Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Strength of Character

Last week I had the immense pleasure of being part of our annual elementary school play-in-a-week. The PTCO takes over the cafeteria during fall intercession and puts on a show. We had over 100 children in the cast, and that's not counting the teenagers from the junior high and high school who were our stage crew, our assistant directors, our writers, and our choreographers, PLUS all the moms who made costumes, painted sets, blocked scenes, and herded groups all week. It was one big long creativity party.

Having been a costume seamstress for our production of "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" last year, I watched this marvelous process in action and decided that this year I wanted to get in on the ground floor. I volunteered to help with the new script, an original one created mostly by our teen writing team. The premise: long ago there was a tablet that kept the world at peace, but it was broken and the pieces were scattered to the seven wonders of the ancient world. In each scene, two or three kids would go to a site, then fight crocodiles, duel Greek gods, or dance with skeletons to earn their piece. In the end, all the pieces would come together and peace would be restored to the world!

A week before rehearsals were to start the script was nearly done. The show was cute, it was working well, but it still needed something.

And then one of the moms took the script home and gave the characters personality.

Where most of them had been generic kids spouting lines, they became surfer kid, gangsta kid, cheerleader kid, detective kid, boy scout, girl scout, polite kid, cocky kid, stressed kid, sleepy kid, etcetera. Suddenly the whole show sprang to life. Each child actor or actress had a distinctive role to get into.

The characters made all the difference. When each one had a unique voice, the show went from pretty good to absolutely amazing. So writers everywhere, learn from this. If your story seems to sag a bit, give it some punch by strengthening your characters.


  1. So true about lively characters! They are so much more interesting, even if they have just a bit role to play. And how fun for you (and all the kids)!! What a creativity FEST! #awesome

  2. Awesome post! Thanks for the reminder. :) And it sounds like you all had a blast!

  3. Hollywood needs to read your blog! So many movies are all action and no character. All my favorite movies and stories have wonderful characters. And wow, sounds like some great characters in your play! Which one did your child get? I'm sorry I didn't get to see it.

  4. Thanks, Jonene. I absolutely agree. If the audience loves the characters, it almost doesn't matter what else happens. They'll come back for more because they want to hang out with your imaginary people.

    I had three boys in the play. One was the detective kid, one was an Egyptian who helped our heroes learn how to share, and the youngest was a dancing skeleton.

  5. Rebecca, congrats to your three boys! The parts sound like great fun.


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