Games Classes: What We Played

In October of 2011 T.O. Philly held a series of short drop-in classes that bought together an assortment of games and exercises to be used with any group. Whether working with kids or young adults in a classroom, actors or dancers on a stage, organizers and activists fighting for a cause, or even friends or family in our communities, these games are useful tools to bring people together while thinking outside the box. We made time and space available after each session to strategize how we use these games in the work that we do.
Below is a list of games that we played each week, along with a little overview. Many games have been passed along by other practitioners of Theatre of the Oppressed, some directly from T.O. founder Augusto Boal, or via his book Games for Actors & Non-Actors. Other sources are given below:
Week 1:
Name Three Times—Circle name-game where the person in the middle tries to get out by saying someone's name three times without interruption.
Writing Names—A partner name-game in which people tell each other about themselves and then write each other's names in the air using different parts of the body.
Cat & Mouse—Tag game with duos of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder while a mouse runs away from a cat. The mouse can escape by joining a duo, thereby turning the person on the other side of their neighbor into the new mouse.
Walking in Pairs—A series of theatrical walks that each person performs for and with a partner. We played with eye contact, speeds, sizes, distances, moods, mirroring, opposites and several made-up environments or situations.
Unifying Rhythms—Adapted from Boal's "Carnaval Em Rio," individuals make different movements and sounds and then morph them into one unified rhythm.
Closing Clap—In the circle, all start with hands apart, then try to bring them together at the same time.

Week 2:
Whoosh Boing Zap Freakout—Variation on classic circle games like "Pass the Clap" or "Zip-Zap-Zop" where a sound and gesture is passed around or across the circle. Picked up from members of Chicago's RedMoon Theatre.
Enormous Elephant—First layer is a name game where each person picks an alliterative animal identity, second layer is a rhythm game with an ever-changing pecking order. Adapted from "King Elephant" in The New Games Book and a more modern version called "Big Booty" that we picked up from some prison abolitionists in Pittsburgh.
Go Tag—Another one from The New Games Book, originally from India, a line of people conspire to catch a single runner.
Empty Chair Tag—One chair per person, all filled but one. The person who's "it" walks toward the empty chair and it's up to everyone else to prevent them from sitting down.
Switching Places in the Circle—Similar game, only chairs are in a circle with one fewer chairs than people. People switch places while the person stuck in the middle runs for a free seat. Can also be played without chairs.
The Red Shoes (a.k.a. "Big Wind Blows")—Similar game, only the person in the middle makes a statement that's true about themselves and all who share in that truth get up to find an empty seat. In Theatre of the Oppressed we often "up-level" the game by playing a second round focusing on experiences of oppression.
Animal Tracker—Partner game where each person who has their eyes open leads their partner with eyes closed around the room by making animal noises.
Week 3:
Hey You! What's Your Name?—Circle game where one person points at another, asks their name and moves across the circle to take their place while that next person continues the process. We played 3 rounds: 1st with the question, 2nd without the question, 3rd the answer being the name of the pointer.
Captain's Coming—The Crew must follow orders given by the Captain(s) or else walk the plank: Captain's coming! At ease! Crew to Port/Starboard/Stern/Bow, swab the deck, Captain's ball, chow time, and maybe some other orders we made up along the way.
Peruvian Ballgame—Classic Theatre of the Oppressed game developed in Peru. Each person makes and plays with an imaginary ball, then swaps it with one person, then a second, before trying to find and reclaim the ball that each originally had. Our version was extra hard because we swapped balls 3 times before trying to find our originals!
The Cloth Game—Members of two teams try to score points either by tagging a cloth or tagging the person who tagged the cloth before they can get back to their place in line. This game comes from the Jana Sanskriti Theatre of the Oppressed movement in India, and also appears in Augusto Boal's Games for Actors and Non-Actors book using a hat instead of a cloth.
Blind Obstacle Course—Another Jana Sanskriti game. Two teams each send a member out with eyes closed to sit in a chair, write their name on a piece of paper, sit in another chair and then click 2 sticks together. Sighted teammates can give verbal guidance to aid (or abet) their teammate.
Find Your Mama Like A Little Penguin—In a circle, each person makes a non-vocal noise with their mouths and remembers the sounds of those on either side of them. All players close their eyes and wander around the room, then try to get back into place by recognizing the sounds of their original neighbors.
Handshakes, High-Fives & Hugs—Each person has one other person with whom they shake hands, a different person that they high-five, and third person to hug. Facilitator calls out "Handshake! High-Five! Hug!" and everybody must run and pair up with the right person on cue.
Circle of Hands/Crossed Hands/Hands to the Floor—Rhythm games using patterns of hands making rhythms on and off the floor.

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