Info

Posts from the Warm-ups, Games & Exercises Category

“What goes around, goes around, goes around, comes all the way back around.” – J.T.

La Ronde is an exercise developed at improv Olympic, which evolved into a longform format. It’s named after a play by Arthur Schnitzler, in which one character enters the scene and beds another. That character moves on and beds another, and so on, until the final character beds the first character from the first scene. The improv version doesn’t involve quite as much sex (at least during rehearsal).

It works like this:

A and B do a scene together.

A exits or is tagged out, and B and C do a scene together.

B exits or is tagged out, and C and D do a scene.

This continues until everyone has played the same character twice, when A returns to play with the last character.

The idea is to explore different facets of each character. For instance, if A and B are high-powered megalomaniac brokers, when we see B with C, maybe C is his wife and we find out that B is actually meek and low status at home.

Like any long format, we want to see characters at Work, Home, and Play. While we’ll only see two situations for each character, keep these environments in mind when you’re stepping in.

Even with eight team members, a La Ronde plays out faster than a normal longform set. If you want to use it as a stage format, treat the La Ronde like an opening and use it to establish your characters. Once you’ve played through the complete circuit, you can reintroduce the same characters in different groupings and situations.

This is a montage format, similar to La Ronde.

Every scene begins with the same word. A team member gets a suggestion, then uses that word to begin the first scene.

Edits are made by a team member taking focus, saying the same word to begin a new scene. Each time it’s used, the word is given a different emotion or inflection.

There’s no need for characters to come back, but you’ll probably find yourselves calling things back naturally.

Word.

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

Like the Five-Minute Harold, this exercise helps you get focused, fast. Great for homing in on specifics, and sharpening your awareness.

One person (usually the coach/director) keeps track of time with a stopwatch or second hand, calling the scenes after each interval.

To begin, two people perform a scene as they normally would. They can get a suggestion or not. There’s no time limit; the coach/director calls the scene when it feels right.

The players then perform the same scene again, this time in one minute.

The idea isn’t to speed things up. Simply taking the things that stood out in the scene (words, relationship, physicality, emotion) and using them in less time will naturally heighten those elements.

Next, the players perform the same scene in 30 seconds.

Then in 20 seconds.

Then 10 seconds.

Then five.

And finally – just for fun – two seconds.

This exercise helps you distill scenes down to their essence, by identifying what’s important.

Joe Bill also teaches a version where you start with a scene and call it after one minute, then do the rest as above.

Photo © Kevin Thom

Note: Familiarity with the Harold structure is required for this exercise.

This is a variation on the One-Minute Scene. It’s great for getting players focused on strong initiations and characters, editing, and making connections.

Bonus: because of the fast pace, there’s no time for second-guessing, a.k.a. being in your head.

The premise is simple: your team has five minutes to do an entire Harold. It breaks down something like this:

Opening – 45 seconds

Beat 1A, 1B, 1C – 45 seconds each

Group Game – 30 seconds

Beat 2A, 2B, 2C – 20 seconds each

Group Game – 15 seconds

Beat 3A, 3B, 3C  – 5 seconds each

Of course, these are only rough guidelines. Your gut will tell you when it’s time to move on.

You’ll be amazed how quickly you can build characters and relationships, heighten emotion, identify patterns and bring them back.

If you find your team’s scenes are consistently dragging, taking too long to develop relationships, or not being edited fast enough on stage, this exercise can help. It’s also a lot of fun.

Like the One-Minute Scene, you can ramp it up by doing the same Harold again – in one minute, then 30 seconds, then 10 seconds, then five.

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