Improv Games for Young Actors

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Improv games are great as a training aid, a creative exercise, or just a fun diversion. And the good news is that actors can't lose at these games. As we discussed in our last article, improvisation mastery builds confidence, skill, versatility, and courage on stage, in front of the camera, and in auditions.

Improv is an invaluable tool, for any actor, but especially for young performers. Beginning in childhood, improv games help sharpen character development, creativity, and on-the-spot decision-making to a fine point. And they can be played just about anywhere at any time. Think about it: Fun and free. All work and all play. What’s not to love?

Here are a few tried-and-true improv game suggestions for your young performer:

 

Rumor Mill

This is a perfect warm-up exercise. It loosens up actors and acclimates them to situational surroundings and personalities. It inspires teamwork and helps with listening and memory — all important qualities for acting. Here’s how it works:

Actors sit in a circle. Someone whispers a rumor to his neighbor. For instance: "Hey, did you hear that Bob is really an alien from Mars?" Then, the neighbor gasps, for effect, and adds to it, as she whispers to her neighbor: "Did you hear that Bob is an alien from Mars who has feet that look like hooves?" The next person must remember the rumor and add to it. And so on ...

To stay in the game, you must remember and recite the rumor and its additions, and then add something fun yourself until the circle is complete. It's a fun way to joke around and get to know one another while enhancing memory and creativity.

 

Freeze

This improv game is one in which a situation and characters are determined. Usually two people stand in front of the group. They act together to create a scene. They improv their parts and get the situation going. Then, someone from the group, yells, "Freeze!" The actors immediately freeze in place, and the one who interrupted the scene taps one of the actors on the shoulder. She then replaces the actor and jumps into the scene. The new actor now creates a different scenario, based upon how the actors are situated. Her counterpart must roll with the new scenario without missing a beat.

 

Active Audience

In this game, one or a few people serve as storytellers. The rest of the group chimes in to add to the story, and spin it in a creative way. It’s sort of a verbal Mad Libs!

Here's how it may play out: A storyteller introduces a storyline, saying, "I love going shopping. My favorite thing to shop for is ..." Someone jumps in and finishes the sentence with "moldy cheese."

The next story teller continues with "I love going shopping. My favorite thing to shop for is moldy cheese. Moldy cheese is especially delicious with a big glass of ...” Another member of the group chimes in with “prune juice." This can continue as long as the story remains fun and lively. It's great for a lot of laughs and gets the creative juices flowing. Audience members can also insert noises to add to the excitement.

 

The Voice

This game is a fun challenge and provides actors with the courage to go with the flow in any scenario. Here’s how it works:

One actor stands on stage while another actor plays an off-stage voice. The “Voice” directs the actor, by serving as a narrator, the actor’s conscience, a pet, or another invisible source. The two actors work together to create an improvised scene, each playing off the other. The game can be expanded as a third actor appears on stage and enters the scene. This actor can determine whether or not he hears the voice as the scene unfolds.

These games are guaranteed to keep actors on their toes and fine-tune their skills. Challenge your young actor to play at least one of these games a week with friends, at a party, or even while waiting at an audition. It doesn't have to be organized. You can even improv at home at the dinner table. Give a character to each family member, create a situation, and just play. Have fun while developing an important skill!

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