One of the challenges of improv is to get in the game aka get yourself in a place where you are ready, open, ideas flowing, creativity at the ready.
There’s been many a day when I trudged through the rain the 12 blocks to the theater, tired before I hit the door, and somehow I have to bounce around the stage with a smile on my face.
Luckily one of the many things you learn in improv classes and your teammates is a pantheon of warm up games to help you get in the mood. I think some of these games would be at parties, business meetings for learning names or just getting the blood flowing and people focused. I know I have definitely been out for a photo shoot and feel uninspired. I think a little activity that keeps the brain from thinking of the task at hand and gets the blood flowing helps me get in the zone.
Get to know each other
Stand in a circle facing inwards. Somebody (Bob) starts by pointing at somebody else, and saying their own name (“Bob”). The person that was pointed at (Sally), points at somebody else and says (“Sally”), this goes for a while. Then phase 2. Then Somebody (Bob) points at somebody else and says the pointees name (“Sally”). Phase 3. When you point at a person and say their name, they respond with yes, giving the pointer permission to cross the circle and take their place. They have to point at somebody else and say their name, get permission and then move. Build up speed. You can also add a phase 4 where the pointer doesn’t say a name at all and has to ask for permission entirely by eye contact.
In a circle, one player points at another says their name, and says ” Tell me 7 ____ you ____” . Example “Bob, Tell me 7 places you’d like to visit” Then Bob says a place, the group says loudly with excitement “One!” Bob says another place the group says “Two!” When he says the 7th, the group says “Seven! Seven Things!” Bob then turns to someobody else says their name and “Tell me 7 ____ you ____” you can also play this as a pattern game “name 7 car companies”. The goal is to rattle off the seven as fast as possible, doesn’t really matter if you truly want to visit san antonio, but it gets you a little more familiar with the other players and gets the brain in a free association mode.
Pass the clap
Stand in a circle. The first person turns to a person next to them and makes eye contact and claps once One Clap only. The clap receiver attempts to clap in unison with the clap sender. they then turn to the next person in the circle and attempt to clap in unison with them. The clap goes around the circle. A clap receiver can hold the eye contact and clap a 2nd time (in unison) to reverse the direction of the clap. Try to speed it up as fast as you can while still being in unison.
Phase 2: everybody starts walking around randomly and relying on finding people to make eye contact to pass the clap to.
You can also pay pass the clap by having each person make a unique sound or phrase they pass to the next person (each pair says that pair’s unique phrase in unison)
Purely an energy game, that I like to do right before hitting the stage. This can either be done loudly or by a “shouting” whisper.As a group form a circle (noticing a circle trend?)
Put your right hand way up in the air and shake it in and out 8 times, counting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 then the left hand 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, then the right foot 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, then the left foot 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
then go back to the right hand but only count 7 (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 for those of you challenged at math), left hand, right foot, left foot.
Then do a round of 6, then 5, with each round get faster, until the last few you are flailing like crazy.
Everybody in the circle raises their hand. One person picks a category such as “colors” and points at another person keep their arm pointed at the pointee and says a color. The pointee points at somebody else that has their arms raised and says a different color. The last person pointed at, points back at the category originator and says a color. Everybody then drops their arms. The starting person points and says their color, dropping their arm after the person registers they were pointed at. They point at the person they picked and say their color and you try and go through a few times as fast as possible.
Then you do the same thing with a different person starting and picking a category e.g. “car names”. People should try and point at somebody different from the first time. Build this 2nd pattern up until everybody has got it figured out (each person basically needs to know who pointed at them/their word, and their own word/point target). Run through building up speed.
After people seem to have the 2nd pattern down pretty well, the person who started the first pattern can start in on the first pattern while the second pattern is still going.
We usually add a 3rd layer, and then finally a 4th layer which is movement. Instead of doing a word pattern for the 4th layer, point at somebody and say “you” and then go and take their place in the circle. So you have to remember the words/people rather than position. Instead of saying you, you can make it easier by using names.
It’s up to the pointer to resay their word if the receiver doesn’t hear or register it.
Everybody get as close as possible in a circle. People close their eyes. The goes is to count to a specific number. Say 20 to start. Somebody (undesignated) says “one”. If somebody else started to say or did say one, you start over. then somebody says two. Again if two people speak at same time it resets. Everybody screams when you get to your goal.
There’s so many more fun games. They may seem silly or hoky, but if some of the players commit to the game and do it with energy (even if they are faking the energy) they tend to build. The great thing about improv people is that we are trained to say “Yes…And” aka to go along, to add energy and ideas to what they were given. Turn off that mental judge and try committing to the simple game, and enjoy.