The YIN and YANG of a Drama Lesson

The Basic Physics for Teaching Children Dramatic Art


When we plan lessons for Dramatic Arts, we deliberately balance the expression of YANG— the pushing, reaching out, extroverting energy with the containment of YIN— the pulling in, withdrawing, introverting energy.


You will use the YANG when you are challenging your young actors to come out of themselves, to extend their presence from Self to audience.

Teach robust self-expression with voice projection exercises, strict articulation, fluid movements, broad gestures and the reading and recitation of short speeches with power and expression.

You will use the YIN when you are directing your class to pull more into itself, to concentrate.

Teach Concentration by using voice and breath exercises. Make the children hold for their cue. Center them within their bodies. Visualize with them regularly. Move youngsters through slow motion, freeze them in tableaux scenes. These activities will expose today’s young people to being awake, quiet and patient within themselves.

You will come to move entire classes seamlessly from self expression activities (YANG) to self control (YIN), always improvising from your written plans to push in some impulsive show offs, and pull out your reluctant slow pokes.

Remember that energy in and energy out is pretty much undifferentiated in the bodies of children.  Expect young actors to get all excited, spill out of themselves, lose concentration, then lose purpose. You will have to stop the activity, wait until static is grounded, then rev up the engines again— or shut them off.

Here I am teaching second graders the conclusion to our special acting company chant. For our grand introduction, our fists strike up in the air and we proclaim, “The Shiny Penny Players are about to start!”

Arms up, chant done, we freeze silently in place.


You can follow the choreography of my whole lesson plan in this captured gesture.

There are contradictory commands coming from each of the director’s hands. His right arm is directing YANG, but the finger on the lips is directing YIN. You are seeing both self- expression and self- control being called forth from 8 year olds at the same moment.

For any company of performing children, extending energy into limb, but NOT out from mouth is an advanced challenge in concentration.

With knowledge of the YIN and the YANG, we are more willing to hold fast the children’s Silence, even as we activate the full throat expression of their voices.

By the authority of ancient Chinese wisdom, we imagine our classes still, as well as moving.