Creating Characters

We had so much fun in our PEACE class in maximum security today! Michelle Dahlenburg is teaching summer school at Texas State this month, so Olivia Jiminez (our lovely assistant facilitator) and I were on our own to come up with a new lesson plan. We decided to focus on movement as a way to create new characters.

It started simply enough – I have a pair of women move across the room in different ways while everyone else watched.

“Move across the room like you’re a balloon filled with air.”
“- like you’re underwater…”
“- lead with your head, then your chest, then your hips.”
“Move like there’s a giant rubber band trying to pull you back towards the wall.”
We started taking suggestions from the class and it got a little wild.

“Move like the floor is covered in marbles!” I was participating at this point, and one woman pretended to lose her balance on the marbles and grabbed onto me, insisting that I help her the rest of the way.

“Move like the floor is hot and covered in coals!” We all jumped around yelping and trying not to touch the floor.

“Move like you’re a rabbit!” There was, as you can imagine, quite a bit of hopping.

We had an unfamiliar officer watching us today who I haven’t met before. Although he’s not in the room with us, there’s a big window that faces him so he can see in. I can only imagine what he thought we were doing.

Then Olivia took over and asked the class to pick one way of moving that was their favorite and think about the kind of person who would move like that. She then asked everyone to give that person/movement a name. We all moved around the room like that character.

The characters we had to day were:

  1. Monique – she’s looking for someone, an on-again, off-again friend. She also lookin’ for Charlie.
  2. Charlie – the town drunk who stumbles around looking for someone to drink with. He’s trying to avoid Monique.
  3. Jazz – a deep thinker who’s stuck (physically and metaphorically) in a quandary.
  4. Rog – a sleaze who walks around hitting on women.
  5. Muffin – a little, brown baby bunny who doesn’t know which way to hop.
  6. Candace – Muffin’s uptight owner.

The real fun began once we started pairing characters up and letting them interact. First Monique took the stage looking for Charlie, who stumbled on, mumbling incoherently. They sort of bumped into each other, and Charlie managed to sneak away while Monique was trying to talk to him.

Then Rog hit the scene, trying to make all the ladies smile until Jazz accosted him. “Help!” said Jazz. “I got this giant rubber band keeping me here! You have to help me get away!”

Rog wanted nothing to do with it, but Jazz said she’d tell both Monique and Charlie where he was, ‘cause they were both looking for him. This bit was unexpectedly hilarious, as Rog tried to pry Jazz off the wall, all the while pleading with her not to tell Monique where he was.

Once they left the stage, Muffin poked her little nose in until Candace came stalking in, screeching, “Muffin! Where are you!”

At this point, I told the woman playing Charlie to get up there and start messing with Candace, keep her from finding Muffin. Everyone else jumped up as well, and it all turned into hilarious chaos as everyone started chasing Muffin and/or Candace around the room.

When we all sat down to talk about it afterwards, everyone wanted to dissect the relationships and what has just happened.

Jazz is a snitch! Trying to get money from everybody! Rog trying to get Candace on a date. Charlie like to go out lookin’, Monique like to try to bring him back in. Muffin’s so scared! Candace is an uptight mom.

We were laughing so much we could hardly breathe. When we finally calmed down, I asked the group how it felt to create a different person and inhabit that person, through movement. Everyone said they really enjoyed it, and that it engaged their whole body and mind. We talked about the way we move in our everyday lives being a kind of habit that sometimes we needed to break out of.

My favorite line though of the day came when I asked, “What did we learn today?”

The woman who played Charlie said, “I learned that we can work together – even if one’s a drunk and another’s a rabbit.”

Indeed.

-Kat Craft

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