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Mission: Improv-able Games Handbook

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Mission: Improv-able
Games Handbook
12345   Table of Contents
Acknowledgements
Elements (4)
Fundamental Skills (8)
Performance Skills (6)
Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Skills Exercises (28) 12
Short Games (14) 20
Medium Games (41) 23
Long Games (14) 31
Unclassified Games (3) 34
Tweaks (13) 35
Glossary (27) 37
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Acknowledgements
Authors
This work is the labour of Mike McClure and Liz Argall. We can be contacted via email at: improv@ozgamer.net Copyright
The games and exercises have been collected from a variety of traditional and online sources and to the best of our knowledge all of them are in the public domain or have been released for use. If you are the copyright holder of one of these game and would like to see it removed from this work, please contact us and we will comply. This document has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license (http://www.creativecommons.org). This means you are free to use, modify and redistribute this document, as long as you don't claim it as your own work Resources  For a great online resource, check the Human Pingpong ball: http://ww.humanpingpongball.com Acknowledgements Page 3 Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Elements (4) The Elements should be present in every improvisation. Create the Elements so that the audience can see them. The more Elements that appear in a scene, the more depth your story will have and the more believable it will be for the audience.
The Character
Think about the character you want to play before you set foot on stage. Who are you? What do you want? How do you relate to the other characters on stage? Having a well defined character makes it easier for the audience and your fellow players to identify and relate to you and will
make placing yourself in the scene easier. Answering the questions above and showing strong mannerisms and features as well as developing characters from well known archetypes is an easy way of achieving this. The Environment The environment is everything around you both real and imagined; the more you can make the audience believe your environment. The environment supports the scene and the story; think about the environment - what sort of things would you typically do or find in that environment?
Add details - if you're just standing still in a kitchen then do things you would expect in a kitchen... wash some dishes, or make a cup of tea. The little details help make the environment real for the audience and your fellow players. Remember what has been established. If someone mimes a coffee table try not to walk through it later. The Scene The Scene is usually set before the game commences - it provides the rules and boundaries of the Story you will be telling. If the Scene is "getting a haircut" then that limits the environment... you're not likely to be in a nightclub, unless you have a twist planned (such as you're getting hairs not on your head cut at a bondage club).
The Story
Having a continuous story that makes sense and has a logical flow is important so that the audience can easily follow the game. If the audience can keep up with the story then they are more likely to be entertained by it. Going for gags, cheap laughs and jokes to the audience should be avoided because they can be very disruptive to the flow of the story.
Elements (4) Page 4
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Fundamental Skills (8)
Fundamental Skills that help an improvisation be smooth and entertaining for both the audience and the players.
Accepting
Try to accept everything that happens and is said, no matter how ridiculous (cf Be Coherent). If someone mimes giving you something (making an Offer) and they call it a live hand grenade, then act as if you are holding a live hand grenade. Deliberately not accepting offers is called Blocking; this is almost always a bad thing as it throws the story into confusion, can alienate the audience and does not advance the story.
Awareness
Like Accepting, be aware of Offers and Elements created by other players. Be aware of elements, characters and things said if the scene is set in a car then don't reach for an espresso machine. If another player has just mimed closing a door in yourface, mime opening it before you walk through it. Also try to be aware of your fellow players... get a feel for where they are on stage, what character they are playing, and what your relationship is to them. It is also important to be aware of when your fellow players are about to speak. Telegraph whenyou are going to speak, this makes it easier not to talk over each other.
Lastly try to be aware of Dead Air. It is not always possible to avoid but gaps should not go on for too long.
Be Coherent
If you tell a coherent story, your fellow players will be able to see where it is going; they will then be able to positively contribute. If all the players are working towards the same goal the story will be better, there will be fewer awkward moments and the audience will enjoy it more. On that note, non sequiturs seldom work - they interrupt the story, alienate the audience and throw your fellow players off.  Emote
Make things larger than life, so the audience sees and notices. Unless you point things out, audiences will miss things (no such thing as an extreme close up in theatre). You do not need to be a complete ham and subtlety can certainly be powerful, but you must remember you are communicating with the audience and if you want them to see and understand you need to show them, not just the people in the front row or your fellow players.
Endowing
Endowment is the act of giving an attribute to a person or thing. Walking up to a fellow player and saying "Hi Fred" endows that character with the name Fred. Fred can then gesture to a chair and say "Now which tooth needs to come out?", endowing the chair (as a dentist's chair), the other player (as having a toothache), and himself (as a dentist).  Endowing objects and people is a good way to steer a story.
Mime
Mime is your way of letting the audience "see" the things that aren't there - mime well, or you will lose them. Mime is not just "walking against the wind" and wearing white face paint. Being able to consistently mime things like riding a horse, opening and closing doors means that the audience and other players can relate better to the action. Miming well also reduces the need for explanatory conversation and creates a stronger reality. Offer Making offers can advance a story or get you out of (or into) trouble. See Escalation. You can also make an Offer to people off stage (fellow players, the MC, the audience) - this is called an Invitation. Invitations are one of the main ways to get fellow player on stage.
Offers don't have to be subtle - telegraph your moves, this gives your fellow players more time to think of how to accept the offer when it comes.
Relationships
Defining a relationship with the other characters is a good way of guiding the flow of the story and opening up more options. Why say "Hello" when you can say "Hello Dad" that then provides a link between the two characters and gives them some immediate options for dialogue. See Be Specific.
Fundamental Skills (8) Page 5
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Performance Skills (6)
Performance Skills round out a scene and help the audience "get into it" as well as letting the players show off.   Be Specific
It's a great way of building the elements. Saying "Nice car" is one thing, saying "Wow is that a 1996 Suzuki Wagon R+? I love them!" doesn't just develop the object, it also develops the character (they're the sort of person that gets excited by this kind of thing) and gives more potential to move from.The more specific you are, the more endowments you can make and the further you can steer the story in a single sentence. "Hello Dad" is fine but "Good morning Dad" is better but try to keep dialogue to one sentence at a time lest you deny your fellow players the chance to have input.
Enter/Exit with Purpose
Always enter and exit The Scene with a purpose. The audience will feel your uncertainty. Be aware that what you do should add to the story and develop it further, rather than entering the stage for the sake of being on stage. One of the more unusual ways to enter that can build the story very effectively is the Canadian Walkon. This is where you enter to build the environment, for example if the players on stage are on a street and talk about some big news event, a player can briefly enter stage yelling "Extra! Extra!".
Escalation
Escalation is where one player builds on what another player has said or done, usually beyond the intent of the first player. This is an effective way of leading the story - players can add to any of the Elements with very few words. Escalation can also be used to add conflict and tension to a scene and can put your fellow players into a bit of trouble, e.g.:
Player 1 says "I'm going to jump my bike over this pool". Player 2 says "How many sharks are in there this time?". This escalates Player 1's jump, putting them (playfully) into trouble (this can also be called Pimping).
The Story will flow better if the players accept all Offers and will allow Escalation (and the occasional Pimping).
Finish Naturally
Finish the game when the story is finished. Sure you may lose a few points for finishing before the bell, or after the buzzer but you will lose more points if you stick awkwardly around on stage trying to make up time after the story has obviously ended. Similarly you will lose more points for abruptly finishing the game mid-stride than if you ran on after the buzzer for a few seconds.
Motion
Show anima, show that you are alive. Be careful to move with purpose, fidgeting and pacing back and forth for no reason distract the audience from the story.
Motion does not have to mean moving around the stage. Use your face, arms, turn your body (and use Mime to interact with the Environment) and sometimes stillness infused with potential energy or meaning can be rivetting.
Timing
Have a sense of timing, and how to resolve the story within the time limit. Try to conclude the story between the bell and the buzzer. Be aware of dead air. Be aware of talking over each other.
Performance Skills (6) Page 6
Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Group activities to loosen people up and get them used to improvisation and getting involved in the action and doing silly things.
Alien, Tiger, Cow
Precis
Players form a circle and then at a signal, become an Alien, Tiger or Cow. This continues until everyone chooses the same thing.
Description
There are three things that the players can be. The first is an alien. The alien is signified by making antennae with your fingers and leaning into the circle making the noise "zeep zeep zeep". The second thing you can be is a tiger. The tiger is signified by leaning into the circle exposing your ferocious claws and roaring. The last is the cow. The cow's udder is exposed by putting your hand on your stomach and mooing loudly. The MC briskly counts to three. On three everyone commits to one of the three character types alien, tiger, or cow. Keep repeating the cycle of 1-2-3 until everyone does the same creature. Generally dissolves into complete chaos before there is any synchronisation.
Variations
+ Alter number of forms
+ Majority Wins: the form that had the least people gets thrown out of the circle
+ Put team members back-to-back, facing away from each other. Keep playing until one team all do the same animal.
Assassin
Precis
Everyone chooses an Assassin and a Bodyguard, then tries not to be "killed".
Description
Everyone picks someone to be their bodyguard, and somebody to be their assassin. Don't say out loud who picked who for what game starts, and everyone tries to protect themselves from their assassin, by trying to keep their bodyguard between themselves and their assassin. After several minutes of chaos everyone reveals who was picked for what Bzzzt
Precis
Players point in directions to a rhythm.
Description
Establish a beat by slapping your thighs. Once beat is established every player has the choice between 4 different
movements:
+ Point both hands up
+ Point both hands left
+ Point both hands right
+ Point both hands down
Every beat goes slap, point, slap, point and so one. Except, when the 2 players happen to make the same movement (i.e. in the same direction) then after the next slap they both make a 5th movement: point both hands towards the other player, miming a gun, and say 'bzzzt'. Next beat they do what they want again.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 7 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Clap Focus
Precis
Players form a circle; one player claps at another, that player claps at another player and so on.
Description
One person in the circle picks a random person in circle and claps at them. Sometimes taking a half step into the circle while doing so. The person that was singled out with the last clap immediately picks another random person out, by clapping at them. In turn the clapping flies back and forth across the circle. Ideally there will be a constant clapping noise. Eventually the
players will be so attentive and so quick to respond it sounds like one person clapping rapidly. This warm-up usually ends when people's hand are denuded of flesh.
Variations
+ Distractions - those that are not clapping are snapping their fingers
+ Listening can be made harder for the players by allowing the players to only point to the next person in turn. Eventually just eye contact is used as an acknowledged look flies around the room Lastly the players stand silent, immobile, and with their eyes closed as they telepathically communicate amongst themselves Cross Circle
Precis
People form a circle; people can only move when they are moving towards a person they name.
Description
This exercise is complicated to learn. It is started by one person (called person A) who randomly picks another person out of the circle (called person B) and gets their attention by stating their name "hey B". Once person B acknowledges that their name has been called person A starts to walk towards them. You think that this is silly and that person A is going to crash into person B who is standing in the circle. Well person B calls out to another person in the circle (let's say person C). And when See acknowledges B then B can start walking. So A and B are moving across the circle (hence the name) at the same time. C does the same to D. By now A should be stationed in what used be B's spot. A will wait patiently, listening, but not moving until she is called on by someone else in the circle. Complicated, yes, Impossible, No. Walk through it slowly at first
and it will start to make sense. People cannot move until they say the name of the person that they have chosen. This forces people to learn names fast. If the group is big enough you can have more than one cycle going at once. More than one person can be moving at the same time. Therefore two separate cycles are crossing the circle.
Variations
+ The game can be played with just pointing and no names. Even more attention would be required to do this warm-up
with just eye contact
Digits
Precis
One by one, people count up from one.
Description
Everyone in the circle looks down at the ground. Someone will count off the number one. Then someone else will count off the number two. No one knows who will speak the next number. If two people speak out at the same time then the group must start again at one. It is common to try and count to twenty. Usually there is such rejoicing when twenty is counted to the warm-up is over.
Variations
+ Count with your eyes closed
+ Go through the letters of the alphabet, count backwards
+ Do a Word At A Time story with the same rules
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 8 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Falling
Precis
Players walk around, announce they are falling and others catch them.
Description
Once everyone is milling quietly one of the players chooses to fall. The player will announce their plan to fall, by calling out "falling" clearly. Once they do that, and it is obvious that they are going to fall they close their eyes and start falling towards the centre of the room. It is safest if they make themselves rigid and fall backwards towards the centre of the room. I cannot stress enough how important it is to fall inwards. Everyone else in the warm-up rushes to the person's aid and lowers them slowly to the ground. Everyone must help the person be lowered to the ground. Even if one is across the room and the falling player can be safely lowered by those that already there one still must rush over and help. Once the player is lowered safely to the ground she gets back up and the whole thing starts again. Enormous people should refrain from falling in this exercise,
people with bad backs should only help with a light touch. Everyone should be able to participate in one fashion or another. Remember, safety first!
Free Association
Precis
Form a circle, one player says something and the next player says the first thing that comes into their head.
Description
The group can be structured in circles, and one person starts off by saying any word. The person to her left lets fly with the absolute first thing that comes to mind when they heard the previous word. There should be no pause to find "something funny" or to edit their thoughts. This is not a psychoanalysis exercise, but one to get people pulling down those barriers to creative thoughts. Associations like "boss-napalm" are quite common, and not too much to worry about.
Variations
+ Try it in gibberish
+ Firing line is where one person is required to do all the word associations. Six people line up and fire off words that they
have pre planned the player on the firing line responds immediately with a free word association
Group Stop
Precis
People mill about and one person freezes, and then everyone stops.
Description
Everyone quietly mills about the room. One person will elect to freeze in position unexpectedly. As soon as one notices that someone else has frozen in position they freeze as well. So the effect of one person freezing causes everyone to freeze. Once everyone is still the group starts milling around again. The goal is to see how quickly the group can freeze in position
Variations
+ Any person can call "freeze"
+ MC buzzes, or calls "freeze" from time to time
Hands
Precis
People form a circle and hold hands; one person squeezes a hand and the squeeze is passed around the circle.
Description
One person squeezes that hand that they are holding. The person that received the squeeze squeezes the hand of the other person that they are connected to. This should generate a squeeze pulse that races around the circle. A second squeeze can start circling in the opposite or same direction. There should be no clue that they are receiving the hand squeeze, and therefore no one can really predict when it will come to them. The exact same warm-up can be done with the players contacting palms and giving a push instead of a squeeze. This is more obvious when the pulse moves around the circle. Sometimes the palm pushing wave can generate considerable force.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 9 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Hello
Precis
Mill around and greet people in a variety of ways (as announced by the MC).
Description
The players mill about the room. At some point the workshop leader asks them all the greet each other by shaking hands.  Greet one person and move on, greet another and so on. This continues for a while. Then endow each of the greetings with an element. For example, "greet each other like you are long lost friends". You can continue to endow the greetings with elements like: ex-lovers, someone you have a crush on, someone you are afraid of, someone you love, a smelly person, etc.
The greetings can be embellished with emotions like: greet everyone angrily, greet everyone happily, greet everyone like you have a secret, greet everyone like you are a Scottish Chieftain, etc. Have fun with it, and keep the greetings short and superficial.
Jeepers Peepers
Precis
People form a circle and close their eyes; they open their eyes and look at someone else, trying to make eye contact.
Description
Everyone looks down at the ground, not making eye contact with anyone else. The group collectively counts to three, and on a count of three everyone looks up at once. Each player in the circle is responsible for making a strong choice, and they must either look to their left, their right, or directly across the circle. If players make eye contact, both scream and step out of the circle. This activity is continued until all are out of the circle.
Kitty in the Corner
Precis
A game of tag and swapping using eye contact.
Description
Classic children's game. 4 to 6 players stand at corners of the playing area, one player in the middle. 2 players try to make eye contact, and then switch places, while the middle player tries to capture a corner. The faster the pace, and the higher the stakes (like making eye contact with people diagonally) the more fun. Leading
Precis
Mill around, and walk by leading a named body part.
Description
All the players are milling around and someone suggests a body part to lead with. Everyone move around as if your left foot was leading your body everywhere. Continue on with various body parts like: knee, bum, right ear. End the exercise when players start calling out internal organs.
Malapropism
Precis
Mill around, calling objects what they are NOT.
Description
As the players are milling about they are to point at objects in the room and call out what the object is not. If they point at a light they may call out "fish", or "wallet". The goal is to call out loud and clear like that is what the object is. Watch for people that saying the same thing over and over again. It works better if people free associate with each new object that they point at. The exercise continues until boredom sets in.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 10 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
One Mouth
Precis
The players have to answer the MC's questions at the same time with the same answer.
Description
One player (or the MC) is going to interview all other players, but the group of other players are really one character. This character answers the questions, but all players provide the answer at the same time, as if the character is speaking out of many mouths simultaneously. The answers should make sense (at least grammatically) and should be clear. If one player starts answering a question by saying "YYYY" no-one should try and turn that into a "No".
Pass Catch
Precis
Players in a circle do silly poses and share their neighbour's silly pose.
Description
Once everyone is in the circle make sure that they have enough space to move freely without accidentally clouting each other in the head. One player in the circle throws themselves into a bizarre stance and makes a corresponding noise along with it. This gesture is made to the player to their right in the circle. That player immediately reflects back the gesture and noise, imitating the other player as best she can. Once she has done that she immediately turns around and creates a new and wonder gesture and noise to the player to her right. The process is repeated and goes around the circle for a few minutes. It is important that the players not stop to think in between the poses. The player should receive, reflect, turn and create a new pose without pause.
Variations
+ The player to the right can dispense with reflecting the gesture and quickly turn around and give the gesture to the player to their right. This will result in a continuous noise and shape flying around the circle at high speed. Eventually the gesture is altered. The result can be stunning. The gesture can also be thrown across the circle. This keeps players from being prepared and gets people more in the moment
Popcorn
Precis
Form a circle and randomly jump in the air and clap.
Description
Players randomly and unexpectedly jump up in to the air. At some time in the air they clap their hands. Since other players are also jumping and clapping at the same time the name popcorn seems appropriate. If two players clap their hands at the same time they are out of the circle for a few seconds only to join in later. The exercise is continued until hands become sore or someone sprains an ankle.
Questions
Precis
Players must only speak in questions.
Description
2 Player Game.
A broad scene is set, and then the 2 players play it out only speaking in questions. If one of the players makes a statement or hesitates too long swap them out for a different player.
Redirection
Precis
Form a circle, one person walks around with their eyes closed and the others redirect them.
Description
Someone is chosen to get into the middle of the circle. They simply close their eyes and start to walk in any direction. The spotters on the outside of the circle redirect the walker as she comes to the edge of the circle. The spotters in the circle need to remain silent so as not to alert the walker when she is about to be turned. The blind folded walker is supposed to pick up speed, and trust that her players will not let her crash into something. Continue until all have gone into the centre.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 11 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Simulclap
Precis
Form a circle, and send a clap around the circle.
Description
One player starts off by clapping their hands (a singular clap), while facing another player. The goal is for both the players to clap their hands simultaneously. The player that received the applause then turns and claps simultaneously with the next player in the circle. This produces a cycle of simultaneous claps racing around the circle. It takes some time for a group to get this going. Once the simultaneous clapping is moving nicely the player that is receiving the applause may opt to give it back to the person that clapped at them. This will reverse the direction of the clapping. What the player does to reverse the direction of the clapping is to not turn to the next person in the circle, but stand her ground and clap directly back at the player that handed her the applause. There is an overwhelming urge to try and screw up the other players in the circle. This is to be discouraged as more can be learned from trying to make the circle flow quickly rather than fail frequently.
Slow Motion Samurai
Precis
People move around in slow motion, killing those around them.
Description
Once everyone is milling about comfortably they are told to start moving in slow motion. Once a stable rate of speed is determined the players all become Samurai with poisonous blades built into their fore arms. The object is to kill all the other Samurai in the room. If anyone is touched by the fore arm of another player they must die a poisoned death in slow motion. It is important that players keep their speed continuous. The point is not to win the warm-up, but to have fun. If players are moving too fast and massacring everyone else simply tell them to slow down. It helps people work together. The warm-up usually ends when there is a large pile of bodies on the floor.
Variations
+ Players are allowed to block attacking Samurai poison fore arms with their own forearm
+ The workshop can be divided into two groups, having a little feudal war
Song Circle
Precis
Collectively try to sing a song about a named theme.
Description
A very general theme is chosen, like transportation or love. Once the theme is chosen players jump into the centre of the circle and start to sing any song related to the theme. Once the player gets stuck on the song, another player must show support and jump into the circle to help with a new song. The previous person in the centre steps out. This continues until songs start to get repeated, or things collapse utterly. The point of the warm-up is not to embarrass people in the centre, but to support the player in the centre. This is done by quickly jumping into the circle once they start to have any trouble at all.
Stretching
Precis
Stretch body parts.
Description
Let's all get limbered up by doing some simple stretching exercises. Stretch odd body parts like noses, scalps, etc.
This seems to work best if everyone in the group submits a stretch and is responsible for stretching one body part.
Vocal Symphony
Precis
Each player makes a noise at the directions of the conductor.
Description
Each player is endowed with a noise - this can be a silly sound, a word or phrase... anything vocal. It is good to get a range of contrasting noises for the players to use. Once each player is given their noise the conductor points from one player to another. When pointed to, the players make their noise. The volume of the noise is increased as the conductor raises their hand while pointing at the player. The conductor moves from player to player conducting the symphony.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 12 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
What Are You Doing?
Precis
One player in the middle of a circle mimes an activity and then tells the next player what their activity will be.
Description
This warm-up breaks one of the major improvisational rules, however it allows us to start getting in the moment. Everyone into a circle. Once the circle is formed one player goes into the circle and starts to mime a simple activity. Once the activity has been established one of the players from the circle jumps in and asks "what are you doing?" The player doing the mime responds
with some activity other than the one they are doing. If they are mowing the lawn they might say 'filleting a soul.' The player that asked the question starts the activity that was answered (i.e., filleting a soul) and waits to be asked what she is doing. This continues until all players have tried the exercise.
Yes Lets
Precis
Players mill about and the group suggests activities which the group then does.
Description
This warm-up focuses on accepting offers and getting silly. Start milling about the room.
Someone will loudly suggest an activity for all the group to mime. Everyone simultaneously yells "yes lets", and starts the do the activity. Once the activity has been mimed for a while another one is yelled out and the group responds with "yes lets" and starts the activity. For example, if someone calls out let's all dig holes. The group responds with "yes let's all dig holes", and every manner of hole digging mime will begin (complete with sound effects). The someone will suggest a new activity and the cycle continues. Someone yells out "let's finish this exercise", or "let's all sit down".
Zip, Zap, Zoop
Precis
Form a circle, pass "zip"s around the circle, direction may be changed by saying "zap" or "zoop".
Description
This warm-up gets our brains acting without thinking.
Everyone into a circle. This is another motion around the circle warm-up. In this warm-up one of the players points to another player to one side of them and says 'zip'. That player turns to the next player in the circle, points to them and says 'zip'. Thus the 'zip' moves around the circle in one direction. At any time a receiving player can say 'zap' to the person pointing at them. When they do the player that said 'zip' and was pointing at them must change direction of the pointing. This
means that they must quickly turn around, point and say 'zip to the person that just pointed at them. Now the 'zip' can zip around the circle, but changing direction every time there is a 'zap'. Lastly the person that receives the 'zip' may elect to yell 'zoop' and point at someone anywhere in the circle. That player then restarts the 'zip' going in the direction of their choice. The group must really pay attention for this to work.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 13 Warm-Up Exercises (28)
Skills Exercises (28)
A series of typically short games, and other activities, designed to demonstrate or practice specific skills.
1-2-3-4-5
Precis
Structured scene development using single sentences.
Description
This exercise covers the basic framework of an open scene. It is very structured and requires three people. Each player in it has a specific role, and each sentence spoken has a specific role. It is crucial to emphasize that each step represents only one sentence. It is recommended to talk the players through this the first through times.
ONE - environment
The first player comes on stage and creates an environment based on the set up of the scene. The environment is created in silence through mime. Once they have clearly defined their environment the second player comes on stage. For the sake of this explanation a kitchen is created.
TWO - relationship
The second player comes on stage and accepts the environment that the first player defined through her mime. The second player on contributes only one sentence to the scene and NO more. That sentence simply defines a relationship between the two players. For example a simple sentence like 'hi mom' would suffice.
THREE - conflict
The first player in the scene then speaks only one sentence. This sentence creates a conflict based on the ask-for, environment, or relationship. For instance 'you are late for dinner' is a simple choice.
FOUR - raising the stakes
Player Two now has a chance to speak her second sentence. This sentence accepts all of the previous elements of the story, and makes the conflict worse. 'I hate your cooking mom' would be a sentence that advances the story by making the conflict  worse.
FIVE - resolution
The two players have to keep their mouths shut. Keep in mind that this is an exercise and not a scene. The third player now enters the scene, accepts the environment and speaks her singular sentence. This sentence will end the scene and resolve the conflict at hand. The resolution must somehow incorporate elements from the scene that went before. For example, "hi honey, lets go eat at McSwiney's tonight". That is the end of the exercise and another three players get set up to do another one. They usually take about one to two minutes each.
Variations
+ If players cannot keep to one sentence. Try doing the steps in gibberish or have someone off-stage speak the player's
sentence
+ Discussion after each point, do steps 1 & 2, then build up to doing all five steps
Advance and Expand
Precis
This exercise focuses on raising the stakes and exploration of the environment. Please set up a scene.
Description
The players start into their scene as they would any other. When the 'advance' is called out the players focus solely on the story, and advance the story. When 'expand' is called out the players solely explore their environment. During an 'advance' the players would add nothing to the environment, but would introduce constructive new bits of information about who, why and where. They could raise the stakes, introduce a new character, but every offer must make the story move forward. These advances can be done at the exclusion of the environment and even the reality. The goal of the exercise is to make the players keenly aware of when the are advancing a story. During an 'expand' the story is completely ignored, characters are not developed and the players engross themselves in their mimed environments. The sink that their character is standing at becomes the focus. The taps are explored, the shape is explored, its taste, etc. Again the story will be derailed by the 'expand' but the environment will become much more real.
Variations
+ Have one player expand while another advances.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 14 Skills Exercises (28)
Ask Fors
Precis
Each player in the workshop will get up in front of the workshop group and get an ask-for to set up a scene.
Description
Each player gets a single ask-for from the audience. They should treat the other workshoppers as if they were an audience. Getting the offer for the scene simply involves asking for some kind of audience input. Our policy is to get a single noun, relationship, verb, adverb, or adjective. Thank the audience for the suggestion and then state this scene will somehow involve the Offer.
Variations
+ The style of the set-ups will vary from troupe to troupe. It is good to practise getting ask-fors in the style of your troupe
+ The audience can make typical bar offers like: gynecologist, proctologist, bathroom, my dick, your dick, big dick,
condom
Can I Help you?
Precis
One player is a help desk clerk and must respond to the strong characters who approach.
Description
One player acts as a help desk clerk in a major department store, the other players approach the desk and ask for things that one might find in a department store. They are expected to make strong character choices, and make inquiries related to their characters. Ensure that each player draws from physicality, voice and intent to create their character. The help desk person is neutral and helpful to all the players that come along.
Variations
+ Personnel manager hiring a string of different people, or a mountain guru offering advice to passing wisdom seekers
Conducted Story
Precis
The players stand in a line and one person to conduct a story.
Description
The goal of the conducted story is to have the players tell a story that moves seamlessly from one player to another. The goal of the conductor is to make the story flow as well as possible. If the conductor moves from one player to another the new player that is speaking must continue on as though there was no pause. For instance, moves from player A who said, "many children were afraid of Carl for he was known to ha.." to player B, who would continue seamlessly "..ve piles of library books that were overdue." The key is listening. It is a listening exercise. The players that are not speaking must be listening. They all must have the next word ready to go, and only if they are listening will that word make any sense. The players must also be accepting of what is happening in the story. Forcing their own agenda will show up quickly. Words like, 'but' and 'instead of' reflect someone denies another players offers.
Variations
+ Hold on one player for a long time
+ Give each of the players a different story genre
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 15 Skills Exercises (28)
Corridors
Precis
Players go down the corridor to have single sentence conversations.
Description
This exercise will help us in defining characters and generating interpersonal relationships. Form a single file line with two players down stage on either side of the line. The two players down stage wait for the first player from the line to join them. The player from the line approaches the player on their left. In one sentence the player defines a relationship between the two of them. "Carol would you marry me?" would suffice. This clearly defines the relationship between a suitor and her spouse to be. The player then responds with a one sentence conflict, finds a reason to leave the room, and confer with another character. That character just happens to be down the corridor in the next room. The player might say, "I am happy to marry you I must first confer with my mother."  She promptly leaves the room, travels down the corridor and to the player on the right of the line. Gives the news, and then the player there responds in the character that she was endowed as. For instance, "finally getting married you little schlaghunte. Good riddance." The player on the right goes to the back of the line, and the process is repeated with a whole new set of characters and a new situation. All the players should rotate through each of the parts in the exercise.
Variations
+ Each player must remain as the character that they were endowed as for the entire exercise.
Drill Instructor
Precis
Players in 2 teams face off in 30 second improvisations.
Description
All players line up in 2 lines, facing each other. The MC yells a word/title, and next player in line gets 30 seconds to do their thing, based on the suggestion. After 30 seconds new title/word is given and next player goes.
Elevator
Precis
One by one characters get on an elevator, clearly establishing their character physically.
Description
This is a character exercise.
The players each get onto an elevator at different floors. Each character uses the step of getting on the elevator as a vehicle for demonstrating their characteristics. Without speaking the character should be clearly defined by how they move, how they push the call button, and what noises they make. The next character on should make a choices that compliment the character that is already on the elevator. These characters all interact as they see fit. Keeping in mind the confined space of  the elevator, and the eventual need to exit. It is important that all the players accept and help define the environment of the
elevator.
Variations
+ Have the elevator break down and leave them stuck in it for some time
Emotional Symphony
Precis
Each player plays an emotion at the directions of the conductor.
Description
Five of the players are lined up in a performance fashion. One person is chosen to conduct the players in the symphony. Each player is endowed with some emotion. It is good to get a range of contrasting emotions for the players to use. Once each player is given their emotion the conductor points from one player to another. The players do not speak, but express their emotions through physicality and noise. The intensity of the emotion is increased as the conductor raises her hand while pointing at the player. The conductor moves from player to player conducting an emotional symphony.
Variations
+ This exercise is fun, and does have some performance value. A way to make it closer to the audience is to ask for names from the audience, and get the players to speak only that name, tainted with the emotion with which they have been endowed
+ Point at two players at once etc
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 16 Skills Exercises (28)
Freeze
Precis
Play a 2 person scene where the other 2 players off stage can tag in.
Description
2 players start a scene, once the scene has been established, another player yells "freeze" and the players on stage freeze in
their positions. The player who yelled "freeze" then replaces one of the players on stage and begins a new scene. This process repeats until a logical ending is reached, or time is up.
Game-O-Matic
Precis
Invent the game rules.
Description
This is like 'invent-your-own-game' : ask the audience for the name of an non-existent improv game, then invent the rules on the spot, and play it. Kind of risky, but if the group has been playing short form improv games for quite a while, coming up with rules is easy.
Happy Circles
Precis
Change expressed emotion in tune with how you rotate your limbs.
Description
Use of circles and movement in expressing emotion physically. Move hands in outwards circles (ie left hand is moving clockwise, right hand is moving anti-clockwise). This generates happy expression. Similarly if you rotate at the elbows,  shoulders, knees or feet in outwards directions it generates happy expressions. If you rotate your hands inwards you generate sad expressions. Go through each part of the body, or focus on one particular part per workshop.
Happy Face
Precis
Change facial expressions slowly from happy to neutral.
Description
Start with a deadpan face. With your palm facing inwards move your hand over your face, from chin to forehead. As you move your hand upwards your face becomes happier, when you move your hand downwards your face becomes sadder.
Practice slowly and then get faster.
Variations
+ Face of with a partner, you may alter your own expression, or the expression of your partner
Happy/Sad
Precis
Change facial expressions from happy to sad.
Description
Get players to do the most miserable expression they can think of. Now get them to do the happiest expression they can think of. Assign the most miserable expression with the value 1 and the happiest expression with 8. Now count through gradations from 1-8.
Variations
+ Once people are familiar with their range, jump about, call out 7, then 2 then 5, then 1 etcetera
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 17 Skills Exercises (28)
Machines
Precis
Players become parts of an imaginary machine.
Description
In this exercise the players must create the parts of an imaginary machine. Each player will enter one at a time, and offer a repetitive motion and noise to the machine. [get name of a machine]  The players should use all levels of the stage, and the exercise works best when the motions fit together into some kind of machine. Don't do anything that you cannot physically maintain (one armed push-ups), or something that causes physical pain (dropping to your knees). The players will find that the machine they create reflects the suggestion that they were given.
Variations
+ This machine can be frozen and used to start a scene based on the original suggestion.
Marshmallow Mania
Precis
Don't make the audience laugh!
Description
Play a scene in which the audience is not supposed to laugh. Any player who provokes a laugh, gets a piece of marshmallow
in his/her mouth. Players are allowed to chew, but may not swallow.
Missing Letter
Precis
Play a scene without using a given letter.
Description
Players play a scene (perhaps based on an audience suggestion) but they cannot use the letter 'P' (or any other letter). When a player uses a 'P', the audience screams 'Die' and the player is replaced by another on. The scene continues, and the new player needs to take over the character of the player he replaces.
Monarch
Precis
One player is the supreme ruler. The other players try to win their favour.
Description
The monarch sits proudly on stage and is persistently approached by all of the other players in the workshop. The players approach the monarch making strong character choices and making offers to please the monarch. Offers such as "a box of chocolates for your royalness" or "a new necklace for my monarch" are common. The role of the monarch is to accept the offer and decide whether the offer was worthy of that player sitting beside the monarch in an exclusive place in her court.  Other players are constantly coming forward in an attempt to gain that exclusive spot by offering better and better goodies for the monarch. An ideal monarch will not base her responses on the goodies themselves, but how well they are presented by the player. If a player offers the monarch a rock, but does it with a strong and committed character the monarch will place them at her side. Only one player may be in the monarch's favour at any one time. Like all good royalty no commoner may touch the monarch (this keeps the monarch from getting a 10 minute massage instead of accepting new offers).
Variations
+ If the monarch is bested with an offer they die and the new player becomes the monarch
+ Saint Peter's Gate, each player approaches Peter with a reason they should not get into heaven, and Peter finds a reason to get them into heaven. If Peter cannot find a reason to get the player into heaven he is replaced by that player. Beware of these competitive games, the improv rules of story and making everyone else on stage look good must still apply. If things get to competitive just stop the exercise
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 18 Skills Exercises (28)
Object Narrative
Precis
Players do monologues on an object.
Description
The group sits or stands to the sides so they can see what is going on. Someone chooses an object from the room and places it on the chair. (Or get an object from the audience in a show) That object is your suggestion. One at a time, three members  (or how ever many you decide) do a short monologue off that object. One person starts and when they are done, they leave the object on the chair for the next person. Whoever is inspired jumps up next adding their part of the story/situation from another character's point of view. and the third person completes the cycle. This exercise is extremely character based. The first character sets the story in motion and then the other two people find a way to be another interesting character that will accept and heighten the first initiation. The challenge is to not be totally predictable with, the follow up character choices (avoid immediately choosing to be the spouse when you could be that person's mailman...or manicurist instead). At the same time you still want to support the story line and justify what the
previous characters have already established. The characters don't have to know each other, but they must have connections (if only through the object).
Open Your Hand
Precis
Players catch imagined falling objects from the sky.
Description
The players walk around the room leisurely. Then ask them to stop, open their hands, and let something fall out of the sky, right into their hands. The players name the object in their hands, set it aside, move on and open their hands again.
Variations
+ Players they can vary the way they extend their hands or hand. They can hold hands in front of them, above their head or close to the ground. See if different stuff shows up
+ A slightly less difficult version of this game can be done by players pulling things out of their pockets. Make sure they all got pockets if you want to play this game
Park Bench
Precis
Characterisation on a park bench.
Description
The first player on-stage sits silently, displaying as much about their character as they can without verbalising it. The next player in makes a strong complimenting character choice. A complimenting character may be contrasting or supporting. The player coming on should make strong character choices as soon as they are off their seat. This means the character should be
embodied in their walk, voice and intent. The two characters interact for about thirty seconds and the player that was on the bench first finds a reason to leave. This leaves the second player on the bench alone for a while. The next player creates a character and joins the player that is on the bench. This continues until all in the workshop have done one or more characters.
Quick Change
Precis
Play a scene where lines have to be changed.
Description
Play a neutral scene where the MC calls "change" (or rings the bell) from time to time and the last line spoken has to be changed.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 19 Skills Exercises (28)
Reality TV
Precis
Like Reality TV shows, players get "voted off the island".
Description
Four to six players play a scene. Then the audience chooses one of the players to get "voted off the island". The remaining players do the scene again, covering everything that happened the first time. Then another person gets voted out, and so on until one person has to act out the scene all by themselves. There are various ways of re-playing the original scene, even  when only one player left: player can do a monologue, can play all original characters herself, you name it ... You can play this for an audience, but it's also a great listening and paying-attention exercise.
Secret
Precis
A scene is played where a secret is uncovered.
Description
Two or more players start in a neutral scene about 30 seconds before a secret is uncovered.
That Must Be Charlie
Precis
The players Endow one player who has to embody all the Endowments.
Description
One player, "Charlie", starts offstage whilst the others talk about them; Endowing "Charlie" with a variety of odd
mannerisms and habits. After a while, "Charlie" enters the scene and has to display all the Endowments.
Timing
Precis
Players build a sense of time.
Description
Get players to have a sense of what one minute feels like. Players quiet and still and time a minute. Then get the players to close their eyes and to open their eyes when they feel like a minute is up.
Variations
+ Have people do an activity or improv and have them guess how the time rather than use a buzzer. With these skills building have feedback as immediate as possible
+ Vary the amount of time, 10 seconds is a useful time to know
Voices from Heaven
Precis
The players tell a collective story about how they came to die.
Description
Excellent game for building characters and group-storytelling. 4 players, ask the audience who they are, what their occupation would be. These 4 characters have died together, and they are going to tell us how that came about. Players line up. The game is played in 3 rounds. In every round, each player offers some information about how they happened to die. At the end of the thirds round, they should all be dead. Notes It's fun to take risks - if in the first round each of the players just offers what they happened to be doing the day they died, and where. It is quite a challenge to get these 4 stories together,  including the deaths of all characters, by the end of the third round.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 20 Skills Exercises (28)
Word at a Time Expert
Precis
2 Players are the one expert and are interviewed.
Description
3 players: one is the interviewer, and the other 2 are an expert on a subject chosen by the audience. The expert is really one person, with 2 heads, and answers to the interviewer's question are provided word by word, one word at a time per player.
Variations
+ Also known as Oracle. Use an ancient Greek oracle instead of an expert, and have the audience ask the oracle questions about life & love
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 21 Skills Exercises (28)
Short Games (14)
Games designed to be about 60 seconds long with a 10 second warning. The focus of these games is on wit and a fast paced story building.
Advertisement
Precis
The players advertise a product or service.
Description
The players must create and play out an advertisement for a non-existent product or service that the MC gives.
Alliteration
Precis
Characters converse, cleverly constructing consonants.
Description
Players are given a letter, usually a consonant, and incorporate into the scene as many words beginning with that letter as possible.
Variations
+ Each player can have their own letter
Death in a Minute
Precis
Play a 1 minute scene, in which one player must die.
Description
Play a 1 minute scene, in which one player must die.
Lounge Singer
Precis
1 player sings in the style of a lounge singer in an odd location.
Description
Hard Game.
Single Player Game.
Ask for an unlikely place to find a lounge singer. One player does a solo song, Frank Sinatra style. You'll get something like "Welcome to the Paediatrician's Office".  One Mouth
Precis
The players have to answer the MC's questions at the same time with the same answer.
Description
One player (or the MC) is going to interview all other players, but the group of other players are really one character. This character answers the questions, but all players provide the answer at the same time, as if the character is speaking out of many mouths simultaneously. The answers should make sense (at least grammatically) and should be clear. If one player starts answering a question by saying "YYYY" no-one should try and turn that into a "No". One Word Scene
Precis
A scene is played using only a single word.
Description
One word is obtained from the audience and this is the only word used in the scene.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 22 Short Games (14)
Opening Line
Precis
Play a scene from a given opening.
Description
The MC provides the players with an opening line that ends in a cliff-hanger that the players then continue on from.  Eg "You were climbing up the idol to remove the bejewelled eye when..."
Prima Donnas
Precis
All the players sing bits of songs.
Description
Hard Game.
One player jumps out to centre stage, begins singing a song but is interrupted after a few lines by another player who pushes them away, takes centre stage and begins singing another song somehow related to the previous song. This cycle continues for many songs.
Props
Precis
The team comes up with different ways of using a given prop.
Description
The teams are both on stage at the same time and are given 1 prop each. The teams alternate in coming up with different ways of using their prop.
Puppets
Precis
2 players act out a scene and the other 2 control the actors.
Description
2 players will be puppets; these players offer the lines of dialogue in the scene, but they are not allowed to move about themselves. The other 2 players are the puppet masters, that will provide the movements for the puppets.
Variations
+ Two Player game, with the two players controlled by 2 audience members
Set Length Sentences
Precis
Player play a scene but they can only speak in sentences of a set length.
Description
Players are given a number - all sentences that they speak can only have that number of words. A scene is provided and has
to be played out.
Verses
Precis
The players act out a scene in verse.
Description
Hard Game.
Scene is played in verses, that is, every player need to rhyme to herself. Nice handle to combine with a Shakespeare style. Word at a time Story
Precis
Players tell a story, one word at a time.
Description
The players are given a style of story, and they then, taking turns, each contribute one word to the story.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 23 Short Games (14)
World's Worst
Precis
The MC provides a phrase, and the players come up with bad illustrations of the phrase.
Description
Not exactly theatre, but fun if played well. Players line up, and the audience provides verbs, hobbies and occupations. The players need to come up with the worst possible way of doing/being what the audience suggests.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 24 Short Games (14)
Medium Games (41)
Games designed to be about 2 minutes long with a 30 second warning. The focus of these games is on keeping the story consistent  whilst maintaining a quick pace.
Alphabet
Precis
Play a scene where successive lines start with successive letters of the alphabet.
Description
This is a scene consisting of 26 lines of dialogue. The first line starts with a given letter (say R). The reply to that line must start with an S, and so on, until the whole alphabet has been covered. After Z comes A. There is some leeway with Z and X.
Variations
+ Players who hesitate, or use the wrong letter 'Die', and are replaced by another player. The replacement needs to take over the character of the player she replaces. Better to 'Die' than to break story flow. This variation is more of a skills exercise
Animalistic
Precis
Players play a scene, in which the characters are based on animals.
Description
Players do not become the animals, they only take over characteristics of the animals. Characteristics may be physical, vocal or status based. For example, being given chicken as an animal might inspire a player to a cowardly character, moving about jerkily but a lion as the king of the animals would move confidently and have a commanding manner.
Asides
Precis
A scene is played and play stops from time to time as the characters voice their inner thoughts.
Description
A scene is played where any player can stop at any time and break out of the scene and address the audience, telling them what the character is really thinking. The player returns to the scene and it continues until someone else breaks out to make an aside. The other characters of course are not supposed to know what the character is thinking, but the players do, and should use this.
Variations
+ The thoughts of the players can also be provided by players off-stage. Also known as Alter Ego  Backwards Scene
Precis
The players play a scene in reverse
Description
The MC will provide the ending of the scene, and the players have to play the scene in reverse.
Blind Date
Precis
An audience member goes on date with a character.
Description
One player is on a blind date with an audience volunteer at a dinner location provided by the audience. Two other players then stand behind the daters and speak their inner-thoughts. The fourth player will be other people as needed (such as a snooty waiter etc).
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 25 Medium Games (41)
Channel Surfing
Precis
The MC swaps between different channels (players).
Description
Each player has a TV format, like the News, a documentary, Pokemon, you name it. The audience provides the central theme, and the MC will surf through the channels. Miraculously, all broadcasts cover the same theme.
Continuing Emotions
Precis
The scene is played and the MC interjects with different emotions.
Description
A neutral scene is started, and is then interrupted (frozen) several times by the MC. The scene is then continued but all characters switch to an emotion from a list provided by the audience.
Doo Wop
Precis
Sing a 50s Doo-Wop style song.
Description
Hard Game.
This is another structured song format, sung as a 1950's Doo-Wop. It can be structured in various ways. Here's one in 5
beats: ask for an object. Then:
+ Lead singer sings verse about the object
+ All sing Chorus, in the style of I love my (object)
+ Verse 2: explain how you found your object
+ (all) chorus on how you love your object
+ Verse 3: That fateful night ... explain how you lost your beloved object. This can be done as a parlando ( i.e. you speak to
the music, rather than sing)
+ (bridge) Explain how bad you miss your object
+ (all) chorus on how you miss your object
+ Verse 4: explain how your replaced your object by a new (or other) one
+ (all) chorus on how you love your new object (finale!) Feel free to drop e.g. the first of second chorus if you feel it drags you down. Feel free to modulate after the bridge, or not. Each player must sing at least one verse.
Dubbed Movie
Precis
2 players play a scene and their voices are provided by the other 2.
Description
2 players act a scene, but they don't speak, although they can move their mouths as if they are speaking. The other 2 players are offstage and provide the speech. The effect is (or should be) like watching a dubbed movie.
Evil Twin
Precis
2 players play a scene, the other 2 are their evil twins and can swap in and out at will.
Description
2 players play a scene. The other players are the other's evil twins. At any point, the 'twins' can shout 'freeze' after which they tag out their twin, and continue the scene and do something evil. After that, they move out again, and the original twin needs to justify the evil, correct or repair the damage done and continue the scene.
Games Handbook 09 June, 2006
Page 26 Medium Games (41)
Freeze
Precis
Play a 2 person scene where the other 2 players off stage can tag in.
Description
2 players start a scene, once the scene has been established, another player yells "freeze" and the players on stage freeze in their positions. The player who yelled "freeze" then replaces one of the players on stage and begins a new scene. This process repeats until a logical ending is reached, or time is up.
Great Dalmuti
Precis
Draw a card each so that everyone else except the person it belongs to can see it. Act out a scene with the card denoting relative importance.
Description
Pick 4 cards out of a deck, and attach a card to each player's forehead, so that players can see each other's card, but not their own.
The idea is to play a scene, in which the relative importance of the characters is defined by the cards. For example two people on 6 would treat each other as equals, a 4 isn't so bad when compared with a 6, but is scum when compared to King. Evidently, players don't know their own status, so the other players will have to endow them.

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