Excerpted from Actively Engaged:Theater Games as a Dynamic Teaching Tool in the Classroom, written by Priscilla Kane Hellweg and due out in 2016.
Notes: The Mirror Game develops so many life skills and performance skills that it is generally used in every college theater class around the country. It adapts beautifully to participants of all ages. I have led the Mirror Game with wiggly first grade students, sassy eighth graders, sophisticated college students, and in nursing homes with residents in wheel chairs.
The Mirror Game can develop into a kind of meditation on leading and following, on visual listening, and on what it means to be “a partner” to another person. It also provides a gentle challenge for teaching others how to initiate action. Many students have told me they learned how to be creative while leading in the mirror game.
Object of the Game: To practice leading and following another persons movements as if in a mirror mirroring each others actions.
Recommended for: Groups in Kindergarten - Adult Time needed: 30 minutes Room set up: A cleared space with room for group to stand in a large circle. Materials Needed: None
Partners stand facing each other, approximately 1.5 feet apart. One person chooses to lead, the other to follow.
Encourage the participants to begin SLOWLY, in a way that their partner can follow, and move in synchronized gestures and movements as if they are mirror images of the other: Raise one arm, then the other. Shift weight from one leg to the other. Move both arms in slow circles. The essential challenge is to move as ONE.
Have participants take turns, leading and following.
COACHING NOTE: I regularly say – if you want to trick someone – trick me. Make it hard for me to know who is leading and who is following. Then I go around the room, from pair to pair, observing and enjoying their tremendous teamwork.
Before beginning the exercise, I explain that I will cue the beginning and ending of this activity using quiet Tibetan bells. (Two flat-styled bells on opposite ends of twine. When gently struck, they ring a most beautiful chime.) I ask partners to stand in stillness facing each other until the bell signals the leader to begin. I tell them that I’ll chime the bell chime in the middle as well. When they hear it, they’re instructed to pause for a moment in stillness before switching leaders and followers. The third time I chime the bells, I ask them to come back to a neutral standing position and hold in stillness until the bell is silent.
In essence, I am establishing the ritual of theater when I guide them to follow the bells. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end, and I guide them to adhere to the structure.
I tend to lead the exercise in a series of three rounds:
Round One: I ask them to take turns with leading and following, for 3 minutes each. During the first round people tend to giggle a lot, and use their arms in simple patterns. They seem to run out of ways to move.
Round Two: I ask them to challenge themselves by controlling their laughter, and finding new finding new ways to explore the mirror- change directions, levels, include leg movements. I also ask them to challenge ME by making it hard for me to tell who is leading and following. When facilitating this section, I literally walk around the room, taking on the role of the witness, observing their work and noting who is leading. I guide as I meander, suggesting to leaders that they slow down to make it easier for the follower to be precise in their following. Having a witness tends to help people feel accountable, and that helps them be responsible leaders and followers.
Round Three: I often add music, and encourage partner sets to loosen up on the reigns of who is leading and who is following. I suggest they try to lead and follow simultaneously.
Try leading a small group of people.
Try it with partners on opposite sides of the room.