These are my three biggest problems with many Theatresports™ games in drama:
- Students think too long before entering a game and block their own creativity
- Students have too much time to doubt their given or potential ability
- 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.