Status and status play

4 Dec

Status play means playing consciously a person’s hierarchical position in regard to other people, as the status of a person describes the person’s place in the hierarchy. When we speak about status we have to differentiate between social status and status play. The social status can be for example a profession related position: religious leaders, army commanders and respected professionals (i.e. important to other people, for example doctors) have a high social status. The hierarchy of the social status is based on the values of the social culture and the social positioning of being upper class or lower class, not necessarily your behavior.

Status play is not directly related to your social position, but to your behavior. In real life, when we meet other people, we quickly define other people’s status and find our place on the hierarchical ladder. Our own position is affected by our personality (shy, introvert, self-confident, extrovert), our prejudices and our first impression of others (for example their age, education, knowledge, wealth). In normal communication our status changes often and very rapidly: if another person says he has done something you respect, his status will rise, if you do something embarrassing, your status will decline.

The status of a person can be expressed by themselves in body language and voice, but can also be played up by others. If I treat you as having high status, then your status is heightened. This is extra important for some roles, like high status roles, but the playing of lowering your own status, and raising the others (or the opposite) can be more subtle too.

In any drama – larp, film or theatre – the status play is more important in the relationship and the social status is more important in character creation. For the drama to seem alive, an actor/player must know his own status, understand the hierarchy of status in his surroundings and be able to perform the changes in hierarchy.

Master and slave, Decision making and status chairs are some of the status exercises already on the handbook. More information and games on status can be found in Keith Johnstone’s books Impro and Impro for storytellers.

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