Blind Games: What We Played

For three days in January, 2015, theatre artists Mason Rosenthal and Morgan FitzPatrick Andrews led a series of experiential Blind Games at a community arts space in West Philadelphia. 32 people came out on a chilly Friday night, and smaller numbers returned the next two afternoons to stumble and bump into each other with eyes closed, usually with some sort of performative goal in (and out of) sight.

Blind Games often serve as icebreakers and trust-builders by organizations that work with kids and teens. Theatrical, dance and movement artists use them to build group cohesion and get performers to use more of their non-visual senses. In the Theatre of the Oppressed tradition, we use Blind Games to build skills for perceiving unseen elements of power and oppression in society. Our workshop brought all of these things together, with the base understanding that we would all be working with our eyes closed. Mason and Morgan also used these sessions for research toward a new theatrical work about vision loss and partial blindness, while offering everyone else a fully embodied experience, as well as a full list of the games and their rules. And here they are:

On Friday night we warmed up with three quick ones to get us used to working with missing information:
  • Pick Up The Cup: Mark an "X" on the floor and place a cup on it. Players line up several meters from the cup and take turns closing eyes, walking forward, and stooping down to pick up the cup once they think they've reached it. Others watch and respond: "Ooh!" for a miss, a roar of applause for a win. Everyone goes twice. No feeling around for the cup—just reach straight down and pick it up (or don't!)
  • Alpha Order Names: A name game with three simple rules: 1) Everyone must hold at least one other's hand at all times. 2) Each person is allowed to say their own name and nothing else. 3) Get into alphabetical order. Easier played with eyes open.
  • Line Up By Height: With eyes closed, without talking.
The following games we played in pairs:
  • Blind Car: One person is the Blind Car, the other its Sighted Driver who controls the Car by tapping its back to go forward, top of head for reverse, and each shoulder to turn right or left. Because this is a cooperative game, we share everything freely, so Cars occasionally get new Drivers, sight unseen.
  • Fingertips: Players ouch fingertips together, one person with eyes open, the other closed, and all dance. Pairs can switch roles (sighted/blind, leader/follower), merge into bigger groups, or have the blind lead the blind. What's most essential is some good disco music:
  • Stopping and Falling: Here the blind player leads the sighted by walking, stopping, and then and falling backward to be caught and uprighted by their sighted partner. The falls then become less predictable: sideways, diagonally, forward and at varying tempos. 
  • Bling Hug: Pairs embrace, close their eyes, and back away from each other, keeping pace to a count upwards. A countdown brings them back and hopefully into the same embrace.
  • Blind Chair: Person A ("Chair") drops to one knee, and Person B ("Sitter") sits sideways on Chair's horizontal thigh. Both close their eyes, stand up, and begin walking to a count: Sitter paces forwards, Chair backwards. A countdown brings both back to sit—Chair back down to one knee,  and Sitter back on Chair's leg, possibly even that of their original Chair…
  • Blind Tracker: A sighted player makes an Animal sound for their blind Tracker to follow around the space. Animal keeps Tracker from bumping into things purely by sound, and Tracker simply heads in the direction of that specific sound (though these dark woods may be populated by impostors who mimic certain animal sounds to lead trusting trackers astray).
These paired explorations dynamized the senses of touch, hearing, spatial awareness, proprioception and even teleception, giving us the skills to delve into more intricate blind scenarios:
  • Blind Scenes: A pair of pairs, one Sighted the other Blind. The Sighted Pair comes up with a scenario for the Blind Pair to perform, and Blind Pair is in the dark both visually and circumstantially in that they have no idea what they are about to do. The Sighted Pair announces their scene's title and manipulates the Blind Pair (using the tools from the games above) to get their Blind Pair to perform. Memorable scenes included "A Trip to the Dentist", "Survivor", and "Blind Date in the School Cafeteria". Sighted Pair announces "the end!" when it's over.
  • Magical Journey: In pairs, a sighted actor takes their blind companion on a 5-minute journey through space, telling a story using all other senses. After each takes the other on a Magical Journey, this pair can then conspire to take the larger group on a Grand Magical Journey.
  • Find Hands: Everybody forms a circle, holds hands, closes their eyes and notices what is unique about the people to either side, just by touching hands and arms no higher than the elbow. After a minute, all release, walk around with eyes closed, and then find their original partners. A great game for 7-10 people that becomes increasingly more epic in bigger groups.
After two days of working primarily with eyes closed, we opened our eyes and used some source material to explore archetypes of literal and figurative "blindness" in media. We listened to "blind songs" by Thomas Dolby, Morrissey, Manfred Mann, Run DMC, Kenny Starr, and The Who, and then made short scenes inspired by them. When also performed some classical and contemporary drama featuring blind characters with the intent of using the Theatre of the Oppressed techniques of Simultaneous Dramaturgy and Forum Theatre, but only had time for our closing games:

  • Blind Clap Together: In a circle, all close eyes and clap simultaneously.
  • Venus Flytrap: In a circle, all point left index fingers down into the center of their neighbors' upturned right palm. The object is to catch your neighbor's finger and simultaneously not get caught. After a few turns, switch hands.
  • Italian Rain: Sitting in a circle with eyes closed, all begin to tap a finger against their opposite palm, then two, then three, then four, then all five before working back down to zero. Then back up, and back down twice more until all is silent.
For more information about Mason and Morgan's theatrical projects, visit the website of the Medium Theatre Company: