Improv Acting Game: Status Therapy Session


I noticed a lot of folks have been finding my blog looking for tips on improv.


To give you folks more of what you’re looking for, I thought I’d go through my mental files and present to you some exercises from the past.  Here’s an improv game that I learned in a class with David Matthew Prior back a few years ago at Michael Howard Studios.

I forget the name, but let’s call this…

Status Therpay Session

How many people? You need at the very least around 6 people to get the most use out of this game.  You could probably do even better with 7. A group of nine folks might still work.  Beyond that it might spiral into chaos, but give it a try if you want.

What’s the set up? One person is the “Therapist.” This is kind of the boring role in the game so it might be served best by the coach, teacher, or at least someone who’s good at being an interviewer.  The rest of the group are members of the family.  These members shouldn’t know what family role they are (Mom, Dad, older brother, etc.) yet.

First, everyone besides the interviewer picks a number.   If there are five members of the family, then everyone picks a number between 1 and 5.  If there are 6 members, a number between 1 and 6.  And so on.  Everyone keeps this number to themselves and doesn’t share it.  Please guys, keep it a secret for now!  I beg of you.  Then everyone, individually and silently, assigns every member of the group another number (1 through 6 or however many folks are in the group).  You can’t give another member of the group the same number, in each member’s mind every number must be used.  Don’t share this information!  Keep it quiet!

Second, assign roles to everyone in the family.  Father, Step-Moter, baby, daughter, older brother, nanny, babysitter from next door, feel free to spice it up a bit if you have a large group.  Or if you want to make group the staff of an office and assign everyone job titles, feel free.  As long as the group is a group with a traditional hierarchy and established relationships you’ll have fun.

Third, explain the status of everyone’s numbers.  1 is the number of the highest status, 6 (or 8, 9, 10, etc.) is the lowest status.  Keeping in mind the number each member assigned themselves and other members of the group, each member must act accordingly. 1 submits to nobody, 2 submits to one but is superior to 3, 3 submits to 2 but is superior to 4, etc.  The last number is submissive to everybody.  Now, everyone has a status map of the group, but everyone’s status maps are different.  Let the fun begin!

Fourth, to get the game going the “therapist” or interviewer asks the characters questions, trying to get the group to interact, and the group must deal with each other as their personal status maps allows. If everyone follows the numbers, it can get pretty interesting because no 2 people in the group will have the same status map, just like a real family!

After the game is over, try to get the class to guess everyone’s number.  If everyone’s good at playing status it should be pretty easy.

When I did this game all the different independent relationships and statuses gave the game the look of a rehearsed scene.  It gave way to complicated relationships.  And it was pretty funny to watch one person who thought of themselves as a 1 dealing someone who had mentally labeled the same person an 8.

Try it out!  Let me know how it goes!

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