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Improvisation Games For the Young Actor
Improv games are a great way to break the ice with your new actors, assess and develop your skills, and help your actors find themselves in the characters they’re playing and the script you’re working on with them. With the help of improvisation exercises and games, Actors learn to react quickly to changes in their environment and instantly create a new way of looking or reacting or expressing emotions from a situation that arose just as spontaneously.
As a director of young performers, I have developed a repertoire that I want to share here, games that I think work well with children and teenagers. These are by no means all original products, in fact most of them have been around for a long time, but I am not including them here as my own inventions, but as games that I have found particularly useful and popular with my young actors. .
Park bench – This is usually the first game I teach. It’s simple and happily played by all ages – believe it or not, I’ve known a crew of 5-8 year olds to keep this game going for an hour or more! I’ll start by asking for a volunteer to be the first innocent bench sitter. I tell the bench guard to sit there and mind his own business when a new person comes and sits next to him – and here I encourage the next kid to come to the first one. The second person’s job is to say or do something to get the first person to leave. The task of the first person – and this is important to note – is allow a statement or action by another person that makes them want to leave. As the first person gets up and leaves, the second person takes their place and becomes the next innocent bench sitter and receives the next kid in line, who now makes him leave. The original innocent bench guard goes to the end of the line of other future park bench attendants to wait his turn.
Freeze – Another old standby, Freeze has been around forever and is enjoyed by actors of all ages. It starts with two volunteers stepping onto the stage. The director asks the audience to give two volunteers a script to start the scene: The place, the action and who the two actors are portraying. Without giving the two actors much time to think, the director instructs the volunteers to begin the scene. The scene goes on for a few minutes and then when the Actors are in an interesting physical formation, the director shouts “Freeze!” and the two actors have to freeze their bodies at that moment.
One new volunteer is chosen, who enters the stage and lightly taps the shoulder of the actor who is in a position to inspire him. The knocked-out actor leaves the stage. A new actor takes his position and uses it as a stimulus to start a whole new scene.
The Martha Game – And no, no one knows why it’s called “The Marta Game”.
One actress is cast as Martha. Marta takes pleasure in choosing where she is, what she does, and what she is, and she informs the group of this and freezes into action weaponry. The rest of the students call out one by one what they want to be on stage – any character or aspect of the environment in Marta’s scenario is fair game, including inanimate objects – and add themselves frozen into the picture. When all the Actors have chosen their additions to Marta’s scenario, the director claps his hands three times and the image comes to life, moving and talking, even inanimate objects must speak as the one represented could speak. This leads to a wildly chaotic, wonderfully crazy scene. This game is not for the faint of heart.
Tell me again? – This game originated with me and starts with sentences written on slips of paper that can be used to start a scene. Some examples:
I don’t believe this. I’m tired. Don’t tell me that. What do you mean? Wow. What do you know? It’s great to see you.
Two students choose a piece of paper with a sentence printed on it, enter the game mode and start the scene with their sentences. The problem with this is that the only things the students are allowed to say is that they are holding one sentence in their hand. They have to use their body, face, actions and inflection to vary the scene and convey different intentions. The fun really begins when the director adds actors, each with their own script with one line. The game is great for teaching the many ways a line can be delivered, as well as a delightful way to show that it’s not so much what we say, but how we say it.
The Game Show Game – An original variation of the old Treffpeli standard. Three children are chosen to create characters whose identities they will not reveal. The characters can be anything from Sponge Bob Square Pants to a rabbit to macaroni and cheese. The three characters are seated in a row of three chairs, with enough space between them to allow them to physically move while performing their roles. A competitor is chosen, who then sits on the stage at the right end of the row of characters and the announcer – the director – starts the game.
Announcer: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to our The Game Show Game where our contestants have five rounds of questions to figure out who these three characters could be. Here’s our contestant for today: Tom. Number one character, say hello to Tom!
The characters say the contestant’s characteristic “hello”. When this is done, the announcer says, “Tom, please ask your first question.”
The characters answer a series of five questions, from which the contestant gathers information that hopefully leads to an answer to who the characters really are. This game works well because it involves many children at once, and even the children playing the audience are participants, as if the contestant can’t guess the character’s identity, the announcer says, “We’re turning to the audience. Members of the audience. . . .Do you have any guesses about this character?” At the end of the round, when all the characters have been revealed, the contestant returns to the audience, all the characters move to stage right one chair to the right, character number one becomes the contestant and a new character number three is chosen from the audience and the announcer begins his introduction again…
These games are just a sample of what instructors can play with their students. Some useful improv game links include:
Improv games provide the instructor with countless ways to expand the rehearsal and performance skills of their novice actors into unfamiliar territory, while also providing opportunities to develop social skills and develop camaraderie among students. The director enjoys seeing the acting students grow as they play, laugh with their fellow actors and become spontaneous, more creative performers.
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