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Improvisation and Dramatic Literature by Cristiana Faur, George Cosbuc National Bilingual College Key words: improvisation, drama,

Macbeth, tension, negative feelings, performance Improvisation can also be used to enhance ones understanding of a dramatic text. I do not consider it to be a sacriledge, but a means to help the student get closer to a literary text, which otherwise would have been difficult, if not inaccessible. If we can identify at least one emotion or situation in the text that can be extracted and related to real experience, this can be used as an entry point into the fictional world of the text. These are some activities that were inspired by a well-known literary text, Shakespeares Macbeth. They are intended to familiarize students with the play, to link literature to every day personal experience and to facilitate better understanding of self and others. Of course, we should not forget all the others benefits of drama activities, of improvisation in particular increased self-confidence, better commnunication skills, fun! Activity 1: There are killers in the room!! All the participants in this game stand up, eyes closed and backing the leader of the group. The leader will choose 2-4 murderers by tapping on their shoulders gently. The chosen ones do not have to move until allowed to, because the rest of the group must not know their identity. Then everybody will walk through the room, watching the others. These murderers will kill the victims by simply winking at them. The one(s) who is/are winked at will die. If someone sees the murderer, then the murderer is sent to jail. But if someone mistakes the murderer then s/he will also go to jail. It is very important to look people in the eyes, and try to gues who the murderer is. Otherwise the game is no fun. The aim is to create tension, but in a pleasant way. Activity 2: Get angry! a. In pairs create a short improvisation whereby one of you is angry with the other. You are annoyed at their foolish behaviour and are worried about the consequences. Run these scene using language that you are familiar with. b. Repeat the scene above, this time concentrating only on movement; leave out the words, and focus on the gestures which you feel are appropiate to the words, illustrating the tension within the scene. c. Choose one sentence which contain tension and shout it as angrily as possible. This can be shouted by several people, in turns, trying to enhance the anger. The aim is to concentrate on body expression and voice. Activity 3: Macbeth scene Read the excerpt and identify the reason for the tension in this particular scene.(At the end of the article you can also find the summary of the play Macbeth.)

The dialogue takes place the very night of Banquos murder, during a dinner given by Macbeth at the castle. Banquos ghost appears to Macbeth and sends him into hysteria, scaring his guests and angering his wife. His very presence as the king of Scotland has angered the other nobles and further incites Macbeths misgivings and paranoia. Re-enter Ghost Macb: Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold; Thou hast no speculation in those eyes Which thou dost glare with! Lady M: Think of this, good peers, But as a thing of custom: tis no other; Only it spoils the pleasure of the time. Macb: What man dare, I dare: Approach thou like the rugged Russian Bear, The armd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger; Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves Shall never tremble: or be alive again, And dare me to the desert with thy sword; If trembling I inhabit then, protest me The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence! [ Ghost vanishes. Why so: being alone, I am a man again. Pray you, sit still. Lady M: You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting, With most admired disorder. Macb: Can such things be, And overcome us like a summers cloud, Without our special wonder? You make me strange Even to the disposition that I owe, When now I think you can behold such sights, And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks, When mine in blanched with fear. Ross: What sights , my lord? Lady M: I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse; Question enrages him. At once, good night: Stand not upon the order of your going, But go at once. Lennox: Good night; and better health Attend his majesty! Lady M: A kind good night to all! [ Exeunt all but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Macb: It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood: Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;

a. Prepare an improvisation, starting from the text that you have just read and using common language. You need the following characters: Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Ross, the Ghost, some of the guests who are very scared of Macbeths behaviour. Focus on the tension created by Macbeths fear and the special circumstances in which he is, as well as the tension between himself and his wife. Perform it in front of the group. b. Work in pairs on a situation when somebody is trying to help somebody else solve a fear. For example: one of you is a small child afraid of the Boogie Man. Improvise the situation when mother or father is trying to convince the child that there is no reason to be afraid. Present the dialogue in front of the others. Use common language and emphasise the tension by gestures and mimick. The aim is to become aware of the universality of human feelings and the link between literature and everyday life. Activity 4: Interrogation scene a. In pairs one person remains still whilst the other walks around them, sometimes moving close, sometimes at a distance but always watching. Discuss feelings. b. In pairs repeat the above only this time the person moving around can begin to question the other, for example, who are you, what is your name, what are you doing, etc. Ask question by raising your voice and be as menacing as possible. c. In pairs commence an improvisation between parent and child/ police officer and arrested person/ etc in which one is exercising his power over the other one, being agressive. d. Discuss the feelings you experienced. The aim is to explore the tension within a particular situation. Activity 5: Negative feelings Improvise a situation in which one person experiences some sort of strong negative feeling. Use words and body language to make it as clear as possible. Choose one of the following situations: challenging status (i.e. teacher- student/policeman arrested person) different energy levels (i.e. dentist waiting-room) The aim is to allow freer experimentation of negative feelings. Summary of Macbeth (taken from http://www.wikisummaries.org/Macbeth) The play opens with Macbeth and Banquo, two of the Scottish King Duncans generals returning from battle when they encounter three witches in the woods. The witches tell Macbeth of how he will become the Thane of Cawdor and then the King of Scotland. For Banquo, they prophesize that he will beget the line of Scottish Kings, though he will never become king himself. The two are sufficiently skeptical and continue their journey home.

However, when the two come closer to the encampment, they are presented with a messenger from King Duncan who announces that Macbeth has been made the Thane of Cawdor, immediately putting the prophecy into perspective, making Macbeth wonder how he might become king. He invites Duncan to dine at his castle that evening and goes ahead to tell his wife of the days events. Unlike Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is very sure of her husbands future, desiring the throne and telling him that they must murder Duncan to ensure his ascension. Immediately upon returning to his castle, Lady Macbeth is able to convince her husband to take initiative and murder Duncan that very night. The two plan to get Duncans chamberlains drunk enough that they will not remember the evening and blame them for the murder. When the body of Duncan is discovered in the morning, Macbeth quickly kills the culprits and assumes the kingship. All the while, Duncans sons flee the country, afraid for their own lives. Immediately, Macbeths misgivings and trust in the prophecies force his hand in the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance as well, afraid that his heirs will seize the throne. Successfully killing Banquo, the murderers fail to kill Fleance. The night of his murder, Banquos ghost appears to Macbeth and sends him into hysteria, scaring his guests and angering his wife. His very presence as the king of Scotland has angered the other nobles and further incites Macbeths misgivings and paranoia. To ease his fears, he visits the witches again and they offer to him more prophecies. He must beware of Macduff, a chief opponent to Macbeth taking the throne. He cannot be harmed by any man born of woman and he is safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. He returns home and finds that Macduff has fled to England to join Malcom. In fear, Macbeth seizes Macduffs castle and orders the murder of his wife and children, inciting Macduff to further rage. With Malcom, the two raise an army and ride to Scotland to take on Macbeth with the support of the Scottish nobles who fear Macbeths tyranny and murderous ways. While Macbeth awaits his opponents, Lady Macbeth is in the process of going mad, unable to wash the blood from her hands. The news of her suicide reaches Macbeth directly before the arrival of the English forces and sends him into an even deeper despair. He awaits confidently as the prophecy foretold his invulnerability. However, Macduffs forces arrive under the cover of boughs cut from Birnam wood. When Macbeth is finally confronted by Macduff after his forces have been overwhelmed, Macduff announces that he was ripped from his mothers womb not born and ultimately defeats and beheads Macbeth, handing the crown back to Malcolm, the rightful heir.