When Role Play Works

I’ve been engaging in role play more often in recent months; participating in everything from preplanned events to spontaneous improv. I’ve been lucky to this point because all my experiences have been excellent. Follow me after your prearranged mouse click to the rest of this article.

There are certain things that make a role play scene good. They have less to do with the plot outline, props or setting than the two (or more) people playing. It doesn’t even have a lot to do with acting ability because it’s not about providing an award winning performance, just living out a fantasy in a way that works right then and there. Trust me, I’m not a good actor. All I do is try to put myself in the shoes of the person I’m portraying in that moment and think, “What would I do if I was this person right now experiencing this thing?” Like I say to most people, acting is something we did as kids except we called it “Let’s Pretend”.

Bringing a childlike view to role play is what I believe makes it work. One of the things that kids don’t have until they are taught it is shame. Kids do things with wild abandon — run, yell, scream, get naked or pretend they are dinosaurs. Do kids sometimes look silly doing these things? Of course they do but the key is that they just don’t care. Well, they don’t until adults beat it into their heads that they should be embarrassed because they are not acting a particular way. I know why they do this, it’s because society demands conformity and often shuns those who don’t fit. We learn this as we get older either through repetition by parents or the hard way, by being shunned. Therefore, doing things with wild abandon becomes anathema to adults who are often conscious of the persona they project to those around them.

The thing is that role play is all about this forgotten and atrophied sense of wild abandon. Getting together with someone to live out a fantasy means leaving behind the sense of shame, embarrassment and other anchors we carry with us. Getting into a character and just having fun creates an atmosphere free of judgment. Once I’m involved in a role play, I’m not standing there critiquing the person I’m playing with — I don’t have time for that nor the inclination. At that moment, I am going with the flow of things, shoving my brain into a fictional body, saying and doing what I think comes next. Certainly some folks are better role players than others but in the end, if they are enjoying themselves, it will work out fine. I’m there for the fun and the moment, not to be a theater critic or potential Tony Award nominee.

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18 Responses to “When Role Play Works”

  1. This could well be one of my top five favorite blog posts of yours, Rad.

    I used to ‘pooh-pooh’ role-play ( don’t you dare make fun of that phrase..oh, go ahead!) because I am just soooo all about realism, right?
    Well, what it boils down to is that is IS role-play..even if a person is in the ‘role’ of one’s REAL disciplinarian.

    I like to write, and fantasize..but never once saw myself as an ‘actress’. When I am getting spanked “as” a ‘naughty little girl’ ..I AM that girl! But..that is also acting. I feel it. The tears and reactions are real , but…so are the tears of a Meryl Streep, et al–when she allows herself to be totally and utterly absorbed in the scene she is shooting. Actors have to FEEL..otherwise it comes across as wooden.

    I am becoming increasingly fascinated by this, actually; the way we can relax and allow our minds and inner selves to be emotionally ( and physically of course) manipulated in a benign way. ( is this what the more crude among us call a mind fuck, by the way..?)

    I spent my entire childhood being the victim of religious brainwashing, and some other very damaging forms of manipulative mind-control.

    Indulging in this fetish using role-play is a great way for me to reclaim the parts of my mind I want taken over in a temporary way.

    During the spontaneous ( and VERY fun) outing on Sunday, our little group experimented with some digital camera “filming” of my doing some role-play with Sarah on the streets of Greenwich Village. Sort of a screen test for me, if you will.

    At first I felt silly..awkward..but then..I did just what YOU mentioned, above.

    I literally did just say to myself; ” BE an angry mom..don’t worry about her reactions. Just BE an annoyed mom out on the streets with a bratty daughter..don’t be Lisa the friend and fellow kinkster. Let yourself go! “.

    I did, and..it was a moment of amazement for me..to realize that THIS tiny microcosm is what professional actors do all the time! It was only for a few moments..but I felt the emotions, and saw it on her face too..and it was wild.

    If I can continue to work on things like self confidence,, not worrying about what others’ think, and of shrugging off that ‘anchor of shame’ , which you phrased SO well..maybe I CAN be in spanking films some day. Awesome blog today, Rad. Thanks!

  2. What a wonderful post, Rad. You’ve captured the liberating fun of role play perfectly.

  3. IrishRed Says:

    Not that I don’t enjoy ALL your posts, Rad … but I honestly and sincerely think this one is my favorite. Allow me to paraphrase Indy and and give you a thumbs up for capturing what’s so wonderful about roleplay, and for giving me a little food for thought.

  4. ..allow me to chime in yet again to agree with IrishRed and Indy and to reiterate that Rad’s blog today is just particularly amazing because– I think it is VERY hard to capture in words just how enigmatic and almost ..magical (?) role-play can be..when it really WORKS.

    It allows us to BE those free and uninhibited ‘children’ again..to pretend..and in so doing, create very real feelings…

    Self expression rocks.

  5. Great Post Rad. I’ve discovered role-play myself recently and I’m loving it. Real discipline is at my core – but roleplay gives me the chance to explore all those fantasies that have been in my head for as long as I can remember – fantasies that are unlikely to come true for me at this point in my life. Walking in late and having to face dad, or being called to the school principal’s office, or being caught smoking….so many fantasies to live out and so little time.

    Not to mention that role-play is just plain FUN!

  6. Yes. Yes, yes, yes indeedy. Thanks for this post, Rad.

  7. @caroline…:-) I would bet MONEY that Rad wishes everyone could agree with him in such a cute, succinct manner!

  8. Great post Rad I loved it!!

  9. Thanks to everyone for the feedback — I didn’t realize this post would be received that positively.

    The thing I’d like to add is that I’ve been finding that role play can be extremely satisfying without a lot of the baggage that comes from “real” kinds of play. I don’t really mean to make it sound negative but there are times when I’d like to get my headspace on without it having seventy-six different layers of meaning between me and the other person. I can put on my character, have a great time and then get on with my life.

    I’m not saying that a connection does not develop between two people who role play, just that it’s something one can do without taking on a career.

  10. …makes me wonder if ‘meaning’-less spanking is still better than no spanking at all. The other role-player can pretend it is deeper than it is..I suppose.

    the headspace is everything..even if both parties aren’t always in that same space..

  11. Lisa (and everyone): There is a difference between stating that a particular act does not have “seventy-six layers of meaning” and stating that it is “‘meaning’-less”. I don’t consider anything I do with anyone to be meaningless just that some things have more meaning than others and that sometimes that’s a good thing.

  12. Oh..I didn’t mean it like that….
    sorry.
    I think I just meant that whatever is transpiring during play can HAVE whatever particular meaning you need it to..to get into your own “zone”..while it is happening.

  13. Yes, that’s what the experience is like when I do role play. I’m in my zone and get quite a bit out of it.

  14. Then…’it’s all good’ ( and doesn’t THAT phrase make you just want to BEAT someone..?)
    🙂

  15. I really enjoy role play with the right person, and I like your perspective on this. All the myriad of spanking fantasies can be played out, just like, as you suggest, children might pretend to be pirates at sea. I also agree, that its not about acting, its about playing. I have had some very rewarding scenes revolve around roleplay. The trick is, in my opinion, to be unscripted, make room for a good laugh at some awkward moment, and to enjoy for a little while, some escape from the identity we wear from day to day with the cloak of another persona. I understand those that find roleplay too awkward for them. Its not possible with everyone. With the right person, however, it rules.

  16. This post put me in mind of one of my favourite Dan Savage quotes of all time: “You have to learn to suspend your disbelief. BDSM is cops and robbers for grown-ups, with your pants off.” It has stuck in my head for years, and it’s that sense I love to bring into role-play. Cops and robbers indeed.

  17. radagast Says:

    caroline: I like that and will have to steal from Mr. Savage.

  18. @Caroline..I love Dan Savage. The idea, for me, of ‘suspending my disbelief’ turns an incredible corner when it all starts feeling very real..and all the ‘pretend’ seems to melt away, and you temporarily redefine “reality”.

    It’s such an intriguing kiddie pool in which for us “grownups” –and I use the term guardedly–to splash around in, isn’t it?

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