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Theater Improv Games, part 2 of 2

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for May, 2003

6. This one takes a bit of room and some soft rubber balls. Everyone stands in a circle and picks an item in a category, say fruit. So the first three people might be apple, peach, pear. Then go around with a different category, or else just count off by numbers. Star throwing a ball, calling out the fruit of the person you're throwing to. Keep that pattern repeating (that is, you always receive the ball from the same person and throw it to the same person). Then add a different ball and a different throwing pattern for the second category.

7. "Late for work." One person leaves the room. The others conspire a reason why the person is late for work, who assisted him or her in getting out of the situation, and what kind of vehicle was used. One person is the boss and everyone else is a worker. The boss sees the person coming in late and starts grilling the late employee about why and how. The employee has to guess, from the behavior of the boss (softer when the guesses are close, harsher when they're off base. The other employees can give hints through mime and walk-on verbal comments, but if the boss catches them and they can't explain adequately what they were doing in the context of the job, they get fired.

8. Mime Interview. Three people are on stage. One asks, one answers, and the third uses mime to relay the conversation. Some one in the audience throws out a topic, and the best part is watching the mime get more and more absurd.

9. Desert Island. Two people are stuck somewhere, such as on a desert island. Through dialog and gestures, they establish their relationship, how they got there, and how they will get out again. When our class performed this, it led to one of the most amazing theater scenes I've seen, when the characters were twins about to be born. (I'm proud to say I invented this one.)

10. "Story Builder," with variations. The first person says a sentence and includes an action verb and a gesture. The second person repeats the sentence and gesture, and adds a new sentence and gesture, etc. (always with an action). When the story feels complete, each person tells it with a different variation: as fast as you can, or in gibberish, or making eye contact, or exaggerated acting, or mime. The last person combines all of them in rotation, as instructed by the director--so she or he might start in rapid speech, then be told to switch to mime, then switch to eye contact, etc.

11. Poetry Challenge Put a few books of poetry or plays in a stack. One person picks one of the books. The other person starts a scene, but the first person can only answer by reading a passage from the book.

The eleven exercises I've given you these last two issues are only a small fraction of what's possible. If you enjoy this, get some books out about theater or comedy improvisation, or find a local improv troupe that offers workshops. It's a whole lot of fun, and the possibilities are endless.

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