Games – Deathbox

By Randall | Games for Shows
6 Jan 2012

Alias: Four Square

Four people start on stage, standing in a square. Each side of the square will be a different scene, but only the scene that is currently on the front side is performing. The host can control which scene is “on” by making the deathbox rotate forward or reverse. Before the scenes begin, a suggestion is requested as the inspiration for each scene. When coming back to one of your scenes, you can move forward in time, since you do not have the usual amount of time to complete the story arc.

Setup notes:

We like to pitch Deathbox as a “bargain” to the audience, because they are getting “four scenes in one!” Also, we start by cycling through the sides of the box once to get the suggestions, then once again to have both improvisers in each scene repeat the suggestions together. Not only will this help illustrate to the audience how the game will work, it also helps everyone remember what the scenes are about.

Tips for success:

Deathbox is a HIGH energy game. It works best when the transitions between scenes are quick, almost frantic. When hosting, start out by giving each scene a few brief moments to establish the premise, then rotate. You want to leave the improvisers with something to come back to. When not in a scene, they have a few moments to think about what has been offered so far and how to heighten it, so the scene doesn’t have as much downtime. If you’re playing, when you come back to a scene, jump right in and advance the action somehow, through time jumping or through heightening. There is a big payoff for the audience because they are basically seeing highlights of four different scenes.

Another fun trick is to have the box rotate four times at once (“Forward 4″ or “Reverse 4″), bringing us back to the same scene. This is particularly effective with a time jump.

Inevitably, some scenes will have more substance than others; feel free to come back to those scenes more often. Finally, don’t worry about affording each scene it’s full story arc. If the game has been going on for a while, and you get a good button, call it and do a blackout.

Most new improvisers have a lot of fun with this game. It gives them the payoff of laughs with less exposition. I strongly recommend it for any introductory level graduation show.


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