Theatre, like any other art form, requires hands-on training and experience. A drama student taking a class, hoping to progress in their craft as an actor, will have to find, rehearse, and perform scenes for the class at some point. This is the critical point where theory and exercises are applied to the production of what hopefully will be a living piece of art, however modest. Finding effective scenes, however, can be a challenge.
Most theatre class scenes will use two people, except in situations where there are an odd number of students. Generally, though, you can expect to be working with one other person. This is important because it means the potential scene combinations are male/male, female/female, and male/female. Knowing whom your scene partner will be is the first step in choosing the right scene for you.
Some great plays with dynamic male/male scenes to consider would be: 1. “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” by Eugene O’Neill. This play contains some very powerful and emotionally dynamic scenes between the two brothers, Edmund and Jamie Tyrone. Both of the brothers also have scenes with the father character, James Tyrone. 2. “Glengarry Glen Ross” by David Mamet. There are many possibilities in this play, which has an all-male cast. The first scene with Williamson and Levene has a great underlying sadness, and the rapid-fire dialogue between Moss and Aaronow in the Chinese restaurant is very amusing.
If you’re part of a female/female pairing, you may consider the following plays: 1. “Doubt” by John Patrick Shanley. The action in this play is driven by Sister Aloysius, a nun and the principal of a Bronx Catholic school. Aloysius interacts with a younger nun, Sister James, throughout the play. Then there is an emotional powerhouse of a scene between sister Aloysius and the mother of a student crucial to the play’s plot. 2. “’Night, Mother” by Marsha Norman. In this play, written for two women, Jessie tells her mother, Thelma, that she has decided to kill herself. The two then exchange dialogue for the rest of the play as Jessie attempts to explain and justify her decision, and Mama tries desperately to dissuade her.
Male/female duos would do well to look at these plays: “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. This play offers a variety of interactions between characters of the opposite sex. A severely dysfunctional mother/son relationship is explored through scenes between Tom and Amanda, Tom and his sister Laura interact in a loving way that shows the chaos of their home lives, and Laura has a charming and graceful scene with Jim O’Connor, “The Gentleman Caller.” “Oleanna” by David Mamet. “Oleanna” has only two characters. John is a college professor, and Carol is his student. At the start of Act One, Carol has come to see John about her failing grade in the class. Their interactions fundamentally change in nature as the play progresses, so a scene from Act One will feel radically different to the actors and audience than a scene from Act Three.
Based in Virginia, Chip Marsden has been a writer for more than eight years. He has covered film, politics and culture for regional newspapers and online publications. Marsden holds a B.A. in theater arts with a concentration in performance.