What’s in a Title? Chalk Talk and Sculpture Garden

From The Arts/Literacy Project, Brown University; special thanks to Trinity Repertory Theatre

Write the words “comedy” and “error” on the board. Encourage the students to come up to the board and write their images of and associations with the words (it might help to limit the pieces of chalk). Encourage them to branch off or to connect lines to each other’s words and phrases.

Next, divide the class into pairs and clear a playing space for the sculpture garden. One student is the sculptor, and one is the clay. Call out one word or phrase from the board. Ask the sculptors to sculpt their partners into their physical interpretations of that word or phrase. Ask students not to talk, but to communicate through appropriate touch. Encourage them to use various levels: For example, to create a sculpture on the ground or have the clay reach for the ceiling. Call “freeze” and ask the sculptors to walk around the sculpture garden, observing the other sculptors’ interpretations. Switch partners, and continue with more words and phrases.

Write the following words and lines from The Comedy Of Errors on the board:

—Why, mistress, sure my master is horn mad.

—Self-harming jealousy! fie, beat it hence.

—How many fond fools serve mad jealousy!

—I see two husbands or mine eyes deceive me.

—Methinks you are my glass, and not my brother.

Divide the class into five groups. Assign each group a line from above. Instruct the students to create a sculpture using each other, within a minute of preparation. They can create the sculpture
one at a time by building on each other’s moves or just quickly creating a frozen pose working together as a group. Encourage contact and physical connections. Coach your students with the
following tips:

— Support your own weight

— Maintain a strong body position

— Maintain focus and commitment

— Make eye contact if needed and heighten connections within the group

Call each group up one by one to present its group sculpture.

Post-Activity Discussion: How did members of the class interpret the words differently? What was the difference between being the sculptor and the clay? Which did you like best? How did you work together?

Creating Characters through Physical Movement

Brainstorm about common archetypes and stock character types with your students, along with current popular figures who might fulfill these archetypes (Maya Angelou as Sage, Julia Roberts as Sweetheart, etc.). Types from The Comedy of Errors include:

— The Ruler/President/King

— The Sweetheart

— The Jokester/Clown

— The Fallen Woman

— The Sage/Wise Person/Mystic

— The Money Maker

Next, clear a space in the room and ask students to walk around the room. Ask them to walk from the center of the room to one corner of the room, then to go back to the center and pick another corner of the room. Ask students to mill around the room in this way, keeping the room balanced, not clumping up in the center or in one corner. Then call out the following characters and situations from The Comedy Of Errors and ask them to walk like a person in these circumstances.

— Walk like a queen or king.

— Walk like you have just been rejected by the one you love.

— Walk like you are just about to play a very fun prank.

— Walk like you have received free gifts.

— Walk like you have just been given orders by your master.

— Walk like you have just seen someone who looks just like you.

— Walk like you are going to cure someone’s sickness.

— Walk like you are being imprisoned.

— Walk like you have just discovered a twin you never knew existed.

— Walk like you have just discovered your lost child.

Post-Activity Discussion: What choices and situations might the people in these situations face? How did you use your body to communicate the situation? What parts of your body did you emphasize?

Creating and Relating a Scene

This exercise serves to introduce the students to dramatic storytelling by creating one-page
dialogues based on themes from The Comedy Of Errors.

Ask students to choose between being actors and playwrights, and then to choose one of the following scenarios.

For Playwrights:

Ask students to write a short, one-page dialogue between the two characters in one of the
scenarios below. If time allows, some playwrights may want to share their work, to be performed by the actors.

For Actors:

Pair up the actors, and ask them to create a short, two-minute improvisation from a scenario.

Scenarios:

1. Character A has just arrived in a foreign land and is searching for his family in a distraught manner. Character B is trying to calm him/her.

2. Character A has just told Character B he or she must break up with his or her girlfriend/
boyfriend.

3. Character A, after declaring his or her love for Character B, has just been told by Character B that he or she doesn’t return the affection and loves Character A’s best friend.

4. Character A, extremely jealous and seeking revenge, has just met up with the new girlfriend/boyfriend of Character B, his or her ex-boyfriend/girlfriend.

5. Character A has just learned that his or her friend has lost his/her money. Character B is unaware of the loss and tries to explain his/her innocence.

Have the students write and then perform scenes that they have created. Then guide discussion of similarities within the text of The Comedy of Errors and the texts that the students have related. Use these exercises as examples throughout the reading and performing of the Shakespeare text.