A game of changing channels through TV. 4-6 actors on stage in a square like formation. Two actors near front of stage. Remaining actors are lined up along back of stage. Whatever two actors are at front is the scene we see at that time. When the host says “PAN LEFT” all the actors move around one space so that we have different combinations of actors at the front for different scenes. We can thus change channels on our TV by saying “PAN LEFT” whenever we want. We can go around multiple times to see each scene/channel progress.
Before playing each pair of actors is given a different suggestion by the audience. These may include genres of TV or Film, actual TV shows and films, made up names of plays, emotions or titles of stories and more.
Jack: I love you Rose!
Rose: I love you too Jack!
Jack: Oh fuck an ice berg!!!
Rose: Paint me naked quick before we die!
Host: PAN LEFT
Newsreader 1: Hello and welcome to the news at ten.
Newsreader 2: That’s right, we are bang on time, 10pm exactly.
Newsreader 1: You could set your watch by us!
Newsreader 2: At the third stroke, the time sponsored by us will be 10pm exactly.
Newsreader 1: Now on with the news. People writing online improv exercise examples are beginning to run out of inspiration.
A fun way to get people used to playing scenes. We use it in courses as it helps people play two person scenes in front of an audience without really thinking about it and without getting worried about the audience too much, as they feel like they are in a larger group and have something else to focus on instead of just feeling anxious.
We also use it to teach playing suggestions even if you don’t know much about the suggestion, that it’s ok to do your own spin on a suggestion and make mistakes and have fun with it. This is good for spontaneity too, as there is a part of the improviser that wants to stop and plan what to do with the suggestion but we override that and just jump straight into it.
It also teaches listening and escalating, as you have to hear the scenes around you and escalate your own scenes on the next round.
Additional Tips for Playing
- Escalate something from your scene in the next round, for example an emotion or character behaviour.
- It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the suggestion. It’s not a test and instead of playing like an adult play like a playful child and have fun with it. Never seen Gone with the Wind? Do your version of it and play with the other person and find it together. Also support the other person. You don’t have to have an idea to improvise if you are in the mindset of support comes first.
- It can be played with more people, you just have 2 at the front at any time and a longer line of people at the front.
- You can also say “PAN RIGHT” to move in the opposite direction.
- You can vary the type of audience suggestions you want. For instance genres, types of play, names of plays, TV shows, films, emotions, characters etc.
“This game is called Pan Left. We’re watching TV and whenever I shout PAN LEFT we move to the next channel. What are we watching on the first channel?”
No idea! It’s a very popular game so it seems to be played everywhere but we aren’t sure where it originally comes from. If you know please let us know and we’ll add it here.
Hoopla courses we play this game in
Mostly in our level 2 course and also a bit in our level 1 course and super short-form course.
This exercise is in the following categories:
Fun with Mistakes / Incorporating Mistakes
Support and Teamwork
Escalating / Heightening
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
If you would like to receive our monthly newsletter containing helpful improv resources, improv exercises, casting calls for new shows and news about the UK improv scene please subscribe.
You can also follow us on our facebook group, facebook page, twitter and instagram.
Hoopla are the UK’s first improv theatre and the UK’s biggest improv school with fun and friendly improv shows and classes every day of the week in London and across the UK. We provide fantastic ongoing performing opportunities to students from our courses and a warm, welcoming and supportive community to help make improv for everyone.