Improv games are a great way to break out new casts, review and develop skills, and help actors find themselves in the characters they portray and the scripts they work with. Through improvisation and play, actors learn to react quickly to changes in their environment and create a new way of looking at, responding to, or expressing feelings about the same spontaneously created situation in the moment.
As a director of young performers, I have developed a set of repertoires that I would like to share here, games that I feel are suitable for children and teens. These are by no means all original products, in fact most of them have been around for a long time, but I’m including them here not as my own inventions, but as ones I’ve found to be particularly useful and popular with my young actors game.
park bench – This is usually the first game I teach. It’s easy and fun for all ages – believe it or not, I know staff 5-8 years old will keep playing this game for an hour or more! I start by asking a volunteer to be the first innocent substitute. I told the bench that when a new guy came and sat next to him, he was sitting there doing his own thing – here I was encouraging the next kid to join the first kid. The second person’s job is to say or do something to get the first person to leave.The work of the first man – which is an important point – is allow The second person’s statement or action makes them want to leave. When the first person gets up to leave, the second person moves to their place, becomes the next innocent bench babysitter, and receives the next child in line, who will now let him leave. The original innocent bench sitter walks to the end of the line of other future park bench opponents, waiting for his turn.
freeze – Another old alternate, Freeze has been around and is loved by actors of any age. First, two volunteers came to the stage. The director asked the audience to start a scene by giving two volunteers a scene: a place, an event, and roles played by two actors. Without letting the two actors think too much, the director let the volunteers open the scene. The scene goes on for a few minutes, and then the director yells “freeze!” as the actors put on interesting body shapes, and both actors have to freeze their bodies for that moment.
A new volunteer was chosen, and that man stepped onto the stage and tapped on the shoulders of any actor who held the position of motivating him. The struck actor leaves the stage. The new actor takes his position and uses that pose as a stimulus to start a whole new scene.
Masha Games – No, no one knows why it’s called “Masha’s Game”.
An actor was chosen to be Martha. Martha is happy to choose where she is, what she is doing and what she is, she announces this to the group and freezes in an action pose. The rest of the students say what they want to be in the scene one by one – any character or environmental aspect of Martha’s scene is fair game, including inanimate objects – and then add themselves, freeze, to the frame . When all the actors have chosen to join Martha’s scene, the director will clap three times and the picture will come alive, moving and talking, even inanimate objects have to talk as if they were portrayed talking. This resulted in a very chaotic, wonderfully crazy scene. This game is not for the faint of heart.
Say it again? – This game originated with me, starting with a pre-written set of sentences on a slip of paper that can be used to start a scene. Some examples:
I do not believe in that. I’m tired. Don’t tell me that. what do you mean? Wow. what do you know? Nice to meet you.
Two students choose a note with a printed sentence, enter the play space, and start a scene with their sentence. The problem here is that the only thing students can say is the word they hold in their hands. They must use their bodies, faces, movements and changes to change the scene and portray different intentions. The fun really starts when the director adds more actors, each with their own one-sentence script to play with. The game is great for teaching multiple expressions of a line, and a delightful way to show that it’s not what we say, but how we say it.
The Game Show Game – The original variant of the old standard dating game. Three children were chosen to create the characters, and their identities were not revealed. Characters can be anything from Sponge Bob Square Pants to Rabbits to Macaroni and Cheese. The three characters sit in a row of three chairs with enough space between them to allow them to move around while portraying themselves. Choose a contestant, then sit at the right end of the stage in a row of characters, and the announcer – the director – begins the game.
announcer: Ladies and gentlemen are welcome to watch our show, The Game Show Game, where our contestants will have five rounds of questions to determine who these three characters might be. Here’s our contestant today: Tom. Number one, please say hello to Tom!
The characters walk off the assembly line and everyone says a typical “hello” to the contestants. When finished, the announcer said, “Tom, your first question.”
The character answers a series of five questions posed by the contestant, and the contestant gathers information from the answers in the hope that it will lead him to an answer to the character’s true identity. The game works well because it involves a lot of kids at the same time, and even the kids who play the audience are also participants, as if the contestants can’t guess the character’s identity, the announcer said: “We turn to the audience. Audience members. . . you guessed the character. At the end of the round, when all characters have been revealed, the contestants return to the audience, all characters move a chair to the right, character one becomes the contestant, and a new character three is selected from the audience, The announcer starts her introduction again…
These games are just one example of games that directors can play with their students. Some useful improv game links are:
Improv games offer a director countless ways to extend her fledgling actor’s rehearsal and acting skills into uncharted territory, while providing opportunities for students to develop social skills and develop camaraderie. Directors will enjoy watching student actors grow during their performances, laughing with the actors and becoming more spontaneous and creative performers.