For the first assignment, I asked students to hand their red ticket–stamped Admit One–to the ticket taker, a mime, then go into the Big Top circus tent. I asked them to engage all of their senses as they walked around, to use –ing with their verbs in order to give the reader a more present, intense experience. I reminded them to think of all the different kinds of animals that are in a circus, the various kinds of food for sale; I asked them, if they wanted, to include dialog–and gave examples of things that might be heard at a circus.
For the second assignment, I asked the students to forget about that ticket, forget about being a kid, forget about being human! Now, I said, you are a lion, a very young lion, and this is your first circus performance. you have been practicing and rehearsing with your lion tamer (do you like him or her? how do you feel about that lion tamer?) for months and months–and today’s the big day! The lion tamer rolls your cage out into the center, the biggest, most fancy, ring in the circus. The orchestra is playing the music that introduces you–it’s louder than ever before–the people are clapping and yelling, and the lion tamer opens the door to your cage. You step out . . . What happens???
I prompted them with, “Does everything go according to plan? If not, what happens? If everything does according to plan, what does that look like? What do you do, what tricks? Or, if something went wrong, what did that look like, what did it sound like, how did people react? How does it feel to be a young lion ‘on stage’ in the circus, with everybody watching and waiting, for the very first time ever?”