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Posts from the Improv Games & Warm-ups Category

This warm-up is very physical and a lot of fun. It requires a good-sized floor space for maximum efficacy. It also requires an odd number of players.

Begin by walking around the room, imagining you are all ants, walking on the top of a giant graham cracker that’s floating in a glass of milk.

The object is to keep the cracker balanced at all times. In order to do this, players must try to fill the negative spaces between them evenly.

Start by walking slowly at first, then gradually get faster. The Director may coach people “There’s a space! Somebody fill it!” etc., to keep the cracker from tipping over.

When everyone is almost running across the surface of the graham cracker, the Director tells players to partner up.

One person will be left without a partner. The group is then told to move away from that person and look at them.

The Director asks the lone person how they feel. The answer may be “bad,” “lonely,” “left out,” “stupid,” or something along those lines.

The group then runs the exercise again. This time when the Director says “Grab a partner,” people will tend to do so faster, because they don’t want to be left alone.

The third time around, everything will be faster still, and people will practically claw each other to get a partner.

The Take-away:

• We begin to become more aware as the game progresses – there is no phoning it in.

• Despite silly circumstances or rules, we begin to play the game (scene) more seriously and with real emotional attachment, both to the balance of the cracker, and to not being left alone.

• Because we started to feel something real (tired, frustrated, giddy, joy, etc.) during this, we then have to trust we can do the same things on stage if we take the scene and let it affect us.

(Thanks to Greg Hess for his help with this post, and to 500 Clown for the exercise.)

CamDevKnives1

This is a fun, fast, physical warm-up that’s good for building awareness and responsiveness.

Important Safety Tip: Always use a mimed knife.

To begin, everyone stands in a circle. One person throws a knife to someone else. As they throw it, they make a “Shhhhhht!” sound like a knife blade whizzing through the air.

The receiver claps their hands together to stop the knife from killing them, and to let us know they caught it. They then throw the knife to someone else in the circle.

You can practice your mime skills to make the knife as real as possible: unfold the blade from its switchblade handle before throwing, for instance.

The pace should be fairly fast. If you have a large group, you can add more knives.

Once the first knife has gone around the circle a few times, the Director/Coach taps someone on the shoulder and hands them a second knife. Once both knives have been thrown around the circle, add a third. Finally, you can add an armful of puppies to the mix. Be careful not to let the puppies get knifed.

The knives and puppies get passed around for a few minutes, then the Director stops everyone and asks who has each item by a show of hands.

CamDevKnives2

This is an exercise in listening and, just as important, in communicating clearly.

Speed is not the point here. You want to make sure your message “lands,” not just that the email was sent, so to speak.

To begin, everyone stands in a circle. The Director/Coach mimes holding a ball, which they pass to someone else in the circle while making eye contact and saying “Red ball.”

The person receiving it repeats, “Red ball” as they take it. They give it to someone else, saying “Red ball” and making eye contact as they pass it. That person repeats “Red ball” as they receive it, and so on.

This continues until everyone in the circle has had the ball a couple of times. The Director then gives someone a mimed bowl, saying “Red bowl.” That person repeats “Red bowl,” and passes it on to someone else.

Once the red bowl and red ball have gone around the circle, the Director can add a bread bowl, a Red Bull (miming a can), a red shawl, and something else just to mix it up: a lemon meringue pie, a copy of Hustler, or the flaming skull of Del Close, for instance.

When all the items are in play, the Director stops everyone and asks who has each item by a show of hands.

Variation: This game can be played using only mimed balls of different colours (red, yellow, green, etc.). Instead of passing the ball, you can throw it around the circle.

red ball

Starting today, we’ll be featuring favourite warm-ups from some of our favourite improvisers.

This one comes from Vancouver’s The Sunday Service, courtesy of Craig Anderson and Taz VanRassel, who thinks he stole it from a workshop with Rebecca Stockley. (Your secret is safe with us, Taz.)

To start, face another team member and put your right hand on their left shoulder.

Make eye contact.

Touch each other’s right cheek, making eye contact.

Hug.

Then do a “finishing move” of your choice.

Do the same with everyone on your team.

My team did a slight variation at our last rehearsal, and it was awesome. Even more awesome was when one of our members arrived late, and we swarmed her without telling her what we were doing or why. If you wanna see someone beam with happiness, this is how to do it.

Stand and face the other person, then touch them (where depends on your comfort level with each other).

Then hug.

Then kiss.

Then do a “finishing move.”

In other words, you can improvise.

However you do it, the results are guaranteed to make  Mr Roarke proud.

Photos © The Sunday Service

I love this game. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play. The multi-talented Todd Stashwick teaches it to heighten listening with your whole body and engage your primal brain.

To begin, players spread out around the room and close their eyes. Turn out the lights for added darkness.

The Director/Coach chooses a Scorpion by silently tapping him or her on the shoulder. Once a Scorpion has been chosen, everyone begins walking around with their eyes still closed.

When the Scorpion comes in contact with another player, he or she stings them by making a “Zzzzzz!” sound. Once you’ve been stung, open your eyes and stand against the wall. If you see players about to walk into walls or other obstacles, gently guide them back to the centre of the room.

When there are only two people left with their eyes closed, both have the power to sting. Whoever stings the other first, wins.

Photo © the e machine

Hey ladies! (and guys): get funky with this raptastic warm-up.

If you saw The King’s Speech, you’ll recall that Bertie (Colin Firth) stuttered when speaking, but the problem disappeared when he sang. That’s because music uses the right side of the brain, while language is controlled by the left.

The right brain is most definitely your friend in improv. So grab your Adidas and put on your best Brooklyn accent, yo!

To begin, everyone stands in a circle and gets a beatbox going. Once you’ve got a groove, one person sings the first line. It can be anything, for instance:

I made hash brownies and my best friend ate ’em

The next person follows with a line that rhymes:

He ripped off his shirt like he’s Channing Tatum

…or whatever. Everyone joins in and shouts the last word – in this case, “Tatum!” The idea is to listen and anticipate the rhyme. Sometimes you’ll get it, sometimes you won’t. Who cares? That’s part of the fun.

If you need a primer, you might enjoy the Beasties classic Intergalactic. Ch-check it out:

Just like it sounds.

This is a fun, physical warm-up to help you stretch your muscles and get silly with your fellow players. Reeeeaaaalllllly slow down your moves, for safety, and to exaggerate those punches, elbows, and classic roundhouse kicks to the head.

Last one standing is Chuck Norris.

Photo © Kevin Thom