Poetry Style

Party games are not just for kids.  The problem with party games is that they can be quite dull while people frantically try for excitement.  Neither of us is a big fan of games, but we both love using improv ideas for parties sometimes.  Sometimes, you want to have some activity at a smaller party that can be a way for your guests to unwind, have some fun and bond with one another.  Using poetry in a party game is our version of doing a party game of charades.

Poetry is one of those things that makes people cringe or scurrying for a pen.  You certainly don’t want anyone to be cutting the evening short because of a poetry activity, especially if they stay it will be a lot of fun.

You need to find a few narrative poems, which are simply poemsthat tells a story.  If you’re having a holiday themed-party, like a Christmas party, you might want to choose a sentimental  narrative poem like “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clarke Moore; if you’re having a Hallowe’en party, you might chose something like Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” etc.  We like to choose the classics because those tend to be the ones full of story and also because people usually haven’t been reading them lately.

One of our favourites for this is “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning (the husband of Elizabeth, of course) for it’s mystery and characterization.

You also need to know how to do tableaus.  Tableaus happen when people arrange themselves or are arranged to create a scene.  No one moves once you’re in place and you hold your place for about a minute so people can study it and enjoy it.  Then you break the scene and move into another tableau.  Wait one minute so people can study it and enjoy it again.  And so on, until you’ve told your story.  You should also have a narrator as the tableau is taking place–you can co-ordinate the reading to match the tableau.  A tableau is a story and you usually don’t have narrative accompanying it, but it makes for a more interesting experience.

If you have 12 people, then you can have 3-4 poems and everyone presents.  Then you use your narrative poem and go through it.  Pick anywhere from 4-6 scenes for your tableau.  The fun is in choosing what to portray and deciding how to portray it.  You basically decide what you think is the most interesting/compelling in the narrative and then you and your group set up to portray each of these scenes.  Then it’s fun to watch people set up in character.

Some other favourites are: “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, “Lady Clare” by Alfred Tennyson, and “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service (creepy and a Canadian classic–our elementary school teachers were always practicing it with us which was not a good idea as it’s not for kids at all). Other good poems for this activity can be found here.  If you like the idea but feel your guests might be put off by poetry, you can use song lyrics too.  Ballads are great for this.

If you decide to try this party idea, please let us know how it worked out.

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