New short-form games from last Saturday’s workshop

Saturday’s improv lesson was lots of fun, thanks for everyone who came along. I had a really fun group of brave improvisers who seemed up for anything, which enabled the group to try out some new things and experiment.

It’s really gratifying as a director to be able to say “I’ve got this idea, I’ve never seen it work, I don’t think it’s actually possible, can I have two volunteers?” and then have five people simultanously jump up.

So we took the approach of:

1. Do a game.
2. Learn the current way of doing it.
3. Do it some more.
4. Spot the things that people do ‘accidentally’ around the game.
5. Build a new game around those accidents.
6. Learn the new game.
7. Play it more.

This produced the following gems, which as far as I know are whole new games:

Mass Word at a Time

When we did the original word at a time stories with three people we found that sometimes they got the order muddled up. So instead of treating this as a mistake we decided to make it a point, that it’s word at a time but at any point any actor can say any word.

This soon lead to 9 actors on stage at once, all playing one big fluid scene but where it was still word at a time. Any actor can then provide the dialogue from any other actor. Narration and dialogue is spread among the group.

I then encouraged movement with the direction “be a bit like the old fashioned black and white cartoons with the bounce” and it released a fluidity in the group.

Characters would pop up and suddenly they’d have three actors around them mirroring movement and all speaking word at a time, with another group being another character, while another was a tortoise on the floor.

It turned out to be an exceptionally good group mind workshop. All dialogue and narrative and character and movement is shared across the entire group at all times. It was also exhilarating to be in. So much so that I had to abandon teaching and jump in with them, yelling “this is fun!”

Surprise Entrance

I can’t even remember how this comes about. I think it was just a casual mention that if you have an environment of support and trust where offer is accepted, incorporated, justified and built upon, you can enter a scene without fear. Also it was a training in people reacting to someone new entering.

So…one improviser leaves the room so they can’t hear the suggestion or see or hear the scene, they count to 45 seconds. Meanwhile two improvisers in the room start a scene as ordinarily and boring as possible, based on a suggestion from the director. Suddenly the outside improviser burst in with a strong character, and delivers a strong offer before they’ve even seen what’s happening. Everyone then carries on improvising, incorporating and being changed by this.

What was weird was how often these blind offers actually made sense to the scene, and rather than being a spanner in the works proved to be really helpful.

For instance two characters were playing at a casino, discussing cheating and generally talking about money. Suddenly an improviser burst in, with no idea what had been going on, and shouted ‘it’s a stick up’ while holding two guns.

If the improvisers on stage accepted and built on the offer, as if it made perfect sense, then the scene took off.

New Choice Yourself / New Choice the other person

New Choice is a really well known short-form game, and a really fun one to play. Actors play out a scene but at any point the director can shout out New Choice and they have to repeat what they just said but change something.

We adapted this to then be ‘New Choice Yourself’, where the actors play out a scene but any point can shout out New Choice on their own lines. It was especially fun when they were encouraged to shout multiple New Choices, and to shout New Choice before they knew what they were about to say. It was quite effective at getting improvisers to push themselves into the unknown.

The next adaption was ‘New Choice The Other Actor’, where two actors play a scene but they can call New Choice on the other actor. This was done by two people who knew each other quite well so it was done in a really positive playful manner, and produced a giggling fit in them.

Simultaneous Dubbing

In this game two actors are on stage mouthing the words of a scene while two off stage actors provide their words, simultaneously matching their mouth movements. Nobody is leading – if someone opens their mouth, someone else must make their voice, and if there is a voice, then the corresponding actor must open their mouth.

I’ve seen this as a short-form game before but never gone into depth before, and found it a fascinating game to play.

We separated into pairs to practice simultaneous dubbing, to see how in synch we could be with each other. It turns out to be the ultimate listening a seeing exercise, a really core impro technique.

Repeated First Line

I’ve been playing with this in the pub with a lovely chap called Rob. We think it’s hilarious but whenever we do it in front of a workshop audience it bombs, which makes us like it more!

Two improvisers start a scene, but whatever the first lines are have to be the only lines of the scene. They can use each others lines, chop up words, change emotion, play actions, but they are limited on the words.

At first they seemed stale and stuck, but we played and played and played and eventually they became really fun. With the words limited the improvisers started to release other things – changing emotions, physical play, relationships, story.

Also it had the great side effect that it makes a whole scene/story based entirely on the first two offers that come along, which is really good practice. Also it’s slightly Meisner Technique in style with its release of emotion.

See you soon,


Fun and friendly improv classes in London. The UK’s 1st improv theatre.



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