Welcome to Improv Lessons for small groups
I have tried to lay out these lessons as a natural progression of exercises covering some basics of Improv. However, feel free to do them in any order you prefer. As with all of Improv, these are a work in progress and will be added to and updated regularly. In addition, if you have a positive experience with these exercises, or some constructive feedback, we are always happy to hear from you.
The goal of this exercise is to relax and get into the spirit of enjoying performance. Step out of criticism and self judgement and let yourself play.
Performance – Arrange yourself in a circle, facing each other with a bit of room between you. One person hold an invisible ball in your hand. Feel its weight and toss it up and down for a moment. Throw this ball to another player. Now, the important part, whoever the ball was thrown to, try to catch the ball and fail. You can fail as simply or dramatically as you want as long as you do not catch the ball. Everyone else your job is to cheer for the person who missed the ball. This is not sarcastic or criticizing, it is genuine appreciation for what they did. Now go get the ball and throw it again. Keep doing this until each person has missed catching the ball three or four times.
Variation – Try playing with invisible balls of different sizes, shapes, and weights. Try throwing the ball in different ways.
Review – What did you experience while doing this?
What were you feeling when you missed the ball?
What was the feeling when missing the ball was applauded?
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Pair up with another performer. Decide who will talk first. The person who talks first is just going to talk for awhile about something they are interested in. The second person listens to what is said while making eye contact with the speaker. The listener can only respond with short, one word statements to let the talker know they are listening, (one word responses only yes, ok, uh huh, right, etc.)
Do this multiple times, changing up who is talking and who is listening.
Review – How does it feel to talk and have someone only listen?
How does it feel to listen and not ask questions, or offer comments, or get to talk yourself?
Yes, And, Because
In Improv we operate with the idea of Yes, And, Because. The principle behind this is that we first accept the other performers reality (YES). Then we add something to it that is our own response to them (AND). We also justify our shared reality and our emotions with details about them (BECAUSE).
In order to build this pattern into our brains, we practice literally saying the words Yes, And, Because.
Pair up with another performer.
One person begins by stating something that they like, e.g. I like apples.
The second person responds by saying, “Yes, And Because you ______(summary of what they said)____, _______(add information that follows from what they said)_____.”
The first person then joins in the pattern by saying, “Yes, And Because ______(summary of what they said)____, _______(add information that follows from what they said)_____.”
Person 1: “I like apples”
Person 2: “Yes, And Because you like apples, you have an apple tree in your front yard.”
Person 1: “Yes, And Because I have an apple tree in my front yard, all the neighbors like to hang out there.”
Person 2:”Yes, And Because all the neighbors hang out there, you set up a lemonade and apple stand.”
They would then continue this pattern of back and forth for a few minutes.
Reflection – What part of this did you find easy, what part was challenging?
How creative were you with your answers?
Note – While performers rarely say Yes, And, Because out loud during a scene, it is always in their mind, because we have practiced saying it out loud.
Group Move and Stop
Everyone walks around room, then someone stops moving, everyone else tries to stop moving as quickly as possible. Now go back to walking around. The goal is for the group to act lime one mind, starting and stopping movement at the same time.
Reflection – What makes this easier? What makes this harder to do? How do we help each other to do this exercise as a single group?
Gather in a circle. One person steps to the center of the circle and begins to sing a song (this can be any song you know, even one you just made up). If anyone else knows the song, they sing along. In order to support each other, someone else tags out the person in the middle and begins singing a new song. keep going tagging each other out and taking turns singing until everyone has sung, or however long you want.
Reflection – How easy or hard was it to take turns? Did everyone feel supported?
One member of the group calls out an object. Then all the members of the group use their bodies to create that object. No talking is allowed. The group should give themselves a limited amount of time to create the object. Once the object is created have each member of the group share which part of the object they are. Now pick a new object and do it again.
Some fun objects to try: car, dump truck, fire engine, plane, helicopter, eagle, dragon, printing press, computer, garden, tea set, etc.
Reflection – What helped the group create an object? How do we handle two people making different choices about where the object is? What if everyone decides to be the wheels?
Two people stand a few feet apart
Person 1 closes eyes
Person 2 tries on a blank expression
Person 1 opens eyes and says right away what they think the other person is feeling
Players get up two at a time and stand at a comfortable distance from each other. Maybe 5+ feet apart. One player (the guesser) turns away from the other. The other player (the presenter) makes these choices.
- the relationship between the two characters
- what just happened
- how they feel about what just happened
- how the guesser feels about what just happened
These should be specific and explicit. I found it’s good to coach the presenter through all four choices for the first couple of rounds of this. “Ready? Have the relationship? Know what happened? Decided how you feel about it? Decided how your partner feels about it?”
Now the presenter will embody their choices in a pose. They should take all four choices into account in how they present themselves. Happy presenting to sad isn’t the same thing as happy presenting to curious, etc.
Once the pose is locked in, instruct the guesser to turn around. Give them 3-5 seconds to take it in and then ask them what they think the 4 choices were.
Now it’s time to ask the presenter what was really going on. #3 and #4 are usually the most accurate. But it is amazing how often #1 and #2 are very close, or even right on the money.