We love The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago. We first learnt this exercise from Susan Messing (The Annoyance, Second City, iO) when she came over to London to teach a series of workshops. For more about The Annoyance style we highly recommend Mick Napier’s books.
5 or so improvisers lined up along the back wall.
The teacher gives them each a number.
The teacher then says two of those numbers at random and those people step out and start a scene immediately from no suggestion. They can actually start talking straight away, even if they talk over the top of each other. The important thing is that they step out and start a scene straight away.
The teacher edits the scene by clapping their hands and saying two other numbers. When that happens whoever is on stage steps back to the back line and the two new people step in to start a new scene straight away.
The scenes vary in length and the teacher is trying to keep people in flow and improvising without thinking about it too much.
It’s exhilarating to just jump in and start scenes with something, anything, straight away.
This exercise helps spontaneity and is especially helpful if you’ve recently gone too heavy on technique.