The Straz Center’s senior writer gives you fun, simple instructions on how to write a script you can produce, direct, perform and film at home.
Hello, everybody! Marlowe Moore here, the Straz Center senior writer, with a step-by-step guide for writing a script with kids from middle school to high school. You can easily adapt this idea as an improv game for elementary-age children.
This activity is called The Bank Robber.
To make a play, we need 1) characters who want something and 2) obstacles to getting what they want.
All you have to do is get the characters on and off the stage through dialogue and BOOM!—there’s your play.
For The Bank Robber, I’m going to give you a scenario and characters. Then you can sit down as a family to brainstorm your ideas. You can pick one person to write the script, or everyone can write their own.
If you’re feeling some cabin fever, everyone writing their own script is a great way to enjoy me-time outside with a laptop or old-fashioned pen-and-paper while expending creative energy. With multiple scripts, you can take turns performing each other’s work.
Let’s get started.
THE BANK ROBBER
Setting: a living room
1. Choose the characters.
- One character is The Bank Robber. You can name this character whatever you like, make him/her/it whatever you want—good, bad, limps, super strong, no short-term memory, etc. etc. What you need to decide right now is why this person robbed a bank.
- Characters Two is in the house when the bank robber arrives. You get to figure out who this person is: a housecleaner in the wrong place/wrong time? The mom who happens to know karate; the teenager obsessed with true crime; the dad recuperating from eye surgery?
- Character Three is someone who knocks on the door. A neighbor? The UPS deliver person? An evangelical? A friend of the teenager? A cop looking for a bank robber?
2. Set the characters in motion.
- Here’s the scene:
The living room of a house that looks exactly like yours. The Bank Robber enters looking for a place to hide. Character Two enters. Now make them interact. Remember The Bank Robber wants to hide. Character Two is not going to let her/him but Character Two also doesn’t want to get hurt. Conflict ensues—passive, physical, comic; you decide. The Bank Robber reveals why s/he robbed the bank—does this make Character Two feel sympathy and now want to help her/him get away? Suddenly, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Character Three. What happens now? The play ends when The Bank Robber gets away—or doesn’t.
3. Now go write.
Keep it simple. Just use enters/exits as your stage directions and let the dialogue do the work. If you’re doing this exercise with younger kids, “then what happened?” is the best prompt to get them to take you to the end of the story. Now that I think about it … that works for all ages.
The Bank Robber enters.
BANK ROBBER: What a stupid, stupid, stupid idea. I never should have let my sister talk me into robbing the Wells Fargo. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Oh my god, look at this beautiful furniture. I need to focus, focus.
Character Two enters.
CHARACTER TWO [screams]: Who are you? Why are you wearing a cat mask? I don’t have anything, I’m just the housecleaner.
BANK ROBBER: I need to hide.
CHARACTER TWO: I would suggest the neighbor’s house.
You get the idea. You can have a lot of fun here. Or make it really dramatic, or silly. This premise is designed to let your creativity flow—you can take the characters into all kinds of funny or tense predicaments.
This is a short play exercise, so about 10 double-spaced pages-ish should do the trick.
4. Present your script.
Come together again as a group. Assign parts and read each other’s scripts (or just the one if you chose to have one person write it.
You’ve done it! You have a script. All you need to do now is look around the house for costumes, use your living room for a set and you have everything you need to stage your own DIY at-home theater production. Plus, you can film your show and post it online for loved ones stuck elsewhere.
A watch party of your play? Sounds like a great idea to me.
If you do this activity and film it, send the link to Marlowe.email@example.com because I would love to see your work. You can also send the link to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to have us post your play on our social. Remember to tag us if you post on your own social—we would love that. Have fun!