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What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

This improv game is inspired by The “What If” Game but takes it to a bigger, more ridiculous scale. This version of the game combines brainstorming, improvisation, risk-taking, thinking on your feet, and really going big! It can also help students to address potential fears and concerns they may have about something going wrong during a performance, and to shift their mindset from one of panic or worry to coming up with a creative solution.

  • As a full class, brainstorm a list of ideas for scenario prompts on the topic “What are all the things that could possibly go wrong in a show?” Big, small, ridiculous, catastrophic, this brainstorming session is no holds barred – write it all down. (Use our “Brainstorming: Coming Up With More Ideas Than You Need” post for some great brainstorming tips!) 
  • Divide the class into groups of four. One group at a time will perform.
  • Select a scenario for each group to perform as an improv. Here are some examples:
    • The auditorium catches fire mid-show
    • Every single student gets the flu the morning of the show
    • The set falls apart mid-show
    • The two lead actors, who have been secretly dating during the rehearsal process, break up during dress rehearsal
    • One shoe from each pair of costume shoes mysteriously disappears
  • One student starts the improv scenario, then a second student joins in, followed by the third and fourth.
    • Remember the principles of improv: Each student must have a character, and the scene needs to have a beginning and end.
  • Each time another student joins the scene, they bring with them a new idea, character, or situation that builds upon the scenario. For example, with the scenario where the auditorium catches fire mid-show:
    • Student 1 (playing a student actor) starts the scene “onstage in the show.”
    • Student 2 (playing a member of the tech crew) runs on yelling that the auditorium has caught fire.
    • Student 3 (playing another student actor) limps in, having literally broken their leg running from the fire.
    • Student 4 (playing a firefighter) enters to put out the fire, only to have no water in their hose.
  • The students have to work together to come up with an ending for the scene. How they end the scene is entirely up to them. Continuing on with the fire scenario: Perhaps the characters escape the fire (or maybe some escape and some don’t); perhaps they band together and somehow put the fire out (magically blowing out the fire together, throwing water from the bathroom on the fire, or creating a choreographed fire-extinguisher dance); or perhaps they decide to finish the show despite the fire.
  • The rest of the groups will then get a chance to perform in whatever order you choose. You may wish to give each group the same scenario but require them to come up with different ideas/characters/situations within the scenario, or give each group a different scenario to improvise.

Be aware that throughout the process of this game, students may share their own “horror stories” of shows gone wrong from the past (which can freak out less experienced classmates), or express their true fears about an upcoming production or performance. As much as possible, give your students the chance to share their concerns, whether that be through class discussion, individual reflections, performance, or another method of expression. Encourage them to pause, take a step back, and think about how these fears can be addressed. Focus on coming up with practical ideas (even small ones!) to help alleviate the issue, rather than just concentrating on the fear and worry.

Click here to download a free Reflection to accompany “What’s The Worst That Could Happen?”
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