action that evolves from the frozen pose. [For instance, waxing a car could evolve into petting a dog] This repeats until imaginations run dry.
  3. HISTORY LESSON This is a solo exercise. Beforehand, ask the students for objects found at a department store or supermarket as the instructor writes their answers down. Announce one of the objects and have an actor get up and tell the history of that object--how and when it was invented, by whom, how its use has evolved throughout history, etc. Truth is not important here (actually, it is not as much fun as fiction), the important thing is that whatever the actor comes up with be imaginative--but somewhat logical. If and when the actor starts to run out of gas, stop him/her and either have someone else take their place and continue from where they left off or have them begin with a new object.
  4. POINT OF VIEW This takes 3 or 4 students. Have one of them be an interviewer of some kind--possibly a policeman interrogating witnesses--and the others the interviewees. One at a time, have the interviewer ask each of the students questions about an event (either one from history or well known fiction, or make one up). Each student will listen to what the previous students report and when it is their turn to relate their side of the story, they should tell as different a version as possible. Have the class decide who is "telling the truth".
  5. ELEVATOR (Story Improv) This takes 3-5 students. The scene is an elevator in a 5 story school building. The last class has just ended and everyone is leaving for the day. The students in the elevator are from the same class--so they know each other. Give each student a definite personality type: typical jock, male chauvinist, rich snob, school bully, class brain, etc. Halfway down, the elevator breaks down. Their objective is to get to the bottom floor so they can go wherever they were heading after school.
  6.  FAMILY REUNION (Story Improv) This takes 3-5 students. All the students are cousins attending a yearly family reunion being held at the home of one of the actors. They are from all over the country (possibly out of the country as well)-- a surfer from Florida, a valley girl from California, a farmer from Kansas, a girlfriend of a gang member in New York, Donald Trumps rich nephew, etc. Have them get reacquainted with each other--it's been a year since they've seen each other.
  7. PROMPTER Have two (or more) students onstage. They begin a scene. The host begins them with a word they must work into the improv. As soon as the word is worked in--that is the cue to the audience that they are to suggest a word or phrase. The actor will then incorporate the suggested word or phrase into the conversation just as if it was what they were going to say all along. The more outlandish, the better. The actor must justify the suggestion. Continue on as long as possible.
  8.  BODY JUSTIFICATION Have a student go onstage. The audience places him/her in a specific bodily position (the more specific the better). The actor must justify it by continuing an improv from that position.
  9. ACTION JUSTIFICATION Similar to BODY JUSTIFICATION (#8, above) but here the audience gives the actor two unrelated actions and the actor must justify them going together.
  10. EMOTIONAL JUSTIFICATION Similar to ACTION JUSTIFICATION (#9, above) but here the audience gives the actor two unrelated emotions and the actor must justify them going together.
  11. WORD JUSTIFICATION Similar to EMOTIONAL JUSTIFICATION (#10, above) but here the audience gives the actor two unrelated words and the actor must improvise a short scene that incorporates the two words together. A variation is to have two actors on stage, assign each one of them a word, and also give them a setting for the improv.
  12. FILIBUSTERING A student receives a word (real or fabricated) from the audience. The actor must tell how the word originated, give a definition, and use it in a sentence.
  13. PRIMITIVE SOCIETY (Story Improv) Have a group (maximum of 6) fabricate a primitive society. The actors will become the religious leader, political leader, society leader, poor people, rich people, workers, beggars, etc. The ensuing scene will show the interaction between the members of the society.
  14. SOUP KITCHEN (Story Improv) Have a group (maximum of 6) make up a scene at a soup kitchen (may or may not be during the depression). Have a couple workers and a few customers. Why are they all there? What jobs did the customers hold before their bad times? What is the attitudes of the workers?
  15. TRAIN ROBBERY (Story Improv) Have a group (maximum of 6) re-create a train robbery. Have a couple of robbers, a conductor, and passengers. The scene can be funny or serious. Where is the train heading? What do the passengers do for a living? Why are the robbers holding up this particular train? Keep physical violence to a minimum.
  16.  ARCHEOLOGICAL DIG (Story Improv) Have the group (maximum of 6) become members of an archeological dig somewhere. Actors become archaeologists, government officials, local inspectors, student helpers, news media, thieves, etc. What are they digging for? What do they find? How does the find effect those present?
  17. TALK SHOW Have one of the actors play a host of a talk/interview show. Have another actor (or actors) play a guest. Give the host and guest specific personality types (or have them come up with them themselves)--and give the guests occupations, hobbies, raison d'etre, etc. Have the audience ask questions.
  18. WHAT'S NEXT? Have a small group story improv (2-4 actors) begin as usual, having the audience suggest the characters, setting, and conflict. At various times during the scene, have the host stop the scene and ask for suggestions from the audience for plot twists which the actors will take.
  19. FOREIGN FILM Have 2-4 actors do the acting and 2-4 other actors do the voices. The audience gives the actors a scene--the actors doing the acting will supply the actions and the others will provide the over-dubbed voices.
  20. GROUP SKIT Modern version of Good Samaritan or other well-known story.
  21.  JUSTIFICATION LINE Have students in a line come up with a justified, repetitive action (that they can keep doing for a while). Have numerous other students relate possible justifications for the action. This shows how specific actors must be.
  22.  SIBLING RIVALRY Two siblings are left alone while the parents go on a trip for the day. The siblings must stay together. One wants to attend the Rolling Stones concert (the only time it'll ever be in town), the other wants to stay home and watch World Championship Wrestling on Pay Per View (Championship match)
  23. GOING FOR A WALK (follow the leader) Try to set it up that this is a non-verbal exercise. Through non-verbal communication, get the group to sit in a large circle, take their shoes off and play follow the leader around the room or halls. End up back in the circle. As they put their shoes back on, ask them what they think was the purpose of the exercise. This exercise is good to show how well they follow directions, how they handle stress (doing silly things in front of friends), if they're a team player. It is very similar to an audition situation.
  24. CHARACTER WALK Have the group sit in a circle while you demonstrate the metamorphosis of a character through the development of his/her walk (ie: Scrooge, going from: young--crippled--not accepted--lonely--bitter--decrepit). Next have them walk in a circle using different walking styles. Old person, baby, cocky, sad, etc.
  25. A-B-C Given a situation, the two actors improvise the scene. Alternating with each actor, the first letter of the first word of the first sentence must begin with A, then B, then C, and so on through Z.
  26. ANYTHING BUT (group) Pass an ordinary object around the room. The actors must use the object as something other than what it really is (for ex: open a stapler up and use it as a telephone).
  27.  WHO DID IT? (4 or more) A charade-type game, similar to the gossip telephone game. As in the board game CLUE, a murder has taken place and we must find out who did it, with what weapon, and where the murder occurred. Send all but one actor out of room and have the audience decide who did it, with what weapon, and where the murder occurred. The first actor will use charades and sound effects (no words) to communicate the murder's identity to the second actor. When the second actor thinks they know, s/he says "I think I know" (note that they never say who it is) and they go on to the weapon, then on to the place. Then the Third actor comes back in. The first actor sits down and the second actor does the charades for the third actor, and so on until all the actors have come back. The last actor then tells who did it, with what weapon, and where the murder occurred and the audience sees how far off they are.
  28. CUSTOMER SERVICE (5 actors) Having someone be the clerk, Manager, customer, security guard and another customer waiting in line, have them improvise a situation where the customer is returning something (a CD player?) to the store of purchase. The customer's objective is to get a refund so s/he can go to another store and get it for a cheaper price. The clerk's objective is to NOT refund any money (negative cash flow!). The Manager's objective is to look out for the interests of the store (which may or may not be what's best for the customer). The security guard's objective is to do what he's told within the law, and the other customer just wants to make his purchase and get out of the store--but s/he has to wait in line.

All content Kevin M Reese.  All Rights Reserved.


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