Acting

What We Learned: Part Two

Craig and I got to ATTEND a conference this past weekend. As actual real life delegates! We got to go to the workshops and everything. We attended the Artists Educators in Communities and Schools conference and this week, we’ll be sharing with you what we gleaned from the experience.

In this post:

Apples and Oranges

This is a great warm-up activity. It’s basically musical chairs without the music.

  • Everyone is sitting in chairs around a circle.
  • Designate everyone in the circle to be either an orange or an apple, so they’re sitting apple-orange-apple-orange and so on.
  • Remove one chair. The occupant of that chair is “it” and stands in the centre of the circle
  • They call out either “orange” or “apple”. If they call out “apple” then all off the apples must stand up and move to a new chair. “It” can sit in any open chair, and whoever is without a chair is now it.
  • Continue with apple and orange for awhile until the game is established.
  • Next add a “fruit salad” option – everybody has to move positions.
  • Next let “it” determine the category. (e.g. Baseball fans, people who don’t like the cafeteria, people wearing green, people who had toast at breakfast, etc.)

Point Yes

  • The group stands in a circle.
  • One person makes eye contact with another and points at them.
  • The pointee says, “yes” to acknowledge the offer.
  • Once they hear “yes,” the pointer walks across the circle to take the pointee’s place.
  • In the meantime the pointee has become the pointer and the game starts again from the beginning.
  • The idea here is to have everyone moving in one fluid motion of offers and acceptances.

Sound Gesture

  • The group stands in a circle.
  • “It” makes eye contact with another.
  • “It” then makes a sound combined with a physical gesture. (both the sound and physical gesture are nonsensical and unrelated to each other)
  • The recipient repeats the sound and gesture to accept the offer, then they repeat the process with someone else in the circle.

I am a…

  • The group stands in a circle.
  • One person enters the circle and makes an “I am a” offer. (e.g. I am a beach towel.)
  • Whoever is ready enters and adds to the scene with another “I am a” offer. (e.g. I am the waves on the beach)
  • Allow a few more offers (I am a crab being brought in by the waves. / I am the fisherman grabbing my dinner from the beach.) until the scene is established and/or complete.
  • We immediately reset to the circle and someone starts a new scene.
  • The objective is to make these offers fluid and without judgment or pause. Eventually the group should learn to find the natural end to the scenes and reset themselves.

The Love Letter

  • Everyone pairs up.
  • Speaking. One. Word. At. A. Time. They compose a love letter as one.

Make a Monster

This is a similar exercise to play with kids that doesn’t require anyone to speak.

  • Everyone pairs up.
  • The pairs are given a blank piece of paper and a pen.
  • Person A draws a single part of a monster (head, eyes, ears, mouth, etc.) then hands the pen to person B.
  • Person B draws the next part of the monster, and so on.
  • Once the monster is complete it’s time to give it a name!
  • Person A writes one letter down, the person B and so on until the name is complete. (The name will probably be something nonsensical like MXFYUSSES.
  • No talking is allowed during the game!

Three Tricks

I also picked up three great coaching tricks for improvs / warm-up games.

Trick to encourage people worried about looking silly: Have everyone as a group make their smallest face, then their largest face, then small, then large. Exaggerate the facial distortions as much as possible. Do this a few times then say, “Now you don’t have to worry about looking silly today. All of us already looked silly!”

Trick to encourage more expressiveness: If you’re having trouble getting people to me more physically expressive in these games (e.g. in the Sound Gesture game above), then play it in three degrees of size – start with small movements, then medium, then huge movements. Once you get everyone on board with the “huge” movements, stay there. That’s where all the fun takes place!

Trick to get people to jump in easily: The only part of improv where you’re allowed to be selfish is when accepting offers. For example, in the “Point Yes” game, you often will be unsure if it’s you being pointed at or your neighbour. Don’t worry about it. Just take charge and accept that you’re the one being pointed at and move on from there. Keep the games in motion. Stopping is death.

Video Transcript

So, I took an improv class today. I’ve taken improv classes before, studied a bit at Second City (not trying to impress you.) But, those classes were always focused more on the stuff you see on TV, the Who’s Line is it Anyway? type stuff, games as entertainment. This workshop focused much more that pure part of improv, that part of improv that actors should study, the improv that teaches you to be active, engaged, always in the moment.

I learned some really great activities for that, and also some really awesome stuff to start classes with, stuff to get everyone up on their feet, moving around and involved. I’m going to type all that up and share it below.

About the author

Lindsay Price