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Pecking orders define access to resources and privileges in any given social groups. They are born from an agreement to keep conflicts to a minimum until an environmental change upsets the status quo.
For example after a shipwreck on a deserted island, an experienced fisherman might find that everyone is now very wearied of his own well-being. So the place an individuals occupies in a pecking order can shift according to circumstances, but the same person can also occupy different places in different settings. For example a powerful CEO can find himself overruled at home by his teenage children. Keith Johnstone dedicated a chapter of his book, “Impro”, to status and pecking orders. The notion is relevant to improvisers on many levels:

As a person. What is your favourite place in the pecking order? Would you rather be leading or following? Are you offering support to others or forever competing for attention? Status games allow us to explore our inner-self and the relation we have with others in both a concrete and light-hearted manner.

As a player. Improvisation is a team game and players' status will constantly change within the team. According to circumstances, they will have to support others or take the initiative, justify mistake and resolve misunderstanding in real time, hence the need for everyone to constantly re-adjust their status.

As a character. A character's status can be high or low compared to other characters, but status games can also be played with places, objects, ideas and feelings, and status swings offers an endless reservoir of scenes that will "invent themselves".

As a storyteller. Most stories establish a pecking order among characters and proceed to upset it. Endings generally feature the restoration of the original order or the foundation of a new one, along with the triumph or destruction of the main protagonist.

© Remy Bertrand - Imprology 2005/2014
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