Cooperation, the ability to work together, is an absolute must for effective theater games. The first thing I tell my students is that, though the activities we are doing are often noisy, I must be able to get their immediate attention whenever I need it. I tell them to pretend to be noisy third graders, but that when I call ATTENTION they are to look right at me and be completely silent.

The next cooperative skill necessary is to be in the right place at the right time. I have three commands for students: STAGE FRONT, SEATS, and POSITIONS. Whenever I call one of these things, they must immediately go where they are told.

The important point here is not so much that students learn to respond to the ATTENTION and POSITION commands, but that they gain confidence in being able to do something theater-related. If one adds additional skills slowly, one can avoid entirely the "I can't do it" response that kills theater games.

The last cooperation exercise I use is the emotional symphony. I divide the class into groups, giving each group a different sound to make. I choose a conductor, whose job it is to coordinate the sounds the groups make. If he points to a group, it must start making its sound. If he raises his hand, the sound has to get louder. If he lowers his hand, the sound is quieter. He can have all the groups making their sounds at once, or bring them in one at a time.

Notice again the slow confidence building process. Many students would be a bit shy if asked to quack like a duck in front of the class. But if their whole group is quacking, it's not so hard.

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