USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Theatre Games’
Game
general
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic

King Elephant

Context:

I had met with one of my friends for lunch, and we got to talking about games we had played as children and teenagers.

 

Interview:

Informant: Here’s something that came from the theater world. It’s a game called, I’m gonna go with “King Moose,” no it was “King Elephant.” I’ve played this game in other places where it was called King Moose or King Whatever, but the game we played was called King Elephant.

Me: Okay.

Informant: Yeah. And it was a passing game and you had a rhythm. And it was like hit your thighs clap your hands, hit your thighs, clap your hands.

Me: Oh yeah.

Informant: And we would have – there was only two signs that had to be in there, you had King Elephant who would have a trunk with like one arm over the other with the bent one holding their nose.

Me: Okay yeah.

Informant: And then you had dunce. Which was just a really crappy hat. Some people would do chopped liver which was just kind of spazzed out, ’cause you were chopped liver. You know? [Laughter] But most of the time we just played dunce. When we wanted to be mean we would do chopped liver. [Laughter] and so everyone, as many people as you have, sit around in a circle, and the first time around each person picks a sign. And its just like a word or a name and then a gesture. It doesn’t have to be animals, but I have played this game where it was only animals, and played it where it could be anything you could think of. We had a couple of ones that everyone knew, like 7-eleven was like two guns, New Yorker was a “screw-you” sign, we had fish, sometimes it would become Nazi fish, [laughter] because people would get too excited (me mainly) and instead of waving their hand like a fish swimming it would go up so it became Nazi fish. [Laughter] And like sometimes there would be inside jokes. One of my favorite ones was pink, and it was ’cause, I think it was my freshman year, and there was an improv show, and this guy in our theater troupe was supposed to like, paint something pink. And so he got up, moved his body about and was like, “Piiiink.” [She stood up and waved her body from side to side as she waved her arm in exaggerated painting motions] Like he was splashing paint everywhere, so that was one of the signs that we would always use, was pink. I mean people would do like Batman [she demonstrated the gesture], they could do whatever they want, as long as it was an easy sign to remember and do. And that sign became attached to the chair. And the whole point of the game was to get to the king elephant’s spot. And the to that, you had to knock people out. And so the king would set the rhythm and then he would call out his name and do his sign and then would call out someone else’s name and do their sign. And then it would pass to that person who would have to do their sign and then someone else’s sign.

Me: Oh yeah.

Informant: And it gets randomly passed around the circle.

Me: I’ve played something similar before.

Informant: Yeah. And if you messed up the beat, said a sign that didn’t exist, or you messed up on a sign, then you were kicked out and you had to go to the dunce’s seat, and everyone moved up a seat. And of course, you had to learn a new sign because you were in a new seat. Which of course causes more people to get kicked off, since they forget whose sign is whose. And so yeah it’s a fun game, trying to get to the king’s spot.

Me: Yeah, I’ve played something similar where there is no dunce seat, it’s just going round. It’s essentially just an elimination game, there is no king elephant or dunce. Yeah, I’ve played something similar.

Informant: Yeah we had one where it was king moose and it was just animals, but I like king elephant better because you could get really crazy. And then we would do murder round, for the people who were really into it, where the beat would go really fast. We had to come up with a new rule where you couldn’t go back and forth more than three times, ’cause what people would do, especially people who were really competitive, would simply go back and forth on and on, which became really boring for the rest of us. So we had to make a rule that you couldn’t go back and forth more than three times. It’s a fun game.

Me: Yeah it is. I haven’t played it in years.

Informant: Me neither. But it was really fun.

 

Analysis:

This is a children’s game that to me would encourage creativity, quick thinking, an understanding of rhythm, and memory. My informant went to school in Northern California, where she played the game, and I went to school in Washington, DC – o the opposite side of the country – where I also played this game, albeit slightly differently. This game is something that I played with my sports teammates before practice, and sometimes before games, as a warm-up to get the blood going, or even as an icebreaker-type game to get everyone to know each other a little bit better. The fact that it is children and young teenagers – middle and high school students – that play this game could possibly mean that it is a game that is used more often than not to bring a group of people together, such as a sports team made up of people that you might not know very well. I have fond memories of playing such games with my volleyball team back in high school, and it helped us get out some of the competitiveness and animosity that some of us may have had with and towards each other. After all, better to work that out off the court than to have it interfere with the game on the court.

 

Game
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Riding the Pony

“One of them, our biggest one, was called ‘Riding the Pony’ and you might’ve, I might’ve told you about this before, or something, or you might… other people do it too. Yeah, it’s a bunch of people standing in a circle and then people will go in the middle, like 5 or 6 people will go in the middle, and then everyone goes: ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony.’ And under that, while that’s happening you’ll, the people in the middle, will run around the circle and then they’ll find someone, so it’ll go: ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony.’ You go ‘front, front, front’ and then you go, ‘side, side, side’ and ‘back, back, back’ on them and then you say, ‘This is how we do it.’ And you switch and then new people come in and do it so it’s just, like ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. Front, front, front. Side, side, side. Back, back, back.’ Switch. And you do it. And you just do it a million times, um, and it’s really fun ‘cuz when you’re doing the ‘front, front, front’ part, people are, like, grinding up on each other and stuff. And in the back you’re, like, hitting your butts on each other and just pushing each other out of the circle. So that’s a huge, like, energy thing for us that we would do.”

My informant was very involved in the theatre program at his high school, Dos Pueblos High School, in Santa Barbara, CA. This was a game that the casts of shows he performed in would play before a performance. It was a fun thing to do, but also a good warm-up to increase energy before a performance. My informant enjoyed telling this story and he laughed about it a lot.

Game
Musical

Ride that Pony

You stand in a circle with 3 to probably 6 people in the middle.  Everyone sings:

“Ride, ride, ride that pony. Get up and ride that big fat pony. Ride, ride, ride that pony. This is what she told me.”

As they sing this verse, the people in the center dance around like cowboys riding horses.  Then the people going around in the middle go up to a person standing in the circle and sing:

“Front to front to front, my baby.  Back to back to back, my baby. Side to side to side, my baby.  This is what she told me.”

As they sing this, they face their partner in the direction that they sing (front, back, side), and when they finish, the people who were standing the circle switch with their partner who had been in the middle and they repeat the song.  At the end, after a few rounds, you say “everyone in,” and everyone goes around and does it.

The informant learned the song and dance from the seniors in the theatre department at her school when she was in 7th grade.  Before every performance, the director leads a warm up, but then the students do a more fun warm up of their own called the “actor warm-up,” which includes the song above.  The informant explained that they did it as a cast as preparation for the show to raise energy and get excited.  On the closing night of the show, the seniors start in the middle because it is the last time that they will ever get to do the pre-show ritual.  The song and dance is a way for them to bring the cast together regardless of age or experience.

I knew the song also from my own high school where we used it in the same way as a warm-up in what we called cast-bonding.  Instead of having a number of people in the center though, we go one at a time while the rest of the circle claps and cheers.  The ritual helped us to get the younger cast members to break out of their comfort zone and become part of the high school theatre community as a whole.

Customs
Folk Dance
Game
general
Gestures
Humor
Magic
Musical

Jump, Shake Your Booty

My informant has been a dancer since elementary school, and currently dances with her performing arts high school. She told me the following piece of folklore about a pre-performance tradition:

So, after everyone gets ready and is about to go onstage for opening night before a show, everyone like gets together in a big group, and usually we turn off the lights but not always depending on where we are, but we usually turn off the lights, and then we all like get in a circle and its quiet for a few seconds and then sort of spontaneously it starts, we all start like shouting JUMP SHAKE YOUR BOOTY, JUMP JUMP SHAKE YOUR BOOTY and we all jump up and down and shake our butts along with the chant, and I guess it’s for good luck on opening night, I’m not really sure, but, like, we all do it before opening night and I’ve done it at, like, pretty much every show I can remember.

My informant told me she and the other members of her cast would perform this tradition for good luck before a show. She does not know when or where it began, but said it has been around for as long as she can remember. Although my informant is a dancer, she said many of her other friends in other disciplines celebrate this tradition as well, and it appears to be a long standing theatrical tradition across all disciplines. It could be a way to get the cast excited before the show, and to loosen up through the motions in the chant, or simply a way to remind everyone to have fun and enforce comradeship in the cast.

Game
Humor

Ghost Potato

Click Here for Audio file of Interview

“So, Ghost Potato is a game, that was passed on to me, uh when I lived in England, by a colleague. And I don’t know where he got it from, whether it’s an ancient game, I am uncertain about that. But in Ghost Potato, a large group of people are divided up into two possible roles: one is Ghost, and the other is Potato. Uhh, the game is then played blindfolded or with closed eyes. Nobody can see anything. And uh, the participants wander around a-a confined space. When they bump into each other, they must gently whisper their identity to one another. So for example, someone would bump into someone and then they’d just go ghost, or like that, or potentially potato. Now, and then the rules of the game state that if a ghost meets a ghost and they, exchange identities, then nothing happens. And if a potato meets a potato, then, nothing happens. But if a ghost should meet a potato, then the potato DIES! That is the rule of the game. And then all dead potatoes move to the side of the room, next to the sensei or referee who’s looking, who’s looking after the whole thing, and um, and then when potatoes, dead potatoes see live potatoes in danger of being caught by ghosts, they are encouraged to make the following sound: oohwoahohoh. Like that, thus warning the still living potatoes, or tubers, uh that they are um, potentially about to be caught. That’s ghost potato.”

“Well, I understand, all walks of life can attempt Ghost Potato, but it is a little dangerous. So I prefer to reserve it for, um, sophisticated, uh, actors, who understand, the dangers of, of the imagination. And uh, I think in my time only one or two people have tipped over the edge and, and sort of lost themselves in the spiritual abyss that awaits them, at the vortex which is Ghost Potato.”

 

This game allows the players to really have fun, and prevent them from taking themselves too seriously. The rules are extremely simple, and its very funny when Actors, many of whom try to come off as serious artists play something that was probably designed for kindergartners. Its also like a practical joke on the players, because the source, who moderates this game with his students, gets to watch a group of adults wander around a room, bump into each other and whisper.

[geolocation]