Each semester I begin my Year 8 Drama course with a non-assessable topic playing Theatresports™ games. For a few weeks, all my students do in Drama is learn new Theatresports™ games, as we rifle our way through a dozen or so games in small teams. Theatresports™ games can be played at every level of high school. Based on previous knowledge, age and skill level, students can often create sophisticated scenes.
These are just some of the reasons why I believe you must do Theatresports™ in your drama program at high school:
All Theatresports™ games have rules. Apart from being timed games, team members do things such as adhering to the given storyline, speak with the next letter of the alphabet, not ask questions, acquire the personality of another character, translate gibberish, or adopt the frozen position of another. In my experience, younger students find the technical skill needed to play Theatresports™ games a genuine challenge – but there’s nothing wrong with that. Older, more experienced students often master the technical requirements of a Theatresports™ game and this can be great to watch.
Above all else, Theatresports™ games are damn good fun. Tricky dynamics in drama classes can be solved by the whole class being in fits of laughter from a Theatresports™ scene, enemies can become good friends, and classmates learn to develop respect for each other’s talent and skill. Granted, sometimes the quieter members of the class can feel threatened by the more boisterous students during Theatresports™, but if the teacher encourages an atmosphere that is welcoming for all to participate in, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
One of the most important products of drama students playing Theatresports™ games is increased confidence. Numerous times over the years I have witnessed wilting students blossom by the end of a unit on Theatresports™. Students who never really liked drama but are in your class because their best friend is there, suddenly become excited and even addicted to all things drama. For a lot of students, getting up and performing before their peers is a scary experience. Playing Theatresports™ games in a non-threatening environment filled with fun and hilarity allows students to get up and perform without nerves. Of course, it also helps when most Theatresports™ games are team games, as shy students naturally feel more comfortable in a group.
Partly due to so much activity occurring at any given moment in a Theatresports™ game, concentration is a key factor. Concentration is, of course, a critical skill needed by all performers. I have found playing Theatresports™ games with students one of the best methods to improve actor concentration. Just like a student actor performing the lead role in a school show, a student in a Theatresports™ game has to concentrate on multiple things simultaneously, but without the fear of being “watched” by a peering audience in a darkened theatre.
Improvisation and Other Acting Skills
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious here, all Theatresports™ games organically improve many facets of student acting – the most important of these being improvisational skills. Other skills include movement, voice, listening, vision, concentration, imagination, teamwork, creativity, intellect etc. At the beginning or end of every Theatresports™ game I play with my students, I either ask or remind them of the key skills (to be) learned in this game. We then discuss the notion of “transferable skills” and how the student performer can transfer the skills learned in this Theatresports™ game to a moment in a performance, an assessment piece, monologue, solo performance, the school play or musical. This gives the game a focus and a sense of purpose.
Here are just a few of my favourite Theatresports™ games I enjoy playing in drama class:
- Foreign Film
- Taxi Cab Driver
- Space Jump
- Party Quirks
- Scene Without a Question
- 90-Second Alphabet
- Press Conference
- Expert Double Figures
- Word At A Time Story
- Slow Motion Commentary
- Sit, Stand, Kneel, Lie Down
- Stunt Double
- Questions Only
The Living Playbook (350+ Theatresports™ games)
The Improv Encyclopedia (400+ Improv games, many of which are Theatresports™)
Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Theatresports™ TV show <beware of suitability> – YouTube)
Theatresports™ Websites (links at my other website, Theatre Links)