We started the class with 2 name games, namely Bang bang and George. What I love about George is how the clapping is like the principles of improv. At first it is really difficult to get the clap sequence right, but after some practice you don’t even think about it anymore. It becomes a structure around which you can just improvise. After George we played “What are you doing?”. This game stretches your mind and shows how much you actually think with your body.
For the first status exercise I gave everyone a number that only they could see and told them to play a gibberish scene on a pirate ship. They had to exhibit their own status and try to figure out the status of the other players. It was interesting to note that how much you speak has no influence on your status. Someone who speaks a lot can be a babbling fool or on the flip side…one who barks orders at everyone else. Someone who is silent can feel they don’t have anything worth saying or by adjusting the energy behind that very silence, command the attention of others. It all depends on how you talk or stay silent. It is also fascinating to see how people with different status interact with their environment – players with high status move around a lot like they own the space, while low status players only occupy small spaces.
For the next exercise I stuck a number on each person’s forehead representing their status, 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest and told them to play a scene in a castle. The aim of the game is to discover your own status by the way others react towards you. It was interesting to see how those with low status bond with each other, while those with high status often find themselves in conflict.
For the last part of the class we played silent 2 person scenes using different statuses. The silent, scenes forces players to show and not tell. It also helps players to pay more attention to what the other player is doing and react more truthfully. I instructed the players to naturally switch their status during the scene. This switch made for attention-grabbing interactions. It builds on the idea of breaking routines that we played with in the previous class about story (read more about story here). Changing the status hierarchy in a scene is a great way to break a routine and creates great story. People love stories in which the underdog triumphs or where the oppressed is liberated and the oppressor taken from power.
More thoughts on status:
In all human interaction there is some form of status interaction taking place. In everything you are saying or doing you are either heightening or lowering your status, however subtle it might be. People usually have a natural preferred status that they play. Whether it is high or low, it is usually a form of defence mechanism. People who prefer high status very often want to keep others at a distance while those who play low status may be people pleasers. High or low status isn’t inherently good or bad, but understanding how to use status in your interactions with people is a very useful social skill.
Please share some of your thoughts on status.
One Reply to “Improvisation class 6 – Status”
Improv guru, Keith Johnstone theorizes that humans are going up and down continually in a kinetic dance of raising and lowering each others status. Usually this is all working at the unconscious level, but it affects how we relate to each other. Much of it can be subtle.Here is an example of a seemingly harmless exchange of comments. I lit an incense burner in our dining room whilst my husband was at a meeting. On his return he entered the house and remarked that the essence was quite sharp and overpowering. I corrected: ” No it’s not sharp, the doors have just been closed for a while” From the vantage point of a status transaction my comment had the clear effect of lowering Burgert’s status, pointing out that he was inaccurate in his comment. If, instead of phrasing what I said as I did I should have remarked: “Yes, it is quite pungent, and if we opened a door the intensity of the aroma should subside” This last phrasing has the advantage of accepting his offer and building upon it. This is good, collaborative improv me thinks. My first way of making the observation ended up being a put down instead of an addition. You might wonder what does this matter? I think the world can be a better place when we are aware of our status transactions. There was simply no need to correct my husband, no need to be “right.” And, yet I see couples doing this all the time. It is unnecessary fencing…and we could do with an airing of the often pungent status transactions we daily play a part in.