"Bus Stop" is a simple training device for individual players. Set up three chairs in the center of the stage area to create a bench. Have players start on the side of the stage area and, without ever talking, have them walk in, sit on the "bench" and wait for the bus. After a small about of time, the leader calls out that the bus in coming. At this point the player notices the bus, gets up and walks of stage toward the bus, ending the scene.
That is the basic structure. The key component to this is that prior to going on each player gets a card, (or chooses for himself) one basic fact about the person based on a theme that is decided before hand. The theme for the activity can be anything: age, occupation, emotion, a character in a book the class is reading, where they are coming from, where they are going to, whatever works. The focus for the player is to SHOW that emotion (or what ever it is) without words. The discussion after focuses on the ways in which they demonstrated the attribute that was given.
In the Classroom:
This game replaced "charades" activities in my theater classroom. I often got kids to show different emotions or things with a Charades game where the audience would call out a guess as to what it was. The problem with this approach was that players never really got a chance to do anything interesting. They would go up, stomp their foot, someone would yell "Mad!" and that was it. This game provides a structure where players have room to explore and experiment with showing individual aspects of a character, and gives the audience something to look at and follow. It makes the conversation afterward much more interesting!
Make sure the audience treats this as a scene, and not a guessing game. They should not be calling out guesses during the performance. Take it in, be respectful!
SHOW DON'T TELL! That is the most common side comment that should be made during this activity. "Just go up there and show us mad, don't try to get us to say the word mad." "You are a construction worker, but you are a construction worker waiting for a bus, you are not working now..."
If the topic is Ages, start the post conversation with a guess as to what age it was, when one person guesses "14" ask for a show of hands "How many would guess early teens? 13, 14..." Then ask for other guesses if the vast majority didn't agree. Then ask "what was it that said '14' to you? How did she show you that age?"
For emotions I cut up a copy of an "emotions" poster from the internet, with each emotion listed under a little picture of a face. Players pick an emotion from the hat, and I do allow them to pick a different one, but if they put it back they must do whatever they pick second. For ages I usually write out a range, and sometimes a description of what stage of life they are in to give them a frame of reference. (For example "18-21 - college age, or "40's - most middle school parents".)
Social Pragmatics: Kids who have difficulty reading social cues find this game to be very useful, especially when the theme is "emotions". With a group like this one, one can add "part two" to the activity where instead of having kids guess what the emotion is, have a volunteer to pretend to be that person's friend and interact with them in an expected manner.
Creative Writing: For an English teacher this is a very useful tool in getting kids, especially young kids, to demonstrate more descriptive writing. After this activity, instead of saying "He was mad" they have a wide range of examples of what a person looks like when they are mad. So they can "SHOW" the reader that the man was mad instead of just "telling" them.
Theater: A student of mine was in a play where she was playing a woman in her 70's. It was the lead role. She was struggling. So I took her aside with a few of her friends and we played this game. Each of them walked on as a different 70 year old. We discussed how they were different, what was effective, etc. It was a huge help. Improv was invented to do things like this...
Improv Class: Have a person come in with an emotion (or something else) and have this be the opening offer. The next person then must accept it, and justify it, adding the next bit to the scene. The key is that they should act as though they know why they are mad, and justify it, again without telling, and build a scene from there…
A game very similar to this can be found in Viola Spolin’s books. I adapted it from there. (As much of the improv world has done…)