Short plays are “… a place for encounters not journeys, epiphanies not ideologies.” – Steve Waters on Beckett & Mamet’s short plays
Encounters. Epiphanies. This is at the heart of Autism Communty Theater’s games, improvisations and short scenes. Encountering the other; that “aha!” moment of connection, epiphany – there’s someone else here! (and the encounter is transformative – even if fleeting.)
Luckily we don’t need to introduce Beckett or Mamet to our actors for these connections. “Short plays” can be introduced using “Knock, Knock” jokes. Yes!
At first glance, “Knock, Knock” jokes may not appear a natural choice for actors with autism. These jokes involve a play on language, puns, which are typically not readily understood by this population.
However, there is something universally appealing about knock-knock jokes. In addition to their simple, consistent format, knock-knock jokes break drama down to it’s bare bones: an expectation is set up and then, broken. And that’s how you teach them.
PART 1: How to Teach the Knock-Knock Joke Set-up (Presented as a Short Play)
Teaching the set-up (format) of knock-knock jokes as a short play. Good for group size of 6-12 actors.
Pre-requisite: Make sure all actors can say (vocalize or have on their AAC) their first name, first and last name, “knock knock”, “Who’s there?” and list of other students. Click here for sample ProLoquo template.
NOTE: It is helpful to put actors who are strongest at imitation first in order to provide multiple models to actors watching and waiting their turn. Two Steps:
The Knock-Knock Set Up At rise, actors are seated in a row. Call “CURTAIN!” First actor (KNOCKER) stands and moves in front of next seated Actor.
KNOCKER (miming knocking on a door) Knock, Knock.
SEATED ACTOR Who’s there?
KNOCKER Gina. (first name only)
SEATED ACTOR Gina who?
KNOCKER Gina DeMetruis.