Housing costs are often the biggest item to take a bite out of one’s budget. Whether you’re moving out on your own for the first time or you’re working two jobs to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table, the practicality of having roommates to share monthly expenses may take precedence over the desire to live alone in your own space.
There may also be times when such companionship is foisted upon you without your consent (i.e., Elphaba and Glinda in WICKED). The lesson plans this time around are all about living in close quarters and dealing with a plethora of differences.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1. Do you currently share a bedroom with a brother or sister? If yes, do you get along well or is there a constant battle and a drawing of real or invisible boundary lines to protect your respective stuff?
2. What are the top three qualities a good roommate should have (and why)?
3. What are three habits or traits you would not tolerate (and why)?
4. Would you rather have a studio apartment all to yourself or a three-bedroom apartment you share with two other people?
5. How would you divide household chores in a way that would be fair and equitable to all parties involved?
6. Would you be comfortable with a roommate of the opposite sex if you were just friends?
7. Should roommates have written contracts regarding household expenses? Why or why not?
8. If you could have any famous person in history as your roommate, who would it be (and why)?
TWO FOR ONE
In 1847, John Maddison Morton wrote a one-act comedy called BOX AND COX in which an unscrupulous landlady named Mrs. Bouncer rented the same room to two different gentlemen. Since one worked during the day and the other worked at night, she was confident their paths would never cross and she could collect double rent for as long as she liked. The only challenge – which becomes exhausting as the story progresses – is to keep tidying up after each man leaves and restoring the other tenant’s possessions so that nothing will seem amiss.
Your assignment: Write a three-page contemporary scene with characters of your own choosing that arrive at an upscale condo at the same time and each think the other is a burglar or the paparazzi.
MAKE ROOM FOR AUNTIE
In Wendy Wan-Long Shang’s 2013 YA novel, THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU, the title character is a sixth grader whose life is dramatically turned upside down by the arrival of her elderly grandmother. Furthermore, the latter will be sharing Lucy’s bedroom for the next several months, a situation that Lucy is convinced will ruin her social life forever.
Your assignment: In the film you want to write, your college-bound protagonist is excited about sharing an apartment with her best friend…until the best friend has to cancel out. The lease is for a year and there’s no one else available that can move in before school starts next week. No one, that is, except the protagonist’s flamboyantly wacky aunt. Write a three-page scene in which a pair of classmates come over for a study date and meet “the roommate” for the first time.
NOT WHO WE SEEM
Before he became a popular fixture on the big screen, actor Tom Hanks shared the small screen with Peter Scolari in a 1980-82 sitcom called BOSOM BUDDIES. The premise is that this pair of plucky ad men need to find a place to live after their own apartment building is condemned and the only place they can find doesn’t allow male tenants. Can wigs, makeup and dresses be far behind?
Your assignment: The lead characters in your futuristic television pilot (male or female) find a great new address. The catch, however, is that the management only rents to extraterrestrials. Write a two page overview of the first episode in which you identify (1) their new names and where they’re supposedly from, (2) what kind of costumes they’ll wear, (3) their alien neighbors (who will be recurring characters) and (4) their human friends who pose an ongoing threat of exposing the truth.
FANCY MEETING YOU HERE
Cruise lines typically base their fares on double occupancy. If you want to travel solo, you can expect to pay a hefty price for it. The alternative is to sign up for a (supposedly) kindred spirit – a fellow traveler to share your cabin for the duration of the voyage.
Your assignment: It’s boarding day and the lead character of your new movie has yet to meet his/her roommate. Imagine the surprise when the door of the cabin opens and it’s—
Write three-page scene when it’s discovered that the last person in the world your character was expecting will be sharing this two-bed cabin for the next three weeks.
Neil Simon’s 1960’s play, THE ODD COUPLE, not only has the distinction of being performed on Broadway but also being adapted to a 1968 film and a 1970’s television series. The premise revolves around the oh-so-tidy Felix Ungar and the messy slob Oscar Madison sharing a New York apartment after Felix’s wife throws him out and he has nowhere to go.
Your assignment: Write two character sketches for the two most opposite personalities you can think of (i.e., one sings opera, the other is into heavy metal; one is an introvert, the other is an extrovert; one is frugal, the other spends money like there’s no tomorrow). Once you have written their respective character sketches, identify (1) what sort of circumstance would compel them to live together and (2) what sort of dwelling space would it be.
MY HOUSE, MY RULES
Between 1984-1989, Susan St. James and Jane Curtin starred in KATE AND ALLIE, a sitcom in which two divorced women opted to raise their respective children together. Crowded, yes, but it also allowed them to save some much needed money, support each other’s dreams of independence and give the kids companionship.
Your assignment: In the film you want to write, your lead characters are both of retirement age and decide that moving into one large house together will provide security as well as give them extra cash to have some fun. What they didn’t anticipate is that their grown children would become divorced and/or unemployed and need to move in with them. Write a five-page scene in which they hold the first family meeting and lay down the “my house, my rules” for adults that have not lived with rules since they were teenagers still living at home.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 31 books, 157 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.