facilitating & hosting


One of the delightful improv games I learned at the Applied Improv Network Conference was Portkey. I found it to be a simple way to tap into the storyteller in each of us and I can see it fitting in beautifully in ‘getting to know you/relationship building’ intro activities. Gratitude to Chris Sams for sharing this game.

For any Harry Potter fans they will recognize the name ‘Portkey’. In the book series, a portkey is an entranced everyday object that transports folks to another place. With people it’s a great way to connect with each other.

Here’s how we played it. We got into groups of four and one person tossed a word to a person in our group. That person started with “_________ brings me to” and told a true, personal story about that word. By the end of the story that storyteller found a word from their story and threw it to someone else in our foursome. How did you throw the word? You simply made eye contact and said the word to the person you were throwing to. And it begins again, and continues as everyone eventually receives a word to tell their story.

The trick is to just start when you get your word. Start immediately with “______ takes me to….” and amazingly a story will come to your mind. Little stories, funny stories, insightful stories – the storyteller chooses what they want to share. I told little stories about an adventurous ferry ride, my favourite picture of my gramma, my sister’s swimsuit malfunction at the pool one day and more.

It was so good we spontaneously played it again later that evening in a break from the dancing. Round and round we went with our Portkeys, laughing and learning together.

portkey rubyblossom. via Compfight

2 replies on “Portkey”

Hi Amanda,
Nice post. I thought I’d share a little background context as well as another twist on how to play the game.
It was during a 9 day improv intensive on Orcas Island (Doe Bay) , taught by Rebecca Stockley and Matt Smith, that this game was introduced. The way we played it then, largely I think because Matt Smith was trying to get us to really pay attention to details, to be in the moment, was to actually BE in a specific memory/place and talk about what we were seeing first hand. i.e. I get thrown “Fish” and I say “I’m sitting on the side of the road with my wife and daughter…it’s the Rhody Festival Parade, a beautifully sunny day…the local fishing company is strolling by and instead of candy they toss a beautiful salmon…I catch it and am feeling both proud and a bit guilty for some reason.”
And then, at any point in my being in that specific setting, a pick something (real or abstract) and “throw it” –i.e. “guilt” and see where it unexpectedly takes the person.

For me it was a super powerful tool for bringing me to hidden/repressed places and memories…I had some intense tearful moments actually.

So, the last piece, is that (as a Harry Potter reader) I said “We should call it Portkey” because of how quickly it takes you to a new place. Seems that it stuck! 🙂

End of Story.

Thanks so much Leif for the added background. Love the invitation in the twist to be paying attention to details (thinking of Kat’s description of adding ‘colour’ to stories). And I can imagine how some emotion might rise up when we take ourselves right back into that moment in time. So good.