LEFT OR RIGHT – a game of choices

Published by ShawnKinley on


GAME: LEFT or RIGHT  – A Game of Choices

Delaying your decisions is the death of spontaneity. Hesitation comes from a fearful brain trying to avoid failure. 

In our lives, we are confronted by countless lessons that our poor choices will lead to punishment. Our process slows down and we question what we should do to minimize the risk. “Should I go LEFT down the dark alley or RIGHT towards the dog at the gate?”

We spend endless moments calculating risk vs reward. And we look back to our training for rules to follow. AND we consider what will make the audience laugh. AND we doubt our initial impulse. AND we question our doubts AND we doubt the process…and… and… and.

We become stuck in the mud, frozen in our thoughts, locked in the attic… This paralyzed state happens in two ways:

  • We tell ourselves we can’t make an offer because we can’t think of a good one.
  • We can’t choose from the offers our partner gives us because we aren’t sure which one is “right”.

The safety of “not choosing” turns into scene disasters  that go nowhere. Avoiding choices stops you (and the audience) from being altered in any meaningful way.

This game of choices gives practice for creating options and then making decisions without fear.

Do it in private first to prove to yourself that you won’t suffer from your choices. Do it with a friend to share the fear and defeat it together.

One of you will offer random choices without thought to creating narrative. The other person will choose one of your options with equally little concern for the story. Act on impulse and enthusiasm and discover where the path leads. Story is important but for now, take care of yourselves.


BENEFITS: Practice quick offers and fearless choices

# PEOPLE: 2 – 3 (adaptable for more)

GOAL: Without thinking too much, one person is in charge of offering random choices while another is responsible for making quick choices. Justification comes later.


Here is the procedure to play the workshop version of the game. Look down to the VARIATIONS section for the performance version.

  1. Jonah and Jill decide who will make offers and who will make choices. In this version, the person making offers sits in the audience. The person making choices performs.
  2. Jonah sits in front of Jill.  
  3. Jill asks, “CHOICE?
  4. Jonah will offer two options for his partner to choose from. He makes the offers quick and without consideration to logic or narrative at this point.  “UP-DOWN, SALT-PEPPER, EARTH-SKY, LEFT-RIGHT...” Etc
  5. Without thought, Jill chooses one of the offers and can ask for another choice.  
  6. Jonah gives another set of choices without worrying how they connect to Jill’s first choice. “Dragons – Faeries, Android – Apple, Rich-Poor.
  7. Jill chooses again.
  8. When either partner is inspired, they offer a sentence or two (at most), telling a segment of the story based on the choices that Jill has been making. Both Jill and Jonah can take responsibility to narrate.
  9. Jill acts out the narration and can ask for another choice or Jonah can simply offer another set for Jill to choose from.

It should be an easy story inspiration shared by partners trying to remove the pressure to create or decide.



JONAH: Red or Blue?

JILL: RED!  Choice

JONAH: Winter or Summer?

JILL: Summer – CHOICE!

JONAH: Happy or Sad?

JILL: Happy

photography of astronaut standing beside rock formation during daytimeJONAH: (Inspired- he narrates) “Annie watched the glowing red sunset of Mars (the RED planet) as she finished feeding the first crop of the Martian Space Station. She smiled knowing that earth was somewhere out there with her loved ones looking back. (Jill stands still looking into the sky, holding some space farm implement)

(That sounds ok.  I would never have come up with that myself had there not been those random choices to mix. Let’s continue)


JONAH: Life or Death

JILL: Life (Immediately, I chose LIFE… But given a moment of thought I would have chosen DEATH to make it dramatic — BUT, that’s my intellectual brain getting in the way. These choices shouldn’t be bound to anything except easy spontaneous reaction.  We’ll find drama when we need it – so let’s stick with LIFE)

JONAH: Man or Machine?

JILL: Man — (Jill is inspired and speaks to a character beside her). “Looking forward to fresh veggies again after 3 months of dehydrated nutrient mud?”

JONAH: (At this point Jonah offers a choice without being asked)  Metal or Plastic


JONAH: Love or Hate?

JILL: Love

JONAH: The clicks and whirs of their metal assistant gets louder as it approaches with the result of their pregnancy test (love)

etc etc…


A-B-C’s of quick ideas:red and white ceramic bowl with silver spoon
If the person offering choices is having a hard time coming up with choices, have them go through the alphabet. Make the sound of each letter and turn that into a word and then find the choice that fits. For example:

  • “A” – APPLES (easy choice – I would add ORANGES for the game — Apples or Oranges) 
  • “B” – Bbbbbbbeasts! BEASTS (sometimes make the sound of the letter before you know the word you will say. It might throw you into a spontaneous discovery.) BEASTS or ANGELS. 
  • “C” Cops – …cops or robbers…

The idea with the alphabet trick is to limit the billions of possibilities down to many fewer words. And by using a letter that you know, you should make the sound of the letter before you intellectually look for the “right” word. Making the sound gives you a head start to spontaneously come up with a word rather than fall back on looking inside your brain for the “best” choice. 

Coach for SIMPLICITY!!!  

When first playing this exercise, limit the story narration to 2 sentences at most. Remember it’s a training exercise for both people to share in choices and offers. Having one person control the narrative, defeats the purpose.


Stage version #1-

Play this game on stage like a typing scene where someone “writes” the story on stage while the others perform.

One person sits at the corner of the stage.  That person gives the choices. The other performers can call for choices and act out what’s developing from the possibilities.

Stage version #2 – 

Tell the audience that they are going to aid you in a fast-paced game where they get to influence the direction.

Explain that you will go to them for two words that offer a choice. Give them suggestions “Left-Right, Happy-Sad, Forest-Desert” (suggestions should make them understand that their choices can be emotional, objects, locations, etc. Giving them ONE suggestion almost always leads to them sticking to that one type of suggestion.)

Tell them you will take ONE word from one side of the audience and one from the other. This might help make it easier for them. It might also stop them from thinking of “FUNNY” combinations just to make themselves look clever.

Let them know you might grab suggestions a few times before you use them (As you do in the class version of the exercise, you might get two or three words before using their ideas in the story.)

As you do your scene any performer can go back to the audience for choices.  

Using audience members – part 2.

Bring audience members onstage to offer choices. A performer can sit with them to help make the choices. You could have 1 audience member with a performer or 2 – 3 audience members sitting together, loosely coached by a performer.


Be willing to trust your intuition. You might make the choice that seems to have the least logic but that’s a great lesson in giving in to new possibilities. And, as long as you aren’t trying to prove a point of how weird you can be, your intuition will eventually find logic in your choice.


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