Glass Cobra (and the principal of Constructive Quitting)

by Bernie DeKoven on November 4, 2011

Should Prui, given the grope-potential, prove a bit extreme, there’s always Glass Cobra, another game from the playful genius of Augusto Boal (Games for Actors and Non-Actors).

The game begins with everyone standing in a circle with their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them.

Players are advised to get to know the shoulders of that person. This inevitably leads to something like a mutual massage and sighs of universal happiness. Depending on the degree of shared deliciousness, you can, if you want, stop there.

I prefer to go on, because the game itself is at least as much fun.

Next, you tell players to close their eyes. This is somewhat natural, as they are probably by now in a state of only somewhat mitigated bliss.

Now, very carefully, after the appropriate ahh has sufficiently transpired, you tell them to drop their hands.

While keeping their eyes closed, you then issue several instructions, the purpose of which is to: 1) change the position of people enough so that no one is standing in the same position relative to the person who was in front, and 2) create a careful measured amount of conceptual mayhem. Exemplary instructions may include: “Take two steps to your right.” “Turn 27-degrees clockwise.” “Take 1.5 side steps toy your left.” “Slide one giant-step north-by-northwest.”

Once everyone is sufficiently disoriented, or, more positively, reoriented, and reminded most clearly to keep their eyes closed until further instructed, you suggest that their next logical goal would be to find the shoulders they once knew so intimately, and rejoin, so that all, still with their eyes closed, almost uncannily conclude in the same position, in the same circle of shared sensual bliss. (If this is confusing, can read Boal’s description of the game here.)

As a general rule, before I actually start a game, I encourage people who think they might not want to play to do that very thing – not play. I call it “Constructive Quitting.” This can be very useful for everyone, especially when playing games like Prui and Glass Cobra, where people are walking around in the simulated dark. The Constructive Quitters can help reorient people who have strayed too far from the action, or who are about to wander into a stairwell or into some potentially painful protuberance. It is useful to the Quitters because it gives them a chance to observe and to reaffirm their commitment to play. And it is very useful to me, because I can be reassured that the only people who are actively engaged are the people who want to be so. More about this here.


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