/families/at-home/now-playing/acting-and-storytelling

Acting & Storytelling

Family-friendly tips for acting out amazing stories

Our Story

It had been a long, tedious day and I was looking forward to dinner with my two boys. As my husband Pat and I settled in with them at the table, I said, “So, hit me with your big stories. What happened at school today?”

            My ten-year-old, Spencer, shrugged amiably and replied, “Stuff.”

            “Ok,” I said. “What kind of stuff? Bad stuff? Funny stuff?”

            “That’s just what I say now when anyone asks.”

            “That’s true, Mom,” my six-year-old, Murphy, piped in. “It’s cool to just say, ‘stuff’.”

Not when you start dating, I thought.

I knew that I could draw anecdotes out by firing a battery of specific questions at them like a congressional panel, but I was exhausted. Were a couple of juicy stories about their day too much to ask? On a deeper level, I also wondered if they actually knew how to pinpoint a story of what had happened to them and how to translate it into an entertaining tale.

            “Okay,” I said, “what about acting out something you experienced today or imitating somebody you saw?”

            The idea had simply popped into my head. Their father is an actor and he assumes the gestures of everyone he talks about, even the local grocery clerk. At first, the boys were befuddled, clearly stumped by the notion that they couldn’t accurately portray anyone. I was able to dispel these doubts by jumping in and offering my own poor impersonation of their father. After all, the point was simply to tell a good story. I did my rendition of Pat waking up in the morning. His inability to utter an intelligible word, make a fist, or recognize members of his own family for a full five minutes upon waking is legendary. The boys fell on top of each other in a fit of laughter and all I was really doing was bumping into furniture and grunting. Come to think of it, that is a pretty good imitation.

            Inspired, both boys couldn’t wait to do one. The oldest, Spencer, acted out an elaborate story about a ‘Capture the Flag’ game. He began by playing the part of a classmate who had been so distracted that Spencer’s team kept scoring past him. As the story progressed, Spencer not only portrayed his friend, but assumed the parts of several other children. His characterizations weren’t clearly delineated, but the story became rich with detail and humor.

            Murphy impersonated his Kindergarten teacher talking to his classmates. When Murphy (as Ms. Flores) talked to the class at large, his voice was calm and even-toned. When he talked to one student named Sarah, Murphy’s voice acquired a distinct clipped edge. It became clear that “Ms. Flores” was doing her best to contain a real frustration with Sarah, without ever boiling over. Murphy had observed and incorporated this detail into the story without really thinking about it.

            Ever since that evening, impersonations have become a staple at dinnertime. Occasionally, one boy assumes a part in the other’s scenario making it more of a “scene.” I have to employ a little patience with the kids jumping out of their seats, but I’m thrilled that the children are learning to tell a terrific yarn while showing greater ease with performing.

I also (secretly) enjoy knowing a great deal more about Ms. Flores.

 

 

Make it Happen

  • Find a time that’s somewhat open-ended. You don’t want to have to interrupt that special creative moment.

 

  • Be prepared with a couple of impersonations yourself. Don’t worry if they’re good or not; children love impersonations of people they already know.


  • Be prepared with some  prompts:

“How does your soccer coach sound?” OR

“How did the birthday girl act when she was opening her presents?”


  • Don’t worry about the accuracy of the impersonations. We’re not competing for an Oscar® here.


  • When offering praise, concentrate on the details of the story that came through.


  • Variation 1: Suggest that one of your other children play a part in the other’s scene.


  • Variation 2: Tell your kids that they can add costumes and props.


  • Variation 3: See if your children can guess who each other is pretending to be.

Credits

Writers

Brett Paesel
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

© 1996-2017 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center 

with the support of

Department of Education



ARTSEDGE, part of the Rubenstein Arts Access Program, is generously funded by David and Alice Rubenstein.

Additional support is provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kennedy Center education and related artistic programming is made possible through the generosity of the National Committee
for the Performing Arts and the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.

The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.
Unless otherwise stated, ArtsEdge materials may be copied, modified and otherwise utilized for non-commercial educational purposes
provided that ArtsEdge and any authors listed in the materials are credited and provided that you permit others to use them in the same manner.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2017 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  
    Privacy Policy
| Terms and Conditions

Close

You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:
http://absoluteshakespeare.com

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.

Cancel

Close