Posts tagged Improv Warm-up

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


This game uses physicality to find a character, heighten and explore it. Our thanks to Todd Stashwick for teaching us.

To begin, players walk around the room in a neutral gait. As you walk, become aware of what part of your body you normally lead with. It may be your nose, forehead, chest, shoulders, hips, knees… Whatever it is, heighten it.

Stay in this exaggerated walk for a minute or so, then be the complement to that walk. For example, if you were walking with your shoulders slumped and stomach protruding, throw your shoulders back and suck your stomach in.

Walk in your new character for a while, then be the complement to that walk. After 30 seconds or so, become the complement to that walk.

Staying in this last physicality, stop and find something in your environment. Reach out and shape the space in front of you. Feel space push back as you work with the object.

What have you found?

Is it heavy or light, large or small, rounded or angular? Feeling the weight and shape of the object, think about your name, age and occupation.

Remember your physicality and newfound characteristics as everyone takes a seat. At the front of the room are two chairs, angled towards each other. The Coach/Director sits in one. He or she will play the Interviewer, whose task is to hire a super spy.

The qualified applicant must know twelve languages, be a mixed martial arts expert, have excellent sniper skills, be able to crack codes and hack into enemy computers, etc. etc. Think James Bond meets S.H.I.E.L.D. on steroids.

The Interviewer buzzes an off-stage assistant to bring in the next job applicant. He or she then interviews as many unqualified applicants as there are players.

Each person’s unsuitability for the job will be revealed as the Interviewer questions them about their experience (or lack of), physical (dis)abilities,  personality and other quirks or tics.

When the Interviewer can take no more, he buzzes in the next applicant.

As you can see from the photos, it’s more fun than a season of The Americans. Try it at your next rehearsal.



All photos © Mark Cotoia

Sir John Hegarty is one of Britain’s leading creative minds. (How many ad men can you name who were knighted?)

In a recent interview, he talked about how creative teams inspire each other – but he could just as easily have been talking about Harold teams:

“Bill Bernbach, back in 1959 or ’60, whenever he did it, he put an art director and a writer together. He put two different kinds of brains together. That was so fundamentally important. It wasn’t just that they were two people; it was he put two different types of people together. And those people rub up against each other.

As I say to the teams here, ‘Look, don’t switch on the computer in the morning. Switch on that person sitting next to you. Because you will have a unique conversation. Nobody in the world is gonna have the conversation that you’re going to now have. And out of that conversation will come things.’

So inspiration will come from what you’ve done, what you’ve seen, what you’ve looked at, what you did over the weekend, what you saw last night. When you were walking home you saw this, that was funny, you did that, you saw that, you heard that person say this… All of those things become part of your vocabulary as a creative person.

And if you’re not doing that, if you’re not going to art galleries, you’re not reading books, you’re not reading magazines, you’re not going to the movies, you’re not picking up on all this stuff that’s out there…you’re depleting your creative assets. You’ve got to keep feeding them all the time.”

Talking with your teammates is a way to bond, and a quick pre-show chat will often add colour and specificity to your set when the things you talked about find their way into a scene.

So if a rousing game of Big Booty isn’t your idea of a fun warm-up, try turning off your iPhone and connecting with your teammates instead.

What do you do to stay creatively juiced?

Photo © Kevin Thom

Photo © Kevin Thom


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.


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.


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