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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Swigart

Acting to the Fourth Wall


Students will demonstrate an understanding of “The Fourth Wall” principles by performing a content-less scene where they will visualize, and/or break, the Fourth Wall.

Materials Needed

Video clips: Ferris Buhler’s Day Off, Wayne’s World, Space Balls, The Muppet

Show, Wit, etc.

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Begin class by showing a variety of video clips where the fourth wall is broken, cinematically speaking. This means the actors speak directly to camera. After three or more clips are shown ask the class, “What do all these clips have in common?”

All of the actors are talking to the camera. They are “breaking the fourth wall” by talking directly to the camera.


Transition: Explain to the students that in order to break the fourth wall we need to

know what it is we are breaking.

Instruction: What is the fourth wall?

It is an imaginary wall (as at the opening of a modern stage proscenium) that keeps performers from recognizing or directly addressing their audience. (Webster’s dictionary)


What does this mean for us as performers?

What does this look like on stage?

Get ideas and suggestions for students.

Read Uta Hagen’s Respect for Acting pg 107 Paragraph 1,2,3. “When the play …” Ask the class to share examples of filling the fourth wall. Share specific examples.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream – filling in the entire forest, must extend past the


What other types of media break the fourth wall?

Video Games, Movies, TV, Plays, etc

What is the purpose of breaking the fourth wall? Show and discuss the following


Comic relief – Wayne’s World

Further along the plot – Most Shakespeare plays, A Midsummer’s Night Dream

The Audience Plays a Role – Wit, The Office. Arrested Development, Improv Shows

Discuss: Show clips from Light in the Piazza. Discuss.

Remember: If a play is going to break the fourth wall, it often times needs to be previously established early on. Otherwise the audience could be taken aback. However, that may be the point.

Group Practice: Ask the students to pair up. Hand out content-less scenes to each group and invite them to do the following: Decide whether or not they are going to break the fourth wall. If they decide they are going to, they need be clear on their purpose. If not, it needs to be clear what they are filling in as their fourth wall. Students will perform their scenes.


Review what the fourth wall is. How do we fill in the fourth wall? What does it mean to break the fourth wall? What are the three purposes for breaking the fourth wall?



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