Theatre Arts Lesson: Writing a play based on a painting
Lesson plan briefs
Core subject(s) Theatre, Art
Subject Area(s) Creative Writing, Performance, Set Design & Construction
Suggested Age 5th – 7th grade
Prerequisites Understanding script analysis and character development
In this lesson, students will analyze a painting pulled from a stack of images already previewed by the instructor. They will then follow a set of rules previously learned in basic storytelling in order to create their own play inspired by the painting. These rules included a setting, main characters (names and character traits), supporting characters, a problem, events (at least three of them) and the solution or ending. This lesson uses the CT concepts of decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithms.
Materials and Equipment
Paintings to reference (one painting per group of 5-6 students)
Paper and pencil
Basic props and set
Introduction activity: Art History (15-20 minutes)
Short lecture given on influence theatre and art have upon one another.
Slideshow of paintings based on works by William Shakespeare.
Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a comedy where Picasso and Einstein meet in a bar and Picasso is on the verge of his Rose Period.
Highlight with a video the opening scene of the musical Sunday in the Park with George (1984) by Stephen Sondheim – James Lapine based off of Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
Activity 1: Decomposition (15-20 minutes)
Activity Overview: In this activity, students will brainstorm ideas based off of their painting.
- Each group of students (about five groups with five students per group) will be assigned a painting.
- They will analyze the painting and jot down ideas for their plays’ structure in a simplified fashion.
- They will discuss the beginning, middle and the end of their play and how it could be accomplished on a stage, with their classmates, within a period of about a half-hours time.
Activity 2: Algorithms (30 minutes)
Activity Overview: Agree upon the “rules” of a successful story
- Identify the rules of a play as a classroom and later, determine if these rules were met during the presentation of each play.
- Filling in a chart, they will agree upon their plays required elements by breaking the painting down into smaller bits and their specifics (including setting, main characters (names and character traits), supporting characters, a problem, events (at least three of them) and the solution or ending.
Activity 3: Pattern Recognition and Abstraction (30 minutes)
Activity Overview: In this activity, students will compare their stories among the other groups
- A spokesperson from the group will give the less than five minute “briefs” of their group’s play, based off of the questions answered prior.
- The classroom will decide if their play has fulfilled all of the required fields from earlier. Constructive criticism can be used here to suggest replacing the weaker elements with stronger ones.
- The class will vote on the best play presented in order to flush out the script and production together as a classroom.
This will be based on participation of the production. Once individual assignments have been made, students will have different expectations required of them in order to do their part.
Once a play has been voted on by the classroom as the strongest piece, we will spend the next few weeks writing our script and flushing out our characters. Then we will cast the play and develop a production. Students will be assigned as actors, costume designers, prop gatherers or scenic designers. The plays will be performed at the end of the month for their parents, incorporating the original painting as the program image. The students will be encouraged to recreate a snapshot of the painting at some point during the production.