Lesson Plan: 3 Tips on Creating a Character

Chloe Chambers, Ordway 3/29/20

Ordway Teaching Artist Britta Ollmann leads you through a pointed way to dive into a character, picking out useful information from the script before beginning the rehearsal process.

This is a great activity if you are preparing for show, looking at a script for the first time, or just fun to do if you’re interested in a particular character.

Check out our Challenge Activity at the end of the lesson and put these concepts to work for you!

Video Lesson Guide

1. Initial Read-Through

  • Get the script, and soundtrack (if it’s a musical).
  • Read what the playwright has given you, and listen to the music in the context of what you’re reading.
  • No note taking! Just experience the show and the character as an audience would.
  • This gives a big picture view of the story and where your character fits in.
  • Notice: What kind of feelings wash over you? How do you feel at the beginning vs the end? What kind of journey has the story taken you on?
  1. Character Notes

Create a document with 4 different categories:

    • What are the facts?
      • Look for: Character description (age, location, family, etc.) and plot points that your character is part of.
    • What does the character say about themselves?
      • This can be in talking to another character, talking to themselves, talking to the audience. You can also question whether what they’re saying is the truth. How do they present themselves to other characters?
    • What does my character say about other people?
      • Notice when they are talking about someone else and what they say.
  • What do other people say about my character?
    • This helps to see how others perceive your character and what their relationship to other characters is.

Now you have a condensed version of the script with the material categorized that is CENTERED around your character.

  1. Character Choices
  • Make some initial decisions about you character.
    • Why does your character chart looks like it does?
    • Does your character talk about themselves a lot?
    • Do they talk to or about specific characters more than others?
    • Does how your character thinks about themselves match with how others think of them?
  • What questions or ideas do your categories bring up?

By taking the time to dig into your character BEFORE rehearsal even begins, you can approach the whole play with a point of view that will help your character come to life and serve the larger story!

Activities and Lessons

TRY IT: Choose a show that has an adaption that you can watch right now. Maybe Cinderella or the Baker from Into the Woods. First do the character study activities above. Then watch the movie version and see if you can see the specifics you identified coming out in the performances of the movie actors. What did they emphasize that you agree with? What might they have missed? What did they find that you didn’t see in your analysis?

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