Is this a dorky question I see before me, the handle toward my hand?
August 27, 2014 2:59 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of some short answer but open ended questions that will make people smile and get them to relax in a community-building way.

I'm the stage manager for an upcoming play at a local amateur theatre. One of my responsibilities is to put up a sign-in sheet by the door each night so I can verify that all the cast and crew have arrived. All I need is for people to put a check by their name, so there's room where I thought I could ask them a simple open-ended brief answer question as well. I'm looking for something lighthearted or amusing (or possibly slightly embarrassing) which will get everyone to loosen up as they come in (as well as potentially chuckle at the answers others have given). I need at least seven questions for the week-long run of the play. Two I've thought of are "who would play you in the biopic of your life?" and "what is the first record/album/MP3/8track you ever bought?" but these are kind of lame and anyway I need some more.
posted by tractorfeed to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Open-ended questions like those would do the exact opposite of loosening me up, especially when they're that personal, so be careful about assuming everyone would enjoy them. Anything that takes more than 2 seconds of thought runs the risk of annoying people rather than brightening their day.

I'd go for something less personal and not open-ended, and that requires zero thought - either something silly like "who would win in a fist fight, bugs bunny or donald duck?" or else something rhetorical or with no wrong answer (ex: "is it better to have loved and lost..." but you know, less cliche). It'll also help if people aren't pressured to answer.
posted by randomnity at 3:17 PM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

You could put two columns next to each name so that they answer a simple yes/no or 'vs' question. That way they only have to make one check mark that corresponds to their answer and check-in.

As for specific dichotomous questions, I'm not sure. Would you rather fight one duck-sized horse or one horse-sized duck?
posted by just.good.enough at 3:22 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd use it as an opportunity to collect stats. Dump the answers into a spreadsheet and after two days you could start sharing your findings. I think people would be amused by that. So, like, day 1 you just ask "coke or Pepsi?" Day 2 you ask "Bart or Lisa?" Then on day three you can open with "70% of coke-lovers prefer Bart to Lisa." Tailor the questions to your area (or your production), or just use pop-culture stuff. After several days you might be able to find interesting correlations.

This would amuse me.
posted by hjo3 at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: I pretty much wanted open-ended questions because I thought part of the fun would be seeing what other people put down. It would be kind of boring to scan a list of answers that consisted of yes/no or Bugs/Donald. So open-ended meaning not just choosing from only two possible answers. Assume that these are people who would not feel pressured by this and would enjoy seeing the answers that others had written down. They're ACTORS! and whatnot. So not easily embarrassed.
posted by tractorfeed at 3:29 PM on August 27, 2014

Open-ended questions like those would do the exact opposite of loosening me up, especially when they're that personal, so be careful about assuming everyone would enjoy them.

THIS. And I was an actor, first amateur then professional. Seriously, don't take a time when people are trying to get into a place of preparing to work (even if they're just doing it for fun, acting is major physical and mental work) and stress them out or anger them by making them feel they have to be clever/remember things. What you want to accomplish could be done much better by posting a funny quote or cartoon up there next to the list each day, imho. (Also, a lot of actors are far more comfortable telling other people's stories with other people's words, than exposing their own life.)

It'll also help if people aren't pressured to answer.

And this, too. Please emphasize that this is entirely optional.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:41 PM on August 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Totally agreeing with DestinationUnknown. If you're doing a sound check with stagehands, you can ask for a pop culture quote instead of a simple "Here" or "Yo," but don't ask the actors to have to stop and think of something.

I'm wondering why you feel the people involved need to "loosen up." Is there some sort of bad feeling that's come up that you're hoping to reduce? Otherwise, as you see/interact with individuals, smile at them and say something positive. And use their name. Beyond that, your job as stage manager is to make sure the details are right. It's the director's job to set (or try to set) the tone.
posted by kestralwing at 6:39 PM on August 27, 2014

They're ACTORS! and whatnot. So not easily embarrassed.

This comes across as stereotyping. Actors, and many other performers are individuals and it's not at all uncommon for them to prefer not sharing personal things, even if it seems to you like they would never be embarrassed about anything at all.
posted by yohko at 9:24 PM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses and suggestions so far. I probably should have clarified that this is UK amdram, which is to say it's a small theatre that is made up of volunteers/members, and everyone knows each other well. The people on this production and I are all friends and we socialize together frequently (the theatre bar is in fact my local pub). I'm familiar enough with the backstage atmosphere, having been involved in numerous productions in numerous roles, to know that this won't increase anyone's stress level. But I'll take the suggestions about not being overly personal to heart, and I would welcome suggestions of questions I could use that fit the bill.
posted by tractorfeed at 4:16 AM on August 28, 2014

Sorry, you know the logistics better than I do, of course -- but it appears to me that you're inserting an unnecessary obstacle in the path of people who are trying to get through a doorway to get inside to prepare for a performance.

I don't think they need anything more complicated, at that point in time, than to check off their names and get inside already.

Put your funny quizzes in your emails announcing the rehearsal schedule, etc.
posted by JimN2TAW at 5:46 PM on August 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ask them what weird item they would like to put in their contract rider.

Ask them to do a tiny little doodle.

How many 7 years old could you fight at once and win?
posted by srboisvert at 6:34 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like the doodle idea! Along the same lines, maybe one big piece of paper that everyone can add a cartoon character (or other tiny doodle) to? Anonymously or not. Collaboration > competition.

Something more simple but individual, like favourite colour? Something silly like favourite letter of the alphabet?

Favourite evil villain might also be fun for actors (much less thinking required if you provide a list of suggestions).
posted by randomnity at 7:03 AM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you could have a superpower, which would it be (or which would you choose)?
posted by altolinguistic at 8:29 AM on August 29, 2014

Response by poster: As a follow-up after the play: I used the suggestions above, plus others, and it was a big hit. On the last night I asked for 'favorite moment or line from the play' and I gave that sheet to the director, who was glad to have it as he had not been involved since the last dress rehearsal.
posted by tractorfeed at 4:43 AM on September 16, 2014

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