Speed Space Jump

These are my three biggest problems with many Theatresports™ games in drama:

  1. Students think too long before entering a game and block their own creativity
  2. Students have too much time to doubt their given or potential ability
  3. Students are too concerned with what their classmates will think of them

So, almost by accident the other day I solved all of these problems at once. I played Space Jump, but sped it up to high speed. I sometimes play Space Jump early in a junior drama course the easy way – in a circle, building up to three players in the centre of the space at any given time. My strong preference is to ask for students from any position in the surrounding circle to volunteer to join the game, but this usually results in awkwardness and delays with players left hanging in frozen positions waiting for others to join. Going around the circle in a set order merely gives students an opportunity to plan their scene and ignore the very premise of a game like Space Jump – use the freeze before you to change the scene when you enter. Calling out names randomly doesn’t work for me, either.

So I decided to speed up Space Jump to a frantically high pace and shorten the scene time in the space for each student, as well. The real reason for this is that I was running short of time at the end of a lesson and wanted to get every class member involved in the game. It worked like a charm. “Space Jump” was called so quickly, no one had a chance to plan a scene in advance, stall and block their creativity, doubt their ability or be concerned with what their peers may think of them. It was pure mayhem and the most fun I’ve had watching students in a drama game for a long time.

Most importantly, in this particular class I watched shy students run into the circle at top speed, instantly create a very effective scene, use their imagination and act without constraint. It was like freeing an animal from captivity. This was the key that unlocked the barriers many of my students were enduring in drama class. It just goes to show how many things in drama can be more effective when students are pushed to their limits. Like hearing of a songwriter pen a No.1 hit in 15 minutes on the sofa, my Speed Space Jump method contracted every aspect of the traditional game to the point where my students stopped thinking and started acting for the very first time.

All of a sudden, everyone loves drama and now my students want to play Speed Space Jump again and again! Success.

Here are the instructions for playing Space Jump the traditional way in teams of four. Of course, you can add variations to these rules if you wish (such as the MC calling “space jump” instead of “freeze”, adding more or less players to the game, or playing in a large circle instead of small teams).

Space Jump – 4 players. One player starts miming an every day activity or routine. A second player (or the MC) calls Freeze and the first one freezes. Second player builds another scene based on the frozen position of the first player.  The other 2 players enter the same way. Once players 3 and 4 are in, as soon as Freeze is called, 2 and 3 take on their positions in which they were frozen, and continue their scene. And so on backwards.  As soon as player 1 is back alone in his activity, he needs to finish it and that ends the game. Source: The Improv Encyclopedia.

Here is a useful video showing how to play Space Jump. In this example there is a team of six (not four) and instead of the MC calling “freeze or “space jump”, players willingly enter the scene when they see an opportunity. Another variation on the instructions posted above is that an object is given as a stimulus for the first player instead of an every day activity or routine. Watch carefully how each player entering the scene adopts the frozen position before them and uses it to create a new scene. Note: there is one instance of swearing in this video if showing students.

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6 Responses

  1. Anna says:

    Hi there,
    First off – I love your website. As a newbie drama teacher, it has seriously been so helpful!
    Secondly, I wanted to let you know that I played this game today with my junior students (grade 5 and 6s) and they absolutely loved it. It took a few minutes to catch on and understand but as soon as they did, they were right into the role playing and improvisation.
    The only thing is that I did have a few shy students who did not want to participate. I see above that you did it in a circle but I do drama in their classrooms and we don’t have the space to make a circle. Is there any other adaptation or suggestion you might have to get those shy students up and willing to try it?

    Thanks again!

  2. Tim says:

    Hi Justin,
    I’ve been trying to figure out how you were running space jump that made it work so brilliantly. I’ve found similar problems with space jump such that I try and avoid using it in class.
    So I’m wondering how specifically you run the game, and any reflections you might have had since when you posted this. You say that you ran it much faster than usual, but were you the one indicating when someone should jump in? Do they take it in turns or is it whoever has an idea? How did you increase the pacing?

    Thanks in advance

    • Thanks for your comment Tim. I played Speed Space Jump again as recent as yesterday when you posted your comment. If they are juniors new to Drama class, I will start Space Jump the easy way in a circle and build up to three players in the scene. Because the students will be shy or nervous at this stage, I choose to run the game in turns around the circle. When they are more confident, I will ask students to randomly volunteer to enter the space. When they are super-confident, we will play Space Jump in teams of four, Theatresports style. But when playing Speed Space Jump in the circle, I still have students enter in order around the circle, but at high speed. I still prompt the next girl, such as “Caroline, your turn! Be Quick!”. Time duration per scene inside the circle may be ten seconds or less. I play it so fast (and loud!) it is frenetic! The students do not have enough time to overthink their “scene” before entering the space (which merely blocks their creativity), be nervous, shy, or worry about what other classmates will think of what they do. It is PURE UNADULTERATED IMPROV!

      • Tim says:

        Fantastic! Thanks for the rundown.
        Currently I’m running a single class of year 7-9 students with wildly differing experience in drama. The subject just runs for a single term, so it should be a wild ride.

  3. Hi Sonja,

    I have now added to this post instructions for how to play Space Jump and a video example for you to see.

    – Justin

  4. sonja brown says:

    Would it be possible to post a video of this game in action? It would greatly help me to understand the game!

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