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The Arts Unit @home Art Bites - Characterisation - 1. Stereotypes

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[music playing]

JANE SIMMONS: Hi, everyone. I'm Jane Simmons from The Arts Unit. I'm the Drama Performance Officer here for the Department of Education. And today I'm going to start a series on characterisation. I'm going to start with stereotypes.

So, let's first ask ourselves, well what is a character? What's characterisation? Well, a character is a person or something we give human qualities to. So, if you've seen 'The Secret Life of Cats and Dogs,' you'll know they're not people. But they behave like people.

So, it's things if as long as they feel, they react, they, maybe they talk, they move, but they have a life. And they have a life that emerges on the stage or from the page. And we find characters in stories or in plays. So, what we're going to do today is we're going to start that first process of characterisation, and we're going to start with stereotypes.

All right. So, how do we start the process of characterisation? Well, there are lots of ways that you can start a character. So, it could be from a costume. It might be from a colour, an object, a piece of dialogue, a distinctive name, a physical characteristic. There's lots of things.

It could even be a piece of music. If you think of 'Star Wars' and Darth Vader, and you hear his piece of music, you'll know straight away. You get a sense of him. I mean, just listen to that. (SINGING) Da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da. That's a man who's very stressed. I can tell right there.

So, we're going to create some characters together today. And then I'm going to give you something to do at the very end that you can go off and do on your own. But we're going to take this process, using our imaginations to create some characters together.

Then we're going to start with the most obvious. And we're going to go into our imagination, and we're going to think about what we picture and what we think or feel when we talk about particular characters. And I'm going to give you some different stimulus in which to create characters.

So, using our imaginations and the pictures in our mind to create some engaging characters because we want our audience to be interested in what we're doing. Then what I'm going to do is we're going to start with some occupations.

So, when I say an occupation, I want you to close your eyes. I want you to think about what you picture when I say it. So, let's start with the first one. Let's start with nurse.

So, close your eyes. What do you picture when I say nurse? Do you picture male or female? Do you picture young or old? Do you picture big or small? Do you picture someone who's really neat and tidy, or are they messy?

Think about the image that you have in your mind of nurse. All right, let me give you another one. If I say truck driver, what do you think when I say truck driver? Do you think male or female? Do you think young or old? Do you think messy or tidy? Do you think well-educated? Do you think kind of like a blokey feel?

Think about the different pictures that we have in our mind when you say character. That's stereotyping. That's what we're doing. And I bet that whatever you're thinking of, I'm probably thinking something similar. Because that's what we do when we stereotype, right?

So, like with a nurse, I thought female. I thought probably a little bit older. I certainly saw neat. I saw a really nice, crisp, white uniform. Maybe their hair was tied back. And maybe I thought of them as a little bit stern or strict.

When I think of truck driver, I think of a guy. I think of a classic Aussie guy. I think of a how are you going, mate? Oh, I'm so hungry, I could eat a kangaroo. I think of a blokey bloke, maybe a blue singlet, probably messy, probably food wrappers in the truck. And I think of him behind that big rig, honk! I think of all of those things when I think of truck driver, and I think you probably do too.

When we stereotype, and the stereotype is like an easy classification, a box that we put everybody in. That doesn't necessarily reflect the huge diversity of who we are as human beings. But when we start with characters, we start with obvious categories, and that's stereotyping.

So, a stereotype, as we said, is a generalisation, an assumption that we have based on the general idea of what people in that occupation or in that category might be. There's normally a tiny bit of truth in that, but once again, it's a bias. Because it doesn't reflect the diversity of things. So, we take those natural biases, based perhaps on gender or age or occupation or a characteristic, and we create characters out of that.

Now, as I said, when we get to the end of the series, we're going to do wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. But right now, let's just go with the obvious. So, perfect example, I'm a drama teacher. You could probably have picked that without me having to tell you. I don't know why people don't think I'm a brain surgeon or a racing car driver, but apparently I fulfil the stereotype of drama teacher. I just live with it.

So, what we're going to do today is come up with some of our own stereotypes, and we're going to create some scenes with those stereotypes. So, here we go. Now, I'm going to give you some activities.

And because the activity might take you a little bit of time, and I'm sure you don't want me to fill it with a little dance break. What I'm going to ask you to do is just to press Pause after I set you each activity, and then when you're ready, you can press Play again. So, let's go with Activity 1.

Activity 1. What I'm going to get you to do is to write down some stereotypes that you can think of based on occupations. So, we've done nurse, and we've done truck driver, and we can see drama teacher. So, what are some other stereotypes that you can think of, right?

So, go into your imagination. Think about what's around you and all of the possibilities. I'll give you another example. If I say old person, normally students will mime of someone on a zimmer frame or walking frame. But when I think of people who might be considered old, they're not like that at all. In fact, when I think of most old people, they're pretty active. But the stereotype is to make them hunched over and almost immobile.

So, I want you to come up with a list of, can you come up with five or 10 stereotypes? So, press Pause, and then press Play once you've made your list.

How did you go? I came up with a list as well. So, maybe if you struggled, you can use any of the ones that I will suggest to you here. So, for instance, I said librarian, president, musician, an artist, a waiter, a pilot, a psychiatrist, a journalist, a grandmother, a dad.

So, how did you go with your list? So, I gave you a list, and you can add to that list as well with the ones that you did or with any others that have just suddenly popped into your mind, like Instagram influencer, model. All right. So, now that we've got our lists, and we've compared lists, what we're going to do is we're going to move on to Activity 2.

So, in Activity 2, I want you to have a look at the list. And once again, you can use any of the suggestions I've made. And you're going to make a decision about which one of those you would like to play with. Which one of these would you like to perform in the next series of exercises.

So, make a choice about which one that you want to do. And I will give you some thinking music, because you don't even need to press Pause on this one. You're just going to make a decision. All right? So, I'm going to give you five seconds to make a decision. Are you ready?

(SINGING) Doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-doo, doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo-doo. Made it? Great. We're going to go on to Activity 3.

All right. Activity 3. It's another easy one. I don't think you'll even need to press Pause on this one either. I want you to come up with a name for your character. So, for instance, if I was going to play the truck driver, what sort of name might I give him? I might call him Darrell. I might call him Otto or Robbo.

So, now have a look at the character that you've chosen and think of a name for that character. I'm going to just sound like a ticking clock, and I'm going to give you 10 seconds. Are you ready? Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Can't help myself. I dance whenever I can. All right. You ready? We're ready for Activity 4 then.

All right. Activity 4. I want you to think about the location in which we would find your character. And make it obvious. You don't have to be really clever with this one. Just think about where would my character spend most of their time.

So, for instance, my truck driver, Robbo, he's probably in a truck. Or he could be at a truck stop. My nurse is probably in a hospital. My Instagram influencer is probably at home, just filming herself all the time. See? I've already presumed my influencer is female.

So, now think about the most obvious location for your character, all right. And once again, I don't even think you need to press Pause with this one. I think once you've chosen your character, like dad, he's probably at home, right. Maybe he's in the shed, right. And maybe your grandmother, maybe you have put her in her lounge room, watching soap operas. So, think about where you're going to put and place your stereotype, and then when we're ready, we're going to move on to Activity 5.

So, in Activity 5, we're going to give them an action in the scene. So, in our previous activity, we put them in a location, but now it's really important to give them an action. Otherwise, they're just going to be a talking head. So, think about what they would be doing in this scene.

So, our nurse might be checking medical charts, right. She might be going around helping patients. She might be giving someone some medicine. Your know our grandmother, maybe is sitting, knitting. Maybe our dad is telling dad jokes.

So, think about what activity are you going to give your character. So, have a little think. Press Pause if you need to. And press Play when you're ready to go on to Activity 6.

Activity 6. All right. So, now we're going to decide what mood are they in. So, how do they feel about what they do. So, for instance, is our nurse cranky because maybe people aren't doing the right thing? Or is she kindly or generous, or does she love what she's doing?

Does our truck driver love being out there behind the wheel in the open space, watching nature go by, right? Is our grandmother kindly? She loves little knitting. She's making a scarf that's maybe 10 feet long. Is our Instagram influencer you know really proud of her appearance? Is she vain? All right?

So, think about what mood are they in? How do they feel about what they're doing? Because that's really going to help us later on. Having an attitude towards things is a really important thing to do.

Activity 7. All right. So, now we've made some decisions for our character, and we're going to give it a little more life. So, we're going to think about how do they walk, how do they move, how do they stand, mannerisms or gestures.

So, for instance, a villain in a melodrama would wring his hands like this. All right? Maybe our Instagram influencer, right, flicks her hair a lot. So, think about what are some of the gestures and the mannerisms and the walk and the stance that our stereotype has. And then when you're ready, press Play, and we'll move on to our next activity.

Activity 8. Right, we've looked at how they move and their actions and their location. So, now it's time to give them a voice. So, think about how do they speak. And not just the language they use, which is very important, but also the tone, the pace, the timing, the rhythm of their voice.

So, for instance, (MONOTONE VOICE) a character who only ever talks like a monotonous talk, a little bit like a Dalek, has a very different way of expressing themselves (VOICE MOVES UP AND DOWN) than someone who might just use the whole range of their language. (NORMAL VOICE) So, think about what language they're using and how they speak.

And then once you've had a play with that, and do play with it, maybe give your character a line to start with to practise with. Think about something they might say. And then practise what that voice sounds like. And then we're ready, go on to the next activity.

How are you going? You're doing really well. We are now up to Activity 9. And in Activity 9, what I want you to do is I want you to think about what your character is wearing. We're going to put them in a costume now.

So, our nurse, pretty simple, uniform. Truck driver, we talked about that as well. What's dad wearing, for instance? Right, is he wearing a big sloppy jumper you know and jeans? Are those jeans a little bit too loose or tight? Think about that. All right?

If you were doing our Instagram influencer, what's that character wearing? Are they fully made up? Do they look glamorous, right? I bet they know their angles. So, think about what's my character wearing. And if it helps, you can draw a little diagram, or you can write a written description. So, just take a moment, decide what your character's wearing, and then when you're ready, press Play.

Activity 10. All right. So, we have done a lot of things to flesh out our character. So, in Activity 10, we're going to dive into their background, and we're going to create what we call a backstory. So, this is about what history they might have or the sort of things that they might do, even slightly outside of their occupation.

So, think about like what suburb they might live in. Think about what their house might look like. Are they married or single? Do they have kids? Do they have a lot of kids? Do they have no kids? Are they young or old? What sort of hobbies might they do?

So, I want you to think about five pieces of information that could make up the back story or the history or the context of our character. Because maybe in our final activity, you might want to use that to refer to or to help you do that activity. All right? So, think of a backstory, at least five pieces of information, and then when you're ready, press Play.

Well, congratulations. You've now done 10 activities to help you create your own stereotype. And now what we're going to do is we're going to put it all together to create your final activity.

So, what you're going to do now is taking your character and your location and your voice and your movement and your actions and your backstory and mish it together and create a day in the life. So, can you create maybe a two or three-minute performance where your character tells their audience about a typical day?

And in that, don't forget to include some of those actions. So, once again, if your truck driver is on the truck, and as he's telling that story, make sure that he is in action. Same with our nurse. So, think about where they are in that location. And as they're telling us, the audience, right, and the mood that they're in, so they're showing us as well, because action is just as important as dialogue. Sometimes more so.

So, you're going to create a scene that is a day in the life of your character. Now, I want you to practise it, and then maybe you can perform it for your family. I'm sure they'd enjoy that. Maybe you can perform it for your teacher, or maybe you can perform it for your friends online, for your class.

If you do perform it, and you film it, we'd love to see it as well. So, you can send it to your teacher to send to us, and we will enjoy your performance. So, enjoy your activity. And I hope you've learned a lot today about stereotypes. And maybe I'll see you for the next episode, where we're going to take our journey from our stereotypes and stock characters into melodrama. And I'll see you then. Thanks everyone.

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