Setting the Context for Status: Discussing a Real Social Issue

This morning, after warming up with fun, high-energy Word-at-a-Time partner stories, I asked the class to circle-up as we do every Monday morning for our improv workshop.  However, instead of beginning with "Ball", we sat down for a talk and a moment of silence.  For some of my students, it was the first they heard of the shooting that took place two days ago outside a supermarket in Arizona.  For others, it was an opportunity to reflect upon a tragedy they'd heard about in the news time and time again.  I briefly explained what I knew--who had been killed, who had been injured, and who had been taken into custody for the crimes.  Although the motives of the perpetrator remain uncertain, the horrific effects of those actions are clear and hit home for every one of us.

The twenty-six of us sat together in a circle.  In complete silence, and in solidarity with much of the country, we reflected upon the incident in our own ways.  A couple of students bowed their head in prayer or closed their eyes for a private moment.  I kept seeing the face of the little girl who had been killed, thinking about my own daughter and falling short in my attempts to imagine the new, awful reality her family has been facing since Saturday.  I looked around the circle to see faces exhibiting anger, disbelief, confusion and sadness. 
I felt proud to be a member of this community of learners.

What resonated most in our discussion that followed our two-minute period of silence was the cacophony of questions: Why had he done such a thing?  What drives a person to commit such a heinous crime?  Why have we only heard about the "high profile" people who were injured or killed?  Had anyone seen the gun before--but just not done anything about it?  What will happen next?

These are the types of questions that set a meaningful context for exploring "status".  When we are confronted with real issues, with the horrors of a national tragedy or the tears of a friend, we are motivated to explore and tackle the structure and possibilities for change that exist within personal relationships.  Improvisational theater offers a framework for understanding and shifting how we relate to one another--character status. 

Up next:
Introducing Status: Understanding Ourselves, Relationships, and the Key to Social Change,
the introductory lesson and my students' reflections on the experience

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