When To Stand An Actor Up

One reason stories may lack interest is that the instructor misses or delays the moment to stand a kid up to “act”, a moment which always heightens interest. (Of course the kid is no more than a prop, often just sitting on a stool while the teacher establishes the story line).

The way Blaine has designed this (somebody wants something in location 1, can’t get it in location 2, gets it in location 3) means that the actor has to stand up pretty early, but not too early.  Exactly when?  I think there is an actual point that can be identified pretty closely in any story as “the” moment.

If you stand the kid up too soon, there is no interest because there is no problem – there is just a kid standing there, which is distracting.  So you can’t stand them up right away. But if you forget and wait too long, you get into a real vague place.  When you have established meaning for five or ten minutes at the beginning of the class, and you sense this vagueness, then you know you need to get an actor into the flow of the story right away.

Assume that the first sentence of the story script says: Jerry wants to play the violin.

Of course when you circle this you end up with something like your student Tyler wants to play the mini-accordian.

(An even higher level of personalization would be that you bring in some bit of information from Tyler’s real or imagined life as he described on his questionnaire that you study during your planning periods.)

However you develop that to whatever degree of personalization, you next establish the problem:

But, class, Tyler doesn’t have a mini-accordian! (oh no oh no oh me oh my!)

So class, Tyler goes to (location 2) to get a mini-accordian, but class there is a problem! (location 2) doesn’t have any mini-accordians! They only have maxi-accordians!

Class, is this a problem? (yes!)

So, class, Tyler goes to (location 3), and story finishes…

Now, looking back over that story, where would you have stood Tyler up?  It is obvious! Tyler HAS to stand up at about the moment he leaves location 1! 

If the teacher stands Tyler up at the beginning, it is distracting  (why is Tyler standing there?) and the kids, since 93% of human communication is visual, stare at Tyler and tune out the teacher who is working so hard to try to get a story going.  But if the teacher stands Tyler up too late, that vagueness comes in.

So the moment to stand a kid up, for me at least, is when the basic circled information has been established and a problem has been created, and the kid needs to go somewhere to try to get it.

First you circle a character and a problem into existence, and , once this is done, somewhere around the end of Step 1 or the beginning of Step 2, you bring in the actor (always with applause if you can remember to ask for it) to begin the adventure of trying to solve the problem.

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