Theatre Games: Talk Show

In our last blog, “The Interview Game,” we looked at a great icebreaker game that we often use in our Urban Theatre Project (and many other VSC Education projects).  In addition to breaking the ice, this game also serves to deliver the important idea of taking the focus off of the SELF and placing it on ANOTHER.  The Interview Game is great for putting this idea into action, allowing students to get to know one another, discover personal connections, and introduce one another to the group.

Another ending that I like to pair with the interview game, gives it a fun and theatrical twist.

I’ve found that in our Urban Theatre Project’s early classes, its not yet the time when students are ready and willing to stand, speak, and publicly share the discoveries they’ve made in one-on-one, semi-private interviews.  So, I take the pressure off and take the lead in presenting the interview material.  I have a bit of fun by initiating a scene called, “TALK SHOW!”

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Here’s how it works…

After going through the course of the Interview Game (see previous blog), I ask each interviewer to circle three to five of the most interesting “fun facts” on their paper.  Then, I collect ALL of the papers.  I ask the participants to sit in the audience while I drag a couch, a desk and chair out on to the stage.  (Or I use whatever will stand in for such talk show set furniture.)

Once the stage is set, I ask for suggestions or examples of different talk shows.  I field responses, play with the ideas of the different “energies” from the suggested talk shows, and even act out a few talk show moments.  (I always love when they suggest “Ellen” because then I get to dance.)  Then we chat more about the ideas central to a successful talk show.  For example, on a talk show no one has to feel nervous or worried.  Guests are given permission to be themselves:  sincere or ridiculous, it doesn’t matter.  The guest can just focus on the host and doesn’t have to be at all concerned about the audience if he/she doesn’t want to.  The guest is just there to hang out, have some casual conversation, relax and have a good time.  (Essentially, I try to assure the group that it’s okay to be playful.  I ask that we give ourselves  permission to just try out this idea.)

And then, to show that I’m willing to give myself permission to be silly too, I put on my big, tacky sport coat and some big old glasses.  (Or, if that seems too much, I just put on a Talk Show host character.)  If I’ve got a teaching partner or an assistant to play Paul Schaeffer to my David Letterman, that’s even better. 

Then I amuse myself by singing a bit of improvised “TALK SHOW!” theme song (more permission to “play” demonstrated here) before I announce the night’s guests, reading the names off of the papers.  Importantly, I applaud and cheer each guest both in introduction and in the forthcoming interviews.  This game is all about affirming and celebrating the guests.  Making them feel and look good. 

Each guest is announced and welcomed to the stage with enthusiasm.  Each guest is affirmed with applause from the host and audience.  Sometimes students really engage in the “talk show” energy, sometimes they don’t.  Regardless, I always seek to encourage, affirm, be genuinely interested, share that interest with the audience, and let the “guest” know they are appreciated.  I use the three, circled “fun facts” on the interview sheets to interview each guest, trying to get interaction, connection, perhaps even a story or two.  A handshake and another round of applause ends each interaction.  (PRO TIP:  There are two great things about having a partner or assistant in this game.  You can get them in on celebrating the guest.  And also, you can switch host and sidekick roles for variety.)

My hope is that this game of TALK SHOW builds upon the INTERVIEW game by furthering the “ice-breaking.”  The team gets to know and respect one another more.  But, as importantly, I hope it introduces the idea that the class is a place to “play,” and that its fine to take that permission to play because you’ll be affirmed.  This is the beginning of the practice of “Yes, And” that we’ll work on in future sessions.