Practica: Intercultural improvisation

Managing cultural diversity programs are fraught with the danger of models and theories that, though they may be valid observations and well researched conclusions, do not arrive at behavioral change. Not surprisingly so many diversity training programs are being scuttled as ineffective. Real human interaction is needed to break through this impasse. But how do we get people to overcome fears and timidity exchange with each other in productive activities. They need to get out of themselves to get into themselves? I have taken this loosening-up exercise from the field of improv theater training. It serves as a warm up and an energizer for further face-to-face encounters in intercultural explorations and simulations. Moreover, it involves the entire group both as actors and observers. It is useful in groups of up to 14 or 16 people.


  1. Divide the participants into two equal size groups.
  2. Form two lines down the sides of the room, each group forming one line.
  3. Ask participants to think of one or more intercultural misunderstandings or conflicts they have experienced. Tell them to pick one that they are willing to explore.
  4. The first person in the line on the left moves to center stage.
  5. The first person in a line on the right approaches the person in the center and plays one role of a situation involving a cultural the conflict she or he has experienced or is familiar with.
  6. [OPTIONAL: The facilitators may model steps 4 and 5 for the group.]
  7. The person in the center responds and an exchange takes place lasting not more than 2 minutes.
  8. When the interaction is finished, or time is called. The person who occupied the center moves to the back of the line he or she originated from.
  9. The person who approached remains in the center.
  10. A person from the line on the right approaches and a new exchange takes place.
  11. This continues alternating sides until the first person to play has returned to the stage.


  1. Return the participants to their seats.
  2. Ask for first impressions.
  3. Discuss the interactions that stood out for the observers.

- What was done well, what could be improved?

- Did stereotyping occur? If so, how? How was it handled? How could it be resolved?

4. Get representative responses to the questions:

- What were you aware of about yourself?

- What were you aware of about your interlocutor?

- What might you want to take away for yourself from this exercise?



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