If your family is already experiencing boredom from these long hours of quarantine, here is a list of improv games to take your minds off of this crisis and bring a little fun and creativity into your home!
One Word at a Time
In this game, family members work together to tell a story. When playing in a group setting, family members sit in a circle and in turn, they add a word to fit into the narrative after repeating the words that came before. When played quickly, this game is great for encouraging free-flow thinking. For example, Player 1 could say “Once…”, Player 2 could say “Once upon…”, Player 3 could say “Once upon a…”, and so on.
In this game, one family member chooses a prop and performs a short demonstration for an audience using the item for a purpose other than its intended use. The idea is to use the prop in an original or humorous way. An example would be using a shoe as a telephone. You can get creative in selecting which props are available, but sometimes the funniest results come from the most boring items.
Three actors are given a situation and a character from the audience. They start a scene. At some point during the scene you call out SWITCH! The three actors now have to switch characters. That means they have to really listen to each other and be aware of who the other characters are, so that they can pick up another character at any moment. And remind students, the aim is to keep striving for a complete cohesive scene no matter what the situation.
Five actors line up across the front of the space. They are going to tell a story. Get a topic from the audience and then come up with a title. “The Best Underwater Adventure Ever.” You act as conductor in front of the line. When you point to an actor, they have to tell the story. The aim for the actors is to make the story seamless and always be ready to jump in to continue the story. If anyone stutters, freezes, repeats unnecessarily, the audience shouts out DIE! and that actor has to give themselves an imaginative (and of course imaginary) death scene. The bigger the better. Now there are only four people to tell the story. Get a new topic and give a new title. This continues on until there are only two actors battling it out. Don’t be afraid to get faster with your conducting or surprise an actor by going back to them immediately, keep them on their toes!
What Happened Next?
One player is in the middle, the others sit aside. Any person can give the middle player a task, which he/she performs, and then he/she asks, `What happens next?’ Any player may suggest what needs to happen next, but the idea is for the group to construct a coherent story. The player in the middle should only and strictly be doing what they’re told; it is up to the players at the side to construct the story.
Everyone finds themselves a spot and squats down. The facilitator talks the group through the exercise.
“Everyone is a piece of corn, the floor is a big pan, and we’re going to make popcorn. We slowly start heating the pan.” As the pan gets hotter, the corn starts to `pop.` A player `pops` by jumping up, clapping hands above their head, and saying `pop.` Make sure the `popping` starts gradually, `popping` is a group thing, and in the end, `popping` should stop.
Variation: Forget to take the pan off the fireplace and have the popcorn start burning.
Form a circle with improv participants. One person starts by saying, “Did you hear about _____?” and then points to someone else in the group. That player immediately replies with the answer to the fill in blank., after which everyone gasps or giggles. The person left of the second person restarts. The blanks can be anything: something as simple as soup, or something as convoluted as the white bear that ate a Russian kid for lunch in Novosibirsk last Thursday.
Cross the Circle
Everyone is numbered around the circle as 1, 2, OR 3. The leader calls a number such as 2. All number 2s must cross the circle in one role of leader’s choice as:
• A ballerina
• A panther
• A moonwalker
• Someone who’s stuck in the mud
• A fashion model
• Whatever your imagination comes up with!
After all the number 2s cross the circle, a different number is called; they are told to cross the circle in the manner the lead directs.
Warning – this one can get noisy! The idea here is that one person is a driver of a bus. As each of the other people playing enter the bus, they are a larger than life character, and everyone including the bus driver become that character. The play continues until everyone is on the bus. This is an excellent game for including everyone in a short improv exercise.
Last Letter, First Letter
Last Letter, First Letter sharpens listening skills as each player must start their line with a word that begins with the last letter of the word that the previous speaker ended with. The example below uses a one word warm-up. This really makes players focus on listening entirely before formulating their response.
We hope to to see all of you soon! Stay healthy!
-The Actor’s Charitable Theatre