Info

Posts tagged improv game

Here’s a great warm-up courtesy of Tom Vest, just in time for Halloween:

This is a variation on the classic “Sound and Motion” exercise I made up one year around Halloween when I couldn’t find any “monster” related warm-ups for a class I was teaching.

To start, the class forms a circle with one person standing in the middle.

That person begins to walk around the circle as a zombie — their zombie walk is totally up to them, there is no right or wrong. The next person to enter follows them, mimicking them as closely as possible.

Take note: How fast are they going? Do they drag a foot? Does the zombie tilt to one side, or are they making some kind of sound?

I found this exercise is really great for people who are new to improv, or for performers who haven’t worked together before. It puts everyone immediately on the same silly page, and laughs are guaranteed.

Photo © New York Musical Improv Festival

The National Theatre of The World did a long scene recently where Matt Baram and Ron Pederson never referred to each other by name.

Naomi Snieckus then mischievously pimped them, herself and Chris Gibbs into doing a scene that only contained names.

The result was hilarious but also fascinating, as they used only first names (e.g. “Edgar?” “Daphne…” “Timothy!”) to emote and define their relationships to each other.

It’s a fun alternative to the “Fifty” exercise, where two people do a scene using only numbers from 1 to 50 in place of dialogue.

Try it at your next rehearsal!

Name Game Wordle

Channel your inner Django with this fast and fun ice breaker. Like Knife Throw, it’s great for a group of people who don’t know each other, and helps sharpen awareness and reaction times.

To begin, everyone stands in a circle with one person in the centre.

That person points at someone else in the circle and yells “Draw!”

The person being pointed at must duck down as quickly as possible to avoid being shot. At the same time, the person directly on either side of him has to shoot him while yelling “Bang!”

If the person doesn’t duck in time, he (or she) dies. If they duck down before they are shot, they’re safe.

If the players on either side shoot each other simultaneously, they’re both safe. But if one says “Bang!” after the other, he or she is dead.

If you think you’ve been shot, own the shit out of it and die a dramatic death. It’s not about being Superman, it’s about the fun of accepting whatever happens.*

When only two players remain, they stand back-to-back for a duel to the death. The Coach/Director yells “Draw!” and both players turn and shoot. The quickest on the draw wins.

Oh and by the way: this is one time when it’s OK to mime a “finger gun.”

*(Thanks to Jet Eveleth for this tip.)

Hickock_Tutt_Duel_1867_Harpers_Monthly_Magazine

This short-form game is great for getting out of your head because the constant movement means you don’t have time to plan. It’s also a fun reminder of how body language informs character and dialogue, and the importance of play (something we sometimes forget).

All you need are three players and a chair. As the name suggests, one player must always be sitting, one standing, and one bending over.

Get a suggestion (say, a location that fits on the stage, or a relationship for the three players), then start your scene.

There’ll be a little scrambling as each of you chooses a stance and either sticks with it or changes if someone else already has the same one.

As the scene unfolds you’ll find yourself changing posture either naturally, or on purpose just to mess with your teammates. Half the fun is forcing your scene partners to justify their new posture, or being forced to change and somehow justify yours.

Click here or below to watch improv maestros Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady show us how it’s done.

giphy

This is a short-form classic.

You probably remember it from Whose Line Is It Anyway? Ryan Stiles was usually a hapless chef, forced to mix and eventually eat disgusting concoctions prepared with the “help” of Colin Mochrie.

Even without props, this exercise is a great reminder of the power of body language.

To begin, choose four players. Two people stand with their arms clasped behind their backs. The other two thread their arms through the “holes” on either side, then perform a two-person scene as normal. The players in front do all the talking, while their “helping hands” do all the gesturing.

The contrast between what the audience sees (someone scratching their nose, stroking their chin, or twiddling their thumbs for example) and what’s being said is half the fun.

Here’s a great example (sans words) using dogs. Click below to view.

This exercise sharpens listening and reacting to your scene partner, because there’s no way you can pre-plan actions or dialogue.

To begin, two players step out.

The Coach/Director hands one person a book. It can be any book that contains dialogue. You can also use a screenplay or play.

Someone calls out a number below 50, and the player with the book turns to that page. They read the first piece of dialogue they find in quotes.

photo-20

Let’s say the number is 34 and the book is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The first sentence in quotes on page 34 is:

“Well, Harry, what brings you out so early?”

The second player must respond to that initiation, however they feel is appropriate. They might say:

“Mindy kicked me out of the house. Again.”

or

“I don’t want to be late for my A.A. meeting.”

or

“I skipped the full-body shave this time and just sprayed on a little more Axe.”

Or whatever.

The first player then reads the next piece of dialogue by the same character. (Sometimes this might mean skipping a page to find the next snippet in quotes.)

Chances are, the written dialogue won’t make a lot of sense coming after the improvised line. That’s OK. The point isn’t to create Edward Albee-worthy scenes; it’s to get you focused on listening and responding to whatever is thrown at you.

The scene continues with one player reading their dialogue from the book, and the second player always responding extemporaneously.

It’s a bit of mindfuck, but that’s what makes it fun. Try it at your next rehearsal.

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: