Take an exercise, leave an exercise


Everything is Art!
Wow guys, thank you so much for all these great games and such.
After the team I coach went to an tourny, our notes back MOSTLY talked about "showcasing" environment, aswell as moments. We've done many games on here that have been mentioned.
Off the top of my head:
One word scene:
Took some time to get used to. It was good for my players who always try to be goofy though. Without being able to be vocal, and sometimes not being sure about offers, they were forced into paying close attention.
Lecoq Sticks

This is a game used to build ensembles by the Lecoq movement school.

Get a bunch of dowel rods, or other similar thin wooden sticks about three feet long.

Two people face each other from roughly five feet away. Each with a dowel rod standing upright next to them which they keep up with just one finger. (it helps if they both have it on their Right side) Without using words or gestures, only eye contact, the players will move forward, catching the others stick before it can fall to the floor. No blinking, nodding, sounds or any other signals can be used; just eye contact.
The game progresses by increasing the distance between players, and the number of players.
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Emotional Fairytale:

Pick a fairytale. Act out the fairytale in short form.
Then think of two emotions, and one genre.
Example: depressed, ecstatic, and Horror!

Act out the fairytale in all three suggestions!
You could get some very interesting scenes.
Character Swap

This exercise comes from Chicago... not sure when, not sure who...

Two actors up. Each are encouraged to make a strong physical and vocal choices. They do not have to be cartoonish or over the top, but they should be distinctive. The players play for about 2-3 minutes (or until some behavioral patterns are established and we know what the scene is about), and then swap characters completely. It's the same scene, in the same time and place.

This is a challenge in listening and physical observation. It is particularly enjoyable to challenge players you know well to play out of their comfort zone. Enjoy!
Just noticed this thread. I have one exercise that is my favorite because I've always seen the quickest results with people using it. Came up with it randomly during a rehearsal with my college group and have tried it out with others since.

- You must either take one step forward or one step back in order to speak.
- The players stand on a straight line and face each other taking turns with dialog
- If they wait to long to say it - if they speak and then step, or step and then speak, they have to start over
- You work with the players until they are able to successfully perform according to the rule- you must speak *as* you step (forward or backwards/toward or away from the other player)

The point-
- Forced "Don't think", you can physically see hesitations with the timing of the step
- People are so distracted by the rule that they aren't thinking
- The stepping forward or backward impacts status, relationship and character
- It seems to work- the dialog is always much stronger when they follow the rule- demonstrating that "don't think" works.
Raising the Dramatic Stakes

I use this drill to help practice the skill of raising the dramatic stakes. The exercise is called "And, as if that wasn't enough...!" The group sits in a circle. Player 1 begins with a simple sentence that introduces a character and a situation. Player 2 says, "And, as if that wasn't enough..." and then adds an offer that raises the dramatic stakes. Play continues in this fashion. For example:

Player 1: Mary was late for work.
Player 2: And, as if that wasn't enough, she had already been late for work 3 times that week.
Player 3: And, as if that wasn't enough, her boss had threatened to fire her if she was late again.

To clarify the approach, I define "raising the dramatic stakes" as "increasing the risk that is faced by a character" In the example above, we're increasing the risk of Mary losing her job.
There are so many great exercises on here. This is a great thread and I hope it continues.

I do something with my teams called "Shapes". It's an opening/group work exercise geared towards forcing people out of their stationary half-moon positions at the top of shows or during the game sections of Harolds.

I'll pretty much just draw some sort of shape on a piece of paper like a "V" or
something weird like this : | :

The gig is that no matter what the suggestion is at the top, the group has to form that particular shape while performing their opening or game.

Usually this gets people making moves they haven't made before simply because they're in a different position.


Ready for Spring
I've grabbed many an exercise from here, so it's time for me to add one.

I thought this one up after reading Don LaFontaine's obituary and thought it would be helpful in improv. I've only tried it a few times, but so far I like it; if you think of any improvements to it please let me know:

The scene starts as usual with a suggestion. About 4 to 10 lines in, one of the performers breaks character and says, "In a world where [something interesting about scene], one [character type] struggles to [goal of scene]." The performers then play out the scene with a new focus on the Don Fontainism. If the interesting thing or goal haven't been defined yet, the performer has to make some bold choices to fill in the gaps.

I'm getting a total deja vu while typing this in. If someone's entered something similar to this, my fullest apologies.
one warm up i really love is an old camp standard 'show me how you get down'. you stand in a circle with your group;
1) one person starts, shouting at one person 'HEY BLUVBAND!'
2) bluvband replies 'HEY WHAT!?'
3) repeat 'HEY BLUVBAND!?'
4) bluvband repeats 'HEY WHAT!'
5) you reply 'SHOW ME HOW TO GET DOWN!
6) bluvband: NO WAY
8) bluvband: OKAY!
9) bluvband moves to the middle of the group, dancing and generally 'getting down' as the group chants 'D-O-W-N AND THAT'S THE WAY WE GET DOWN (CLAP CLAP) D-O-W-N AND THAT'S THE WAY WE GET DOWN!'.
10) the director of asking to get down has now been passed to bluvband, who selects someone else to ask to get 'down'. repeat until the entire group has gotten down and silly.
one warm up i really love is an old camp standard 'show me how you get down'. you stand in a circle with your group;
1) one person starts, shouting at one person 'HEY BLUVBAND!'
2) bluvband replies 'HEY WHAT!?'
3) repeat 'HEY BLUVBAND!?'
4) bluvband repeats 'HEY WHAT!'
5) you reply 'SHOW ME HOW TO GET DOWN!
6) bluvband: NO WAY
8) bluvband: OKAY!
9) bluvband moves to the middle of the group, dancing and generally 'getting down' as the group chants 'D-O-W-N AND THAT'S THE WAY WE GET DOWN (CLAP CLAP) D-O-W-N AND THAT'S THE WAY WE GET DOWN!'.
10) the director of asking to get down has now been passed to bluvband, who selects someone else to ask to get 'down'. repeat until the entire group has gotten down and silly.
This warm up only works if I am there. Doing it without me could be fatal.
I recently did this excersize in a 501 taught by Zach Woods:

Two people start off by doing a regular scene. At some point, once a game has been established and played for a bit, the instructor will pimp one of you into doing something idiotic or crazy. One of the people in the scene needs to justify that crazy thing, and make it part of the game.


Player 1: Jessica, I want us to have fun while we're in Japan this weekend.

Player 2: I'm trying to have fun sweeite, but I get uncomfortable if I don't see any familiar American markings.

Instructor: Player 2, scream in terror.

Player 2: (blood curdling scream)

Player 1: Honey, it's okay. It's just a menu

It's my new favorite excersize. it's really fun and helps people like me, who have trouble justifying crazy things sometimes.


hooray my own title
emotional mapping

incredible list so far, thought i'd add my own. i dont think anyone's mentioned this one yet.

i first played this one in smarty pants in ohio:

2 people play a serious scene--the goal is not to be funny at all and you talk about a serious issue, such as someone's death, or the birth of a child, (or both) etc.

the scene goes on for 1-3 minutes. you then have the same two people play the exact same scene, except you change one aspect of the story to be more non-sensical.

for example, 2 people play a scene where a doctor has to give the bad news that a man's wife died while giving birth. both players should play it as honestly as possible.

you then repeat the same scene, with the same dialogue, but just change that the "bad" news that the man's wife gave birth to a girl.

it teaches the value and humor of mapping serious or extreme emotions with the every day life. it's best done with a group that's never done the exercise before and don't know that they're going to be doing the second scene. even after that it's still a blast to play.


of the Rare Bird Show
Get everyone on a back line and give them a suggestion.

Tell them to use the suggestion as superficially and directly as possible.
If it's "superman" they will be Superman, or Soup-er-Man, or Joel Superman, or do a scene about kids reading comic books and talking about comic books.

Then have them do a bunch of scenes (say NEXT after maybe 6 lines in).

Then have them do a series of scenes where they use the suggestion as indirectly and ...earnestly as possible, maybe mentioning it maybe not, but using it as a jumping-off point rather than the meat of the sandwich. Now maybe it's Nietzche getting inspiration, kids reading comic books but talking about how they're bullied, Christopher Reeves at a public appearance, a burglar feeling like he's only truly himself when wearing a mask, etc.

See how you can take a suggestion and be silly or serious, shallow or deep.
Cool List- Here's one

Split Echo
Scenic. A relationship is formed- Strong intensions. This exercise utilizes elements of split focus and elements of mirror.
Two scenes are established. Both scenes in theory should be based in reality. Players are allowed to switch the focus when they feel like it, as well as steal words and movements for their own scene. The effect is a smearing of life. We each have our own lives but the base movements and language remains the same. Improvisers should practice using words and movements borrowed from the split scene and make the words and actions their own.
"Canada's Wonderland" or "Canada's Wonderland Canada's Wonderland Canada's Wonderland"

Type: Circle warmup game, can be played for elimination.

Our Bad Dog Theatre (Toronto) class sort of spontaneously created this summer of 2009. Apologies if you know it from elsewhere.
It's similar to a game of "Bunny Bunny Bunny" or "Elephant," with word association and setting support thrown in.

The game starts out like Bunny Bunny Bunny:
The first person who starts says "Bunny Bunny Bunny" with their hands like bunny teeth, and the people on his/her immediate sides also say "Bunny Bunny Bunny" and form ears with their hands.
After saying the last "Bunny", the middle person points across at another person in the circle while saying the first thing that pops into his/her head, like "Torpedo" or "Elvis."
The target person then says that word three times while miming a Torpedo or Elvis respectively, while the people on the immediate sides repeat the same word while miming some sort of support action.

The game plays out alot like "Bunny Bunny Bunny" (not surprisingly) but it's a lot more chaotic and I think it helps teach spontaneous speaking and spontaneous setting support at the same time.
Need some help pals and gals on an exercise to get people to start in the middle.

One idea I've used is having a bunch of lines with information or news or something to elicit a reaction and then that reaction is the first line of the scene, independent of the line I just read.

Any others?


of the Rare Bird Show
Need some help pals and gals on an exercise to get people to start in the middle.
Have them do a string of scenes where the first line is a response line like "How could you say that" or "I'm getting it now, give me a second!" or "No you don't!"

Search for "Montang Jefferson" (it's originally in Billy Merrit's journal and probably a typo, too)
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getting physical

two person scenes where each person has to make contact with a different object in the environment before talking. slowness is the key. be in the middle of an activity. not fancy or funny, but a good chance to work on discovering what's around you in a scene. i got this from someone, damned if i remember who, so i'll just say, that lovely dave razowsky for the heck of it.
Here is an exercise I use to help people have good physical characters

We call it view pointing, some call it walking with intent. You, the instructor, have the group walk around the room with no destination making eye contact and saying hello as they pass other people. Then you throw out different twists on their walk like, "walk as if you are gaining weight at a rapid rate, walk as if you have no bones, walk as if you are slowly being petrified, walk as if you are on fire." It can get pretty hectic with some of these so tone it down in between with some emotions "walk as if you are angry, sad, or happy." You can also instruct them to lead with different body parts. While they are being affected by all of these they must say hello and still make eye contact. How they say hello should change with each different effect.

One that complements this is you freeze the group in mid walk and have one person wander the room solo. Instruct everyone to notice all the finer details of the persons swagger. After 30 sec to a min have that person stop and then have someone else exaggerate the first persons walk, having the group still focusing on detail. Then have a third person exaggerate the second persons walk. While he is walking pretty over zealously ask him questions and have him answer in how the walk makes him feel.

These have been pretty helpful in some of my workshops. Hope they help. This is a great thread!
zombie tag and Observation Song

Lot's of good stuff here guys and gals.

Not sure if someone posted something like this already, I did see poison arms (Samurai Warriors) .... but here is one I have always enjoyed for Ice breaking...

Zombie Tag; Works best with a large group 15 or more. Everyone stands in a circle with thier backs towards the circle... (So no one is facing in.) eyes closed and hands behind thier backs... the coach walks within the circle and chooses one person to be the Zombie maker, and one or two persons to be the heroes. (they are chosen by the coach by tapping the players palm. ONCE for the Zombie maker and Twice for the Heroes.) No one else knows who has been chosen....

All the rest of the players are citizens.
the two heroes are armed with two balled up pieces of paper (thier two rounds for thier guns) So they each have only two shots.

Citizens cannot tell the heroes who the zombie maker is. Every one starts by walking around in different directions, for the most part in a big circle, some may go one way and others in the other direction. All the while every one must walk slowly, no running at all. and no talking.... As they pass someone else they look at the other player in the eyes... the zombie maker winks at the other player and after five steps the person loudly changes into a very slow moving zombie (Grunting, moaning, saying BRAINS)...bent on tagging (eating) one of the heroes. (Strange thing is they don't go after the citizens.)

The ultimate goal of the game is for either all Humans to be turned into Zombies, or for the heroes to figure out who the zombie maker is (And shoot them) before they are eaten or everyone is turned..... Zombies can be stunned for a count of five...or the heroes may end up shooting an innocent civilian. But they only have two shots.

(Sneaks in observation skills, and movement.)

Another one that just sort of happened this past weekend at a show from my fellow actor David Kube Selby...."Observation song" Not sure of the name... but it seems to fit.

every one stands in a circle, and one person stepping into the circle walks around looking at everyone as they do so... picking one person and pointing at them within a few seconds of stepping into the circle they sing something they observe about that person.

"Stepping into the circle, I see Jane there, smiling as I stare... and she walks on by."

the person they pointed at steps into the center of the circle and the person that started it takes thier place in the circle.

The new person does the same thing now with someone else standing in the circle.

"Stepping into the circle I see Paul, with his eyes so green, as he walks on by."

and so on as they each pick someone new.....it can be as simple or elaborate as you want.
A variation is that the first person to sing and choose someone can endow that next person, and then that person carries on the song in story form choosing the next character in the songs story extending things further and even adding characters... at the beginning the coach can choose the style...oldies rock, country, soft rock, love song...etc etc.....We even tried making it silly with embodying to make things physical as well.

(Scuse the fragmentation, it's late here)