Deirdre Moore | March 2015

Theatre Games: They’re Not Just for Theatre Anymore!

So it’s March.

Depending on your school calendar you may be 2/3 of the way through the year, or even 3/4.  Normally, it’s about this time of year we begin to feel tired and uninspired. Especially, if we’ve battled difficult weather conditions for the last few months.  What can we do to reinvigorate ourselves and our students?  Play a game! Theatre Games are hard to resist. Not only are they fun, they’re almost guaranteed to engage students.  If used well, they can be a way to strengthen classroom community, learn/reinforce concepts, learn/practice skills, and simply get the juices flowing.  Recently, I attended a dance event reminding me how useful Theatre games can be. It even inspired me to rethink games that are traditionally reserved for theatre.

“Whose Dance Is It Anyway?”

Last month, I wrote an article after attending a dance event at a local modern dance studio, Malashock Dance. This was part of a series called “The Engagement Ring” intended to engage the audience in the process of dance-making.  It was such a great experience that I felt compelled to attend the next event in the series. This one was titled “Whose Dance Is It Anyway?” based on the comedy improvisation show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”  The woman facilitating the evening, Lara Segura, was also the choreographer. She actually conceived the concept of using theatre games with dance. Also, she worked with the dancers in rehearsal to help them learn the format of the various Theatre games, and gain experience improvising with one another.

I can’t remember that last time I had that much fun!  After the dancers presented the final piece comprised of the audience’s favorite snippets from the night, the audience was invited to engage in a little game of freeze dance.  Normally, I choose to just sit and watch in such a big group of unknown people. However, after watching those dancers having such fun on the dance floor for an hour of continuous play, I had to get up myself.  This is what we want to happen to even our most reticent students! We want them to get so caught up in the fun they forget whatever fears they might be harboring and get pulled into the sheer joy of it!

The Skill of Improvisation

Improvisation is such an important skill for children and adults alike. When used in the context of a game, it can be so much fun.  In this situation, the dancers were required to trust themselves and each other. They had to pay attention to what the other dancers did, while also remaining focused on the task at hand. They demonstrated their understanding of the dance elements and they had to artistically interpret directions and remember movements they created. Just as these Theatre games for kids were applied to dance, we can apply them to many disciplines. We can encourage students to think on their feet, take cues from one another, and utilize what they learned in that discipline.

If you need a way to extend your students’ learning, and re-energize yourself and your students, I highly recommend you check out “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (lots of samples on YouTube).  You will have a good belly laugh, and you may be inspired to apply one of their games to something you do in class.  If you really want to give it a try, there are books and websites of theatre games for kids that might work as a springboard for learning Theatre games in the classroom.  After all, when you turn learning into a game where everyone wins, everyone truly wins!

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.