Surfing with the Bard Lesson Plans

Any Play
(with an example from A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Dropping-in a Line
Submitted by:  Amy Ulen
(adapted from lessons by Shakespeare & Company)
Date:  August 1994

Objective:  To help students create an emotional response to the text.

Materials:  Paper and pen


  • Students sit with eyes closed.
  • Teacher talks them through a relaxation exercise.
  • Drop-in the line:
    • Speaking in a very relaxing voice (one that you would use to lull a child to sleep), begin reading the text.
    • When you hit a key word or phrase, begin asking questions about the word or phrase.
    • The questions come from the
      1. story up to this point in the text
      2. scene or situation
      3. character
      4. actor or class
    • It is important that the teacher does not lead the participants to any interpretation through the questions asked. The questions or series of questions should invite multiple, even contradictory thoughts and responses in the actor/class. Because a question is never truly neutral, multiple questions, four or five, are necessary for each word or phrase.
  • Example: In the following example, the text is underlined, the questions that the teacher asks are in italics, and the words that the students repeat after the teacher are in bold.

    "May {Do you like the month of May? May. Do you hate the month of May? May. Do you say "May I" or "Can I go to my locker?" May.} all to Athens {Is Athens a mythical place? Athens. Is Theseus the ruler of Athens? Athens. Is Athens in Greece? Athens. Is Athens in Georgia? Athens.} back again repair {Have you ever repaired a car? Repair. Will the lovers' be able to repair their relationships? Repair. Will maintenance ever repair our broken pencil sharpener? Repair. Am I going to have to repair the pencil sharpener myself? Repair.} ..."

  • After dropping-in the entire line, read the line to the class while they are still in a state of relaxation with their eyes closed.
  • Instruct the students to open their eyes, and have them write about the activity. In this case, the teacher will dictate the line while the students write, and then the students will respond in writing to questions posed by the teacher. Other writing ideas include:
    • After they open their eyes -- without class discussion -- have the students write their observations about what they heard. In small groups, have the students share their writing. With the entire class, have each group report on what they heard and observed concerning the text.
    • Before dropping-in the line, ask a group of students to create a tableau of the line as you are reading. After the rest of the class opens their eyes, have them write about what they see.
  • Closure -- make sure you allow enough time for closure (this is extremely important when working with a highly emotional scene). Bring the class out of their state of relaxation by engaging in a warm-up and discussion of the activity. Do not allow them to critique the exercise itself, they should only discuss what came up for them during the activity that they would like to share with the rest of the class.
  • One final note on dropping-in -- do not attempt this exercise until you have developed a good relationship with the class. Make sure that the class feels comfortable with one another before you ask them to close their eyes. The students must trust you and their classmates so that they may relax enough for this exercise to work. Only drop in key scenes and lines. You may also teach students how to drop-in, and then have them form acting companies and drop-in scenes to be performed in front of the entire class.




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Unless otherwise noted, all original content 1994-1999 Amy Ulen. All rights reserved.