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Silent Telephone

By Amy Harder

This is one of those goofy games that is bound to get you giggling. It’s always important that actors (be they human or puppet) communicate clearly. But just like the regular “Telephone” game you probably played as a kid, messages can get mixed up as they travel. Heh heh heh. So, have fun and see how well you can get your message across!

Set up. This game works best with groups of four to six, so divide your group if needed. Any extra people will become the audience. All but one player stands with their backs to the audience. This game is done in mime (hence the name) but you could have these players also cover their ears… ya’ know, for effect. With smaller groups, just make sure you rotate who gets to go first.

Action. The first player receives “the script” from the director (see examples below). The player must then communicate all parts of this story to Player 2, without using any words. You might consider limiting the communication time to one minute. Then Player 2 must retell to Player 3 in mime the story as he understood it. Player 3 tells 4, etc., until the story has traveled to the end of your line. Have the last player relay the information to the first player to see if he got it right. Or have the director read the original script.

Depending on the complexity of the script and the ability of your players, the story may or may not be altered by the end of the line. Reward teams that retain accuracy in storytelling, and laugh along with the teams that leave out important parts or misinterpret the message.

Examples:

  • I was walking my dog on a beautiful day, when three big guys came out of nowhere and started beating me and left me for dead. Then my dog ran away. Have you seen him?
  • While riding through the desert, my horse got spooked by a coyote and threw me to the ground. Then I got bit by a rattlesnake. I sucked out the venom and survived.
  • I once took two kids to the zoo. We saw an elephant, a lion, and a monkey. Then we petted the goats. And I stepped in something nasty.

Variation (simplification). If you are working with a particularly young or inexperienced team, you might consider giving Player 1 a list of 2 or 3 emotions instead of a whole storyline. It might be helpful to give a description along with the emotion to help the student really feel what you’re asking them to emote. E.g. “Excitement - like you just won a $10 million lottery!” And be sure to avoid the generic emotions (like happy, sad, afraid, etc.) that can be taken many different levels, and instead give them something to really play with (like infatuation, depression, paralyzing fear, etc.).

Variation (puppetification). Now that you’ve done it with yourselves, put on puppets and see how much your puppet characters can express through mime. Heh heh heh. You might need simpler stories or emotions for this one.

Wrap up. As potentially amusing as this exercise is, it also presents a perfect opportunity to discuss clarity in motion — are we really saying what we want to say? Is there a better way to communicate our message? Do we sometimes express something with our bodies that we don’t mean to? Take a moment to reflect on these questions as a group. You might just be surprised to see how this silliness can positively affect the way your puppeteers approach their puppetry.


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