Character Exercises to Play With

Character Exercises

Hi everyone, these popped out of last Saturday’s character workshop.

Some of them were originally learnt from Katy Schutte, from The Mayday’s, Music Box and Katy & Rach, so many thanks Katy. She’s teaching some workshops in London soon with The Maydays.

I go into characters in various depths, but this time round it was mainly introducing a number of ‘tools’ to play with. I like to look at character exercises as bits of lego, that you can use however you want in shows to generate a character on the spot.

Also I’m keen to encourage people to play with character. You don’t have to wait until a director or teacher or other improviser tells you to do a character, just play with one anyway. This is really fun to watch, when people take a character on stage for no reason, and actually really giving as it gives the other improvisers and audience something to play with.

Stacking/Physically lead character

All stand in a circle. Change something physical about yourself. Anything at all, for instance maybe one arm is more relaxed, or you’re slightly slanted, or one finger is straighter than the rest. Walk across the circle to a new place in the circle. Relax. Take a new physical position, and repeat.

You don’t have to deliberately do anything, just feel how the physical change has altered you. On the first round do this in silence.

Then repeat, but this time allow sounds to come out, any sound. Don’t think about the sound, but just let it come out.

Repeat again but this time the characters can interact as they cross. Also encourage people to try different styles of movement. If they go fast, they can go slow. If they are snappy, they are smooth. If they are big, be subtle. This is a little bit like fast-food Laban. Just experiment with how you move and how it affects how you feel.

Then repeat and now people can talk as they cross the circle, just whatever is on their mind. Encourage them to have obsessions. It doesn’t matter what they say.

Changing the body can change how people feel which can change what people say which produces a character instantly on many different levels. I’ve found this in real life recently, since I’ve started doing Alexander Technique classes it’s made me moody straight away afterwards!


Two characters enter a scene at the height of an emotion. They don’t have to know why they are feeling it yet, just feel it at it’s height, they can find out and justify why later.

Great emotions to start with are Happy, Sad, Fearful, Angry as they are really core emotions.

Funny enough it doesn’t seem to matter what emotions people pick or what combinations come in, it always produces something. So there’s no such thing as a ‘right’ emotion for a scene, just coming in with one supercharges the scene and is very giving to the other actor.


Two actors come in playing a character from a specific genre, without making the scene that genre. I’ve found it’s good to get actors to pick a specific character from the genre, and also keep reminding them that they can use it more subtly and not to make the scene that genre.

For instance the location could be a boardroom, and the actor could come in using the genre of ‘French 18th century romantic poet’ and it would generate an interesting character to have in that location. It’s not as if the character is actually from the 18th century and wearing a frilly shirt, it’s more that this modern day businessman is from France and happens to be more romantic.

Bad Impressions

Two actors come in to a scene doing a bad impression of someone famous, without revealing who or making the scene about this person. For example you could end up being 18% Kermit the Frog while playing the Prime Minister.

It’s important to note that all these techniques are only really for the first inital impulse of getting on stage, to give inspiration, and then once you start you are in the scene and should be yes anding as normal. For instance even though you come in as Kermit the Frog, if you get endowed as Prime Minister then be Prime Minister, but keep some of Kermie.

Lots of love,


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