Friday, January 9, 2015

Improvised Theatre – From the Romans to Commedia to Spolin to Theatresports and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’


Improvised Theatre – From the Romans to Theatresports and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’



Improvisational and devised theatre is one of the oldest 'styles' of theatre. This entry has a version of an improvised theatre competition that be done online with students. If you only require this, skip to the online sub-section at the end.

Since drama pre-dates the invention of writing, long before we started writing scripts we were telling stories by acting them out. The oldest drama, the oral tradition of storytelling developed and survived not just because storytellers were able to remember old stories, but also because they were able to improvise, change and adapt old stories and because they were able to develop new stories which related to new contexts. Likewise, the old drama forms of dance drama and mask drama survived primarily because new movements, new masks and variations were constantly developed to adapt and add new situations, stories and characters.


As the Roman Empire expanded in about 500 BC, Greek cultural ideas such as drama were embraced into and changed by the Romans. However, Roman theatre was more diverse and extensive than that of theatre form before it. From the beginning of the Roman Empire, interest in full-length drama declined in favour of a broader variety of theatrical entertainments. Some people say this came from the decadence of some aspects of Ancient Roman society. Ancient Roman scripted plays and short dramas also probably increasingly involved an iamount of improvisation, especially comedies and both the tragedies of Andronicus and the comedies of Naevius show evidence of sections which were probably improvised or continuously revised and extrapolated. The Roman comedies that have survived (those of Plautus and Terence are the most well known) are all fabula palliata (comedies based on Greek subjects) and in re-working the Greek originals and introducing musical accompaniment to much of the dialogue, these Roman writers are creating the beginnings of extrapolation, adaptation and devising through adaptation. Plautus, the more popular of the two, wrote between 205 and 184 BCE and twenty of his comedies survive. His farces seem to have moments which seem to provide ample opportunity for actors to extrapolate and maybe improvise and the fact that during this period troupes of professional and semi-professional actors started to emerge, suggests that even these playwrights probably relied on the stock characters and standard physical jokes provided by actors working in an ensemble.


Over the centuries, there have been many different improvisational styles. The most direct ancestor of modern improvisation is probably the Commedia Dell'Arte, which was popular throughout Europe for almost 200 starting in the mid-1500's. Troupes of performers would travel from town to town, presenting shows in the public squares and on makeshift stages. They would improvise all their own dialogue, within a framework provided by a set "scenario".

After the Commedia died off, improvisational theatre faded into obscurity as theatre saw the rise of the playwright and the director. Although some improvisation was part of the music hall, vaudeville and pantomime traditions of the 19th centuries, it was not until the 20th century that we see improvisation come again into its own as a style of theatre performance and theatre development process. Much of the credit for the 20th centuries ‘rediscovery’ of improvisation should be credited to two people, Keith Johnstone and Viola Spolin who separately and spontaneously re-invented and re-shaped the craft of improvisation as it exists today.

Back in the 1920's and 1930's, an American woman named Viola Spolin (1906-1994) began to develop a new approach to the teaching of acting. It was based on the simple and powerful idea that children would enjoy learning the craft of acting if it were presented as a series of games. Spolin trained initially as a settlement worker and used the techniques of Neva Boyd learnt by her while studying at the Neva Boyd Group Work School in Chicago and her own psycho-drama, creativity and improvisational techniques to help settle and work with inner city migrant children. She went on to work as a drama advisor for the Chicago branch of the Works Progress Administration’s Recreational Project from 1939 until 1941 and she was visionary in seeing the possibilities that theatre training could provide to break down cultural and ethnic divides and develop social, cultural and interpersonal skills.

By 1946, Spolin had formed the Young Actor’s Company in Hollywood to develop her Theatre Games system further. She returned to Chicago in 1955 to work with various companies including the Playwright’s Theatre Club and the Compass Players (founded by David Shepherd but steered by significant work done by Spolin’s son Paul Sills). She then went on to work with the Second City Company and published her most significant work on her techniques entitled Improvisation for the Theatre which was published in 1963 which outlined 220 drama games and exercises and has inspired teachers, actors and educators for years to come.

Spolin's son, Paul Sills, built on his mother's work and was one of the driving forces of improvisational theatre building momentum in the United States and Canada. Along with people like Del Close and David Shepherd, Sills created an ensemble of actors who developed a kind of "modern Commedia" which would appeal to the average man in the street. As with Theatresports and the original Commedia, the goal was to create theatre that was accessible to everyone.

The group that sprang from the work of Sills, Shepherd and Close, called The Compass, was extremely successful. It brought people to the theatre who in many cases had never gone before, and eventually led to the development of a company called Second City. Through The Compass and Second City, Spolin's Theatre Games went on to influence an entire generation of improvisational performers. Her work in the early 1970’s with Sill’s Story Theater which appeared as a television production is remembered by many.

As the 1970’s drew on, Spolin concentrated her work more on training and in 1975 her file card system called the ‘Theater Game File’ was published and produced. She went on to train professional Theater Games coaches and educators at the Spolin Theater Game Center during the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 1985 Spolin’s ‘Theater Games for Rehearsal: A Director’s Handbook’ was published. Spolin continued to teach and train people up until the early 1990’s.


Keith Johnstone (1933-present) started formulating his theories about creativity and spontaneity while growing up in England and working with the Royal Court Theatre in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He later brought his ideas and techniques into his teaching at the University of Calgary in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Johnstone felt that theatre had become pretentious, which is why the average man in the street didn't even consider attending it. Johnstone wanted to bring theatre to the people who went to sporting and boxing matches, the same audience that Shakespeare had written for in his day.

Johnstone decided that one approach would be to combine elements of both theatre and sports, to form a hybrid called Theatresports. The trappings of team sports were adapted to the improvisational theatre context; teams would compete for points awarded by judges, and audiences would be encouraged to cheer for good scenes and jeer the judges ("kill the umpire!"). Johnstone’s first substantial written work on his system and techniques was the highly successful ‘Impro’ published in 1979. His work with Loose Moose Theatre Company which he co-founded in Canada in 1977, furthered these techniques particularily his concepts of ‘Gorilla Theatre’, Micetro’ (also known as the ‘Maestro’ or ‘Life Game’ principles. His work was further documented and outlined in his 1999 book ‘Improvisation for Storytellers’.

Through Theatresports, Johnstone's ideas have gone on to influence (directly or indirectly) almost every major improv group. His work in Theatresports were directly borrowed from to form the highly success set of improve shows and television series known as ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’.

Exercises and Lessons on Improvisation, Theatre Games and Theatresports

Here are some simple improvisational games that can be played in class. They can be used to develop communication and inter-personal skills. Alternatively, they can be used to develop improvisational material and ideas for a group devised play or piece of theatre. Another alternative is to use these games and the categories suggested to run a Theatresports or ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ style competition.

 

Category 1 - STORY Games


Word at a Time Story (1min.)
The team is given a Title for their story and they must tell a story a word at a time.
Hint: Don't look at one another. Look at the audience. Make the story interesting even if it is bizarre. Try to animate, gesticulate and enliven every word. Make sure you create a good ending when you hear "10 seconds to go!". Remember: 4 people needed. Tell a story a word at a time.

Line at a Time Story   (1min.)
The team is given a Title or First Line for their story and they must tell a story a line at a time.
Hint: Don't look at one another. Look at the audience. Try to animate, gesticulate and enliven every word. It is sometimes better to "pass the story on" in the middle of sentence. It is sometime better to start your story continuation with "but..." or "and...". Make the story interesting even if it is bizarre. Make sure you create a good ending when you hear "10 seconds to go!". Remember: 4 people needed, Tell a story a line, phrase or sentence at a time.

Death in a Minute        (1min.)
1 player leaves the room The other 3 persons are given a place, a murder weapon and a victim. These actors cannot speak or utter these three words or use similar utterances. The other person enters the room but stands to the side initially. The 3 actors start to act the beginning of a scene (usually trying to show where they are first). The other actor enters into the scene and starts to act in the scene with the 3 actors. Tension builds in the scene as the removed other actor tries to work out and act where the setting, work out what the murder weapon is and work out who they have to murder. When the removed other actor hears "10 seconds to go!" He/She kills who they believe should be killed using the correct murder weapon. The removed other actor is called aside and they are asked:
"Where were you? What was the murder weapon? Who did you have to kill?"
Answering these questions effectively will result in a high technical mark.
Hint: Try to spend 10 seconds establishing the scene/setting. Then let the removed other actor come in and interact for 10 seconds. Spend 15 seconds establishing the characters especially who "needs" to be murdered (perhaps they are the most annoying character). Then spend 10 seconds establishing the "murder weapon" (but do not utter the name of the object). Spend the last 10 seconds murdering the victim and reacting to the murder.

In a... With a... While a ... (1min.)
Story - Place, Object, Happening
The conductor gets a Place, Object, Happening from the audience. The players must act out a story that contains each of the three audience suggestions.
Hint: The suggestion are normally incongruous so the more the bizarre the story is the better. Try to start with the place, then move onto the object appearing or being discovered and then have the event or happening occur.

Alphabet Scene  (1min.)
The conductor will ask for a situation or location. Two players carry on a conversation, taking turns speaking. The first player must start with a sentence beginning with a word beginning with the letter "A", the second player starts with "B", and so on. Variations of this game include: using more than two players, selecting a random place in the alphabet to begin, doing the alphabet backwards.
Example:
# 1 "Amazing weather we're having."
# 2 "Beats the weather we had last week."
# 1 "Cold as hell."
# 2 "Didn't think hell was really all that cold."
Hint: Leave one actor off stage in case the others become blocked or stop. Then let that actor come on and "save" them. Remember: The group act out a scene. Each new utterance begins with a new letter of the alphabet.

Time Warp
Time Warp is usually played as a 1 or 2 minute game. The team is given a situation such as The First Day at School or The Bank Robbery or Building a Cubbyhouse.
The group is given 20 seconds to prepare. The group then quickly decides which character they are going to act and a plot brief outline for their first 30 second scene (remember to decide how the scene will start). When the 20 second preparation time is over, the group begins the scene. The group acts out a thirty second scene. The Teacher yells “Time Warp” and then shouts out a time change e.g. “1 year later” or “two hours before”. The students go straight into acting out the new scene using primarily the same characters. For a 1 minute game, the team do one Time Warp and for a two minute game they do three Time Warps.
Hint: Try to keep the characters and consistent. Always calculate the changes and the time warp from the original scene.

Typewriter 
The team is given a title to the story. One member becomes the writer who sits at his/her typewriter and starts to type or narrate the story as he/she writes it. The other actors start to act out the story. The scene shifts from writer to actors continuously.
Hint: Don't let the writer drive the story the whole time. The "actors" should discover new things and "make offers" to the writer. The writer should accept "offers" and keep the story moving while searching for a good ending.
                             
Story-in-the-style-of...
The group is given a well-known story (e.g. Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood). The group must act out the well-known story or part of the story but the group must do this in a different style/genre. The style is given to the group via suggestions (e.g. Western, Action, Sci-Fi, Romance, Soap Opera, Gangster).
Hint: You don't need to act out all of the story. Try to choose a style which is totally different to the original story but keep the plot elements of the original story fairly accurate.

Category 2 - EMOTIONS


Emotional Transition   (1 min.)
The conductor gets suggestions from the audience of a scene (e.g. At the Dentist, The First Day of School, At the Bus Stop). The team are given an emotional state to start the scene (e.g. Despair) and one to end the scene (e.g. Happiness). The group acts out the scene with the initial given emotion and at about 20 seconds into the scene they let the new emotion start to creep in until it dominates the scene at the end.
Hint: Try to have the transition between the two emotions happen slowly. Try to also create a reason to change the emotions.

Emotional Replay        (1 min. - 2 min.)
The conductor gets suggestions from the audience of a scene (e.g. At the Dentist, The First Day of School, At the Bus Stop). The team are given an emotional state to start the scene (e.g. Despair). The team act out a 20 second scene. The conductor yells "stop". The team are then given another emotion and they must repeat the same scene with the new emotion. The scene is done 3 - 6 times.
Hint: Try to keep the lines and action of the original scene virtually the same.

Emotional Rollercoaster
The conductor gets suggestions from the audience of a scene (e.g. At the Dentist, The First Day of School, At the Bus Stop). The team are given an emotional state to start the scene (e.g. Despair). The group acts out the scene in the given emotion until the conductor shouts “Freeze”. The group freezes. A new emotion is given (e.g. exaltation) and the group then continues the scene using the new emotion. This process is repeated three or four times such that the group gets to continue the scene in about four different emotional states.
Hint: Launch straight into the new emotion and then find a reason for why you have changed. Everyone should act the new emotion.

Emotional Regions or 4 Square Emotions
The conductor gets a suggestion for a scene and for some emotional states from the audience. The stage is divided into regions, with each region being assigned one of the emotional states. Players construct a scene using the suggestion. The scene starts in a neutral state. When the players enter a particular region, they must acquire that emotion. A variation of this game is to assign emotional qualities to particular objects on stage.
Hint: Start with only two actors on the stage and establish the situation and at least 2 emotions first, then let the other actors should come on. make sure actors shift from one area to another to show the changes.

Category 3 - Movement Games

Space Jump
Two players begin a scene on stage. At some point, one of the players offstage will yell "Freeze" or “Space Jump”. The offstage player replaces one of the two players onstage and begins an entirely different scene, based on the position of the players.

Mime
The group is given a situation and they must mime out the situation. No words or sounds are permitted.

Expert Double Figures
Two members of the group are the hands for the other two member of the group. One is an expert and the other is an interviewer. Four players are needed for this game. The conductor gets a field of expertise from the audience. The group pairs up. Person 1 becomes an interviewer and will speak and be the body of the interviewer while Person 2 gets behind Person 1 putting their arms under Person 1’s arm pits. Person 2 becomes the arms for Person 1 and she/he does all the gestures for Person 1. Person 3 is the voice of the expert while Person 4 is behind Person 3 acting as the arms of Person 3. An interview is conducted with the expert.

Gibberish Interpreter
This normally is played with only 3 players so chose the most appropriate actors for the right job. A special gibberish is selected for the group (i.e. Swedish Gibberish or Italian Gibberish). One actor is the Interviewer (he/she only speaks English), One is the Gibberish Speaker (he/she only speaks gibberish not English) and the final actor is the Interpreter (he/she speaks both gibberish and English). The scene is conducted as an interview (a bit like a television interview) of the gibberish speaker who is an expert in a certain area (e.g. A Famous Swedish Pastry Chef or An Italian Pasta Maker). In the last 10 seconds the Interviewer should wrap up the scene and thank their guest.

Foreign Film
The group is given a type of Foreign Film (e.g. Bollywood, Hong Kong Kung Fu, French Love Film, Italian Spaghetti Western) and they are given a title for the film (e.g. Bombay Alive, Kick my Chinese Junk or The Searchers in Verona). Two actors (A and B) act out the film or a scene from the film. The other two actors (C and D) act as English Interpreters (C translates for A and D translates for B).  Actors should try to speak one at a time and A and B should wait until C and D have translated the previous foreign language utterance before they speak their response.

Animal Kingdom
Each actor is given an animal. They must act in the scene as a human who has the qualities of that animal (e.g. for a pig perhaps the actor is a human who is always eating). The actors act out a simple situation (e.g. at the bus stop). Try to start with one character on stage and then the other characters should enter one by one. try to let the characters drive the scene.

Category 4 - Rhymes and Music

Rhyming Couplets
The players act out a scene using only rhyming couplets.

Limerick
Five players stand side by side. The first player asks for a word to use in the limerick. The players then create a limerick.

Madrigal
Works best with three players. Each player get a phrase or line. For Example: Player 1 gets a "Simple phrase from Shakespeare." Player 2 gets a "Common Advertising Slogan". Player 3 gets a "Fictitious Headline from The Enquirer." Player 1 sings his phrase through twice. Then Player 2, then Player 3. After all three lines have been heard, the singers weave words and phrases in and out of each others lines, creating new lines. Players trade focus, harmonies, tempos, words, etc.

Musical
The team is given a situation or well known story. They must act and sing the story or situation out. The usual format of a musical is 10 seconds of dialogue and then the actors burst into a song. Another 10 seconds of dialogue and then the actors burst into song. This continues until the end of the scene. Musicals normally involve love, villains or evil people and a soppy or happy ending (e.g. Actors may act out a musical of  The Day Posh Spice met David Beckham. The actor acts out Beckham driving home from football and then he sings the song, "Football is Boring" and then we see Posh coming home from a concert and she talks to the audience about how she wants something more in her life and then she sings "I Need More Spice in My Life Than the Spice Girls". Subsequently, the actors act out the meeting between them and... etc.).

ABBA Poetry (1 min.)
Like line at a time story, this is done a line at a time but it is poetry. The group is given a title to the Poem and they must spontaneously invent a poetic verse about the topic. The poem is done in four line stanzas and Line 1 rhymes with Line 4 and Line 2 rhymes with Line 3. Usually the poem needs 3 or 4 stanzas thus 12 to 16 lines.

Song - Musical Style
Actors must make up an original song about a topic and they must do it in the style designated (e.g. Skaterboy could be done as a Britney Spears song or as an Eminen song or as a Wiggles song).

Opera
The group must sing the scene as an opera. Everything must be sung. A long death scene or a love scene should take place. It should be melodramatic and over-the-top.

ONLINE THEATRESPORTS COMPETITION


'TheatreSports Competition'

(Students can be trained before in these games or the teacher or the Senior Drama students can teach the students the games online)
Welcome to the Theatresports/Whose Line is it Anyway? Competition.

The basic guidelines are as follows:

1)    Each player will nominate a team that they are part of 4 players (or a maximum of 5 players) per team.

2)    Each team must have a team captain

3)    Competitors will come from Years 7-10.

4)    We will play 6 rounds. Each team will play in 5 rounds and then the top four teams compete in the 5th and final round. If teams are equal at this point then a playoff is initiated.

5)    Team can either make an individual video of their segment/part or the team can make a joint video with all the players on one screen. This can be done in Zoom, or GoogleHangouts or Google Meets (the teacher will decide the format).

The Structure of the Theatresports Online Competition
Theatresports is usually played in a 6 round competition. We will be playing a 6 Round competition.

Round 1 - All Teams play. All teams play a 1 minute game of Line at a time story.

Round 2 - All Teams play. All teams play a 1 minute game where the judges choose the category but the team chooses the game they wish to play.

Round 3 – All teams play. All teams play and do a Tick Tock. They may use the Tick Tock app or a similar app that allows sharing of a short video.

Round 4 – All teams play. All teams play one 2 minute game of their own choice from a choice given by the judges.

Round 5 - All Teams play. All teams play a 1 minute game where the judges choose the category or the game is randomly chosen for the team. The judges or teacher chooses the specific elements the team must use.

Round 6 – The top two teams play. All teams play one 2 minute game of their own choice from a choice given by the judges. The team with the highest cumulative score wins the competition.


So let’s introduce our teams for this competition and give them a big round of applause.
The first team is

___________________________

The second team is

___________________________

The third team is

___________________________

The fourth team is

___________________________

ETC.

The other important people we need to introduce are our scorekeepers: _________________________ and __________________________


Finally the people who you will love and hate– the judges. (You can also have one or two judges instead)

Our story judge is ________________

Our character judge is _______________

Our Technical Judge is __________________

And Finally our Hanging Judge is _________________

Without further adieu let’s get started can we please have up the captains of each team onscreen. Team 1. Can the Captain of team 1 give us the name of their team and introduce the members.
Team 1 Captain on video:

Now in Round 1 you are going to do a a Word game and the Game is ‘Line at a Time Story. (Depending on if these is live streamed or pre-recorded, the teacher can either give the team a title or first line to the story or the Team Captain can state what their first line or title is).
Team 1 Play the game of Line at a Time Story (see below)
Let’s here from our judges.

Our story judge gives ________________

Our character judge gives _______________

Our Technical Judge gives __________________

And Finally our Hanging Judge gives _________________

Okay. onto the second team...

STRUCTURE REPEATS ITSELF UNTIL ALL TEAMS HAVE PLAYED.

Let’s look at the scores at the end of Round 1.
In 5th place we have ….
In 4th…..

And in First place we have ___________________

Let’s move into round 2.

Let’s move onto Round 3
Let’s move onto Round 4
Let’s move onto Round 5

So we need to say goodbye to a number of teams as we move into the Round 6 final.  

The Games for the Theatresports Online

Category 1 - STORY Games


Word at a Time Story (1min.)
The team is given a Title for their story and they must tell a story a word at a time.
Hint: Don't look at one another. Look at the audience. Make the story interesting even if it is bizarre. Try to animate, gesticulate and enliven every word. Make sure you create a good ending when you hear "10 seconds to go!". Remember: 4 people needed. Tell a story a word at a time.

Line at a Time Story   (1min.)
The team is given a Title or First Line for their story and they must tell a story a line at a time.
Hint: Don't look at one another. Look at the audience. Try to animate, gesticulate and enliven every word. It is sometimes better to "pass the story on" in the middle of sentence. It is sometime better to start your story continuation with "but..." or "and...". Make the story interesting even if it is bizarre. Make sure you create a good ending when you hear "10 seconds to go!". Remember: 4 people needed, Tell a story a line, phrase or sentence at a time.

Death in a Minute     (1min.)
1 player leaves their room or the video chat. The other 3 persons are given a place, a murder weapon and a victim. These actors cannot speak or utter these three words or use similar utterances. The other person enters the room or video chat but stands to the side initially. The 3 actors start to act the beginning of a scene (usually trying to show where they are first). The other actor enters into the video chat and starts to act and have dialogue in the scene with the 3 actors. Tension builds in the scene as the removed other actor tries to work out and act where the setting, work out what the murder weapon is and work out who they have to murder. When the removed other actor hears "10 seconds to go!" He/She kills who they believe should be killed using the correct murder weapon. The removed other actor is called aside and they are asked:
"Where were you? What was the murder weapon? Who did you have to kill?"
Answering these questions effectively will result in a high technical mark.
Hint: Try to spend 10 seconds establishing the scene/setting. Then let the removed other actor come in and interact for 10 seconds. Spend 15 seconds establishing the characters especially who "needs" to be murdered (perhaps they are the most annoying character). Then spend 10 seconds establishing the "murder weapon" (but do not utter the name of the object). Spend the last 10 seconds murdering the victim and reacting to the murder.

In a... With a... While a ... (1min.)
Story - Place, Object, Happening
The teacher suggests a Place, Object, Happening for the group. The players must act out a story that contains each of the three suggestions.
Hint: The suggestions are normally incongruous so the more the bizarre the story is the better. Try to start with the place, then move onto the object appearing or being discovered and then have the event or happening occur.

Alphabet Scene         (1min.)
The teacher will ask for or decide on a situation or location. Two players carry on a conversation, taking turns speaking. The first player must start with a sentence beginning with a word beginning with the letter "A", the second player starts with "B", and so on. Variations of this game include: using more than two players, selecting a random place in the alphabet to begin, doing the alphabet backwards.
Example:
# 1 "Amazing weather we're having."
# 2 "Beats the weather we had last week."
# 1 "Cold as hell."
# 2 "Didn't think hell was really all that cold."
Hint: Leave one actor off screen in case the others become blocked or stop. Then let that actor come on screen and "save" them. Remember: The group act out a scene. Each new utterance begins with a new letter of the alphabet.


Time Warp
Time Warp is usually played as a 1 or 2 minute game. The team is given a situation such as The First Day at School or The Bank Robbery or Building a Cubbyhouse.
The group is given 20 seconds to prepare. The group then quickly decides which character they are going to act and a plot brief outline for their first 30 second scene (remember to decide how the scene will start). When the 20 second preparation time is over, the group begins the scene. The group acts out a thirty second scene. The Teacher yells “Time Warp” and then shouts out a time change e.g. “1 year later” or “two hours before”. The students go straight into acting out the new scene using primarily the same characters. For a 1 minute game, the team do one Time Warp and for a two minute game they do three Time Warps.
Hint: Try to keep the characters and consistent. Always calculate the changes and the time warp from the original scene.



Typewriter 
The team is given a title to the story. One member becomes the writer who sits at his/her typewriter and starts to type or narrate the story as he/she writes it. The other actors start to act out the story. The scene shifts from writer to actors continuously.
Hint: Don't let the writer drive the story the whole time. The "actors" should discover new things and "make offers" to the writer. The writer should accept "offers" and keep the story moving while searching for a good ending.
                             
Story-in-the-style-of...
The group is given a well-known story (e.g. Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood). The group must act out the well-known story or part of the story but the group must do this in a different style/genre. The style is given to the group via suggestions (e.g. Western, Action, Sci-Fi, Romance, Soap Opera, Gangster).
Hint: You don't need to act out all of the story. Try to choose a style which is totally different to the original story but keep the plot elements of the original story fairly accurate.


Category 2 - EMOTIONS


Emotional Transition           (1 min.)
The conductor gets suggestions from the audience of a scene (e.g. At the Dentist, The First Day of School, At the Bus Stop). The team are given an emotional state to start the scene (e.g. Despair) and one to end the scene (e.g. Happiness). The group acts out the scene with the initial given emotion and at about 20 seconds into the scene they let the new emotion start to creep in until it dominates the scene at the end.
Hint: Try to have the transition between the two emotions happen slowly. Try to also create a reason to change the emotions.

Emotional Replay     (1 min. - 2 min.)
The conductor gets suggestions from the audience of a scene (e.g. At the Dentist, The First Day of School, At the Bus Stop). The team are given an emotional state to start the scene (e.g. Despair). The team act out a 20 second scene. The conductor yells "stop". The team are then given another emotion and they must repeat the same scene with the new emotion. The scene is done 3 - 6 times.
Hint: Try to keep the lines and action of the original scene virtually the same.

Emotional Rollercoaster
The conductor gets suggestions from the audience of a scene (e.g. At the Dentist, The First Day of School, At the Bus Stop). The team are given an emotional state to start the scene (e.g. Despair). The group acts out the scene in the given emotion until the conductor shouts “Freeze”. The group freezes. A new emotion is given (e.g. exaltation) and the group then continues the scene using the new emotion. This process is repeated three or four times such that the group gets to continue the scene in about four different emotional states.
Hint: Launch straight into the new emotion and then find a reason for why you have changed. Everyone should act the new emotion.



Emotional Regions or 4 Square Emotions
The conductor gets a suggestion for a scene and for some emotional states from the audience. The stage is divided into regions, with each region being assigned one of the emotional states. Players construct a scene using the suggestion. The scene starts in a neutral state. When the players enter a particular region, they must acquire that emotion. A variation of this game is to assign emotional qualities to particular objects on stage.
Hint: Start with only two actors on the stage and establish the situation and at least 2 emotions first, then let the other actors should come on. make sure actors shift from one area to another to show the changes.
Category 3 - Movement Games

Space Jump
Two players begin a scene on stage. At some point, one of the players offstage will yell "Freeze" or “Space Jump”. The offstage player replaces one of the two players onstage and begins an entirely different scene, based on the position of the players.

Mime
The group is given a situation and they must mime out the situation. No words or sounds are permitted.

Expert Double Figures
Two members of the group are the hands for the other two member of the group. One is an expert and the other is an interviewer. Four players are needed for this game. The conductor gets a field of expertise from the audience. The group pairs up. Person 1 becomes an interviewer and will speak and be the body of the interviewer while Person 2 gets behind Person 1 putting their arms under Person 1’s arm pits. Person 2 becomes the arms for Person 1 and she/he does all the gestures for Person 1. Person 3 is the voice of the expert while Person 4 is behind Person 3 acting as the arms of Person 3. An interview is conducted with the expert.

Gibberish Interpreter
This normally is played with only 3 players so chose the most appropriate actors for the right job. A special gibberish is selected for the group (i.e. Swedish Gibberish or Italian Gibberish). One actor is the Interviewer (he/she only speaks English), One is the Gibberish Speaker (he/she only speaks gibberish not English) and the final actor is the Interpreter (he/she speaks both gibberish and English). The scene is conducted as an interview (a bit like a television interview) of the gibberish speaker who is an expert in a certain area (e.g. A Famous Swedish Pastry Chef or An Italian Pasta Maker). In the last 10 seconds the Interviewer should wrap up the scene and thank their guest.

Foreign Film
The group is given a type of Foreign Film (e.g. Bollywood, Hong Kong Kung Fu, French Love Film, Italian Spaghetti Western) and they are given a title for the film (e.g. Bombay Alive, Kick my Chinese Junk or The Searchers in Verona). Two actors (A and B) act out the film or a scene from the film. The other two actors (C and D) act as English Interpreters (C translates for A and D translates for B).  Actors should try to speak one at a time and A and B should wait until C and D have translated the previous foreign language utterance before they speak their response.

Animal Kingdom
Each actor is given an animal. They must act in the scene as a human who has the qualities of that animal (e.g. for a pig perhaps the actor is a human who is always eating). The actors act out a simple situation (e.g. at the bus stop). Try to start with one character on stage and then the other characters should enter one by one. try to let the characters drive the scene.

 

Category 4 - Rhymes and Music

Rhyming Couplets
The players act out a scene using only rhyming couplets.

Limerick
Five players stand side by side. The first player asks for a word to use in the limerick. The players then create a limerick.

Madrigal
Works best with three players. Each player get a phrase or line. For Example: Player 1 gets a "Simple phrase from Shakespeare." Player 2 gets a "Common Advertising Slogan". Player 3 gets a "Fictitious Headline from The Enquirer." Player 1 sings his phrase through twice. Then Player 2, then Player 3. After all three lines have been heard, the singers weave words and phrases in and out of each others lines, creating new lines. Players trade focus, harmonies, tempos, words, etc.


Musical
The team is given a situation or well known story. They must act and sing the story or situation out. The usual format of a musical is 10 seconds of dialogue and then the actors burst into a song. Another 10 seconds of dialogue and then the actors burst into song. This continues until the end of the scene. Musicals normally involve love, villains or evil people and a soppy or happy ending (e.g. Actors may act out a musical of  The Day Posh Spice met David Beckham. The actor acts out Beckham driving home from football and then he sings the song, "Football is Boring" and then we see Posh coming home from a concert and she talks to the audience about how she wants something more in her life and then she sings "I Need More Spice in My Life Than the Spice Girls". Subsequently, the actors act out the meeting between them and... etc.).

ABBA Poetry (1 min.)
Like line at a time story, this is done a line at a time but it is poetry. The group is given a title to the Poem and they must spontaneously invent a poetic verse about the topic. The poem is done in four line stanzas and Line 1 rhymes with Line 4 and Line 2 rhymes with Line 3. Usually the poem needs 3 or 4 stanzas thus 12 to 16 lines.

Song - Musical Style
Actors must make up an original song about a topic and they must do it in the style designated (e.g. Skaterboy could be done as a Britney Spears song or as an Eminen song or as a Wiggles song).

Opera
The group must sing the scene as an opera. Everything must be sung. A long death scene or a love scene should take place. It should be melodramatic and over-the-top

References and Resources
Coleman, J. (1991). The Compass: The Improvisational Theatre that Revolutionalized American Comedy. Centennial Publications – University of Chicago Press. Chicago.

Johnstone, K. (1979). Impro – Improvisation and the Theatre. Routledge. London.

Johnstone, K. (1999). Improvisation for Storytellers. Routledge. London.

Spolin, V. (1986). Improvisation for the Theater. (3rd Edition). Northwestern University Press. Chicago.

Spolin, V. (1990). Theater Games for Rehearsal. (2nd Edition). Northwestern University Press. Chicago.

Spolin, V. (1989). Theater Game File. Northwestern University Press. Chicago.

Websites




Spolin Interview

Johnstone Interview – Spontaneity and Originality

‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’


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