Surfing with the Bard Lesson Plans

Any Play
(with an example from A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Status Games
Submitted by:  Mark Sheppard
(adapted from
IMPRO - Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone)
Date:  July 1994

Objective:   To allow students to explore status in relationships.

Materials:  Slips of paper numbered 1-4

Activities:

  • Initial Format:
    Four students are each given a slip of paper with a number (1, 2, 3 and 4) which they are to keep as their status number. They are not to tell anyone else their number. They are then given a situation in which the group must make a consensus decision, such as choosing a movie to see or video to rent, planning the menu for a party, or selecting one of the group to run for class office. In pursuing the objective, each member of the group is to maintain his or her own status number and to determine the status number of the others, without asking or divulging. In playing their status the numbers work as following:
    1. Always in charge.
    2. Participates in leadership, but defers to #1. May offer mediation.
    3. Offers suggestions, but not leadership, and defers to #1 and #2.
    4. May offer suggestions, but always defers to rest of group.

    After the scene is played, ask each player to identify what the status numbers of the others were before divulging their own. Ask audience members if they concur or differ in their perceptions of the status chain of command that they observed.

  • Variation/Progression:
    Four students are each told to secretly choose their own status number. Then they are given a scene situation in which the group must make a consensus decision, as suggested above. In pursuing the objective, each member of the group is to maintain his or her own status number and to determine the status number of the others, without asking or divulging. After the scene is played, ask the audience to identify what they perceived as the status chain of command. Then ask each player to identify how they perceived the status of their scene partners before divulging their own.
  • Analysis:
    The Initial Format tends to provide a clear status chain and, once status of each member has been established, a fairly smooth achievement of the group objective. The Variation Format may also provide a clear status chain if there is a 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the group. However, interesting conflicts and impasses may arise if there is more than one #1 or there may be a comic "spinning of wheels" if no one has chosen to take on the #1 status.
  • Text Applications:
    Excellent examples of scenes involving status are the opening court and mechanical scenes in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In the court scene, Duke Theseus is a definite #1 and Egeus a feisty #2. Is Hermia a #3? Who are the #4s? Does Helena change from a self-abasing #4 in her scene with Hermia and Lysander to a #1 or 2 in her monologue at the end of the scene? In the mechanical scene, Bottom, an amateur actor, insists on being in the #1 status position, leaving Peter Quince to take the #2 status position if he wants to keep the scene moving forward (despite his role as Director). Watch Peter Quince attempt to establish his #1 status and then shift to #2. While Francis Flute plays at #3, Snug the Joiner, along with Robin Starveling and Snout are clearly #4s.
  • Optional Initial Format:
    Before introducing the concept of Status, have four students role-play a scene that involves reaching a consensus decision, but without assigning or choosing status numbers. After watching the scene, ask the audience and players how the group dynamic affected the decision making. Did leadership/follower roles emerge? Did roles change or shift? Then introduce the concept of Status with the Initial Format Exercise.

 

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