Playing In Space class

Objective: When we see, touch, smell and REACT to our environment, the audience can, too.  If nothing else, be deliberate – your commitment to engaging the environment will enable the audience to accept any weird ass thing you do.


4.0  Warm-Ups: Build energy, concentrate energy and revisit a concentration exercise with added emphasis on mime.

Suggested Exercises:



MAGIC CLAY – Around a circle, a player builds a mimed object “out of clay” and then hands the object to another player who interacts with it as and then molds the “clay” into a brand new object.  And repeat.

RED BALL, RED BULL, BREAD BOWL – what size are the objects?  What weight?  Do they bounce or float?   Add in “Dog Poo”/ “Bloody Bowel” and emotionally react to the objects.


4.1  Mime:  Weight, volume and tension are the key characteristics of a mimed object that help players and the audience “see” the object.

Suggested Exercises:

INVISIBLE TUG OF WAR – Everybody has a tug of war but the rope is invisible, the rules are that the rope must look real, can’t stretch or be elastic.  Have a little miming moment: “Feel the rope” etc.  We aren’t playing by actual tug of war rules; the point is to have a scene where we look like we are. We aren’t on opposing teams; we’re all on the same “doesn’t this look like a real tug of war?” team.


BUILD A ROOM – With everyone else watching from the audience, a player enters a room through a door (push in?, pull out?, doorknob height?, door weight?), creates one mimed object somewhere in the space, and then leaves through the door.  A second player enters, interacts with the first player’s object, creates their own new object, and then leaves.  A third player enters, interacts with the first player’s object, interacts with the second player’s object, creates their own new object, and then leaves.  Etcetera.
•       With practice, mime work becomes instinct – So practice.  When you’re engaged in an everyday action (brushing teeth, doing dishes, etc.) be conscious of your movements and the objects’ characteristics.  Then try to mime those activities without the objects.
•       Really picture what you’re creating
•       If something’s not clear to you, don’t avoid it, feel the responsibility to make it clearer for everyone else


DO WHAT YOU DO WHERE YOU DO IT – Have a player engage in a mimed activity they are very familiar with in a space imagined based on their actual house/work/etc.  Players from the audience get to ask questions that the player has to respond to in mime (“what’s on TV?”/ “what’s in the corner?”/ “Is it dirty or clean?”).
•       Leveraging your personal life will make being specific easy


DO SOMETHING TOGETHER APART – Three people up at a time and silently do an action for a couple minutes: Fix your space ship, save your favorite zoo animal, build an instrument from scratch, etc.  The activities are mimed and there should be little to no interaction between the players – like they are in their own world, like a split screen.
•       As long as you commit, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing – three players can all be doing very different things and those activities won’t be in conflict as long as the players don’t address the conflict.  Don’t know how to fix a carburetor?  Fake it with commitment and everyone will believe you do.



4.2  You Are Not What You Do:  Let your miming inspire a scene but do not let it dictate the scene.  When you and a friend engage an activity, how much dialogue goes to discussing that activity?  Do you talk about doing the dishes while doing the dishes? Mime gives us something to do so we’re more than talking heads, but it shouldn’t confine us.

Suggested Exercises:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING – Players form two “lay-up” lines.  One player mimes an action.  The other player asks, “What are you doing?”  The asked player says something unrelated to what they are actually doing.  The asking player engages in this new activity.  Then the first player now asks the second player, “What are you doing?”
•       Separate mind and body – we need to be able to engage our bodies in an activity/environment without confining our mind to dealing with that activity/environment


MIMED SEQUENCE / DIALOGUE SEQUENCE – Two players on stage are given a suggestion of location. Each player, in mime – without interacting or trying to tell a story – must define five objects in the space. Then have players go back to their starting positions.  Tell them to go through their sequence of mimed interactions now with dialogue and reacting to one another, BUT without talking about what they are doing.
•       Players will struggle not to talk about what they’re doing; stage coach quickly to get them re-centered if they go too far down that rabbit hole.
•       Players will stop engaging environment and devolve to talking heads once they reach the end of their sequences; encourage them to keep engaged, developing new environmental elements while building on dialogue
•       Activities gain weight in conjunction with the dialogue – don’t undermine subtext by making it explicit; let the audience make connections between what’s being done and what’s being said.
•       A stage picture makes scenes more interesting – simply moving around the space and engaging in the environment – even if nothing is explicitly addresses or explicitly drives the scene – will make players engaged in dialogue more interesting to watch.
•       Engage environment, rest your tongue – if we have something to do, we don’t have to rely so hard on our words



4.3  Beyond Objects:  Environment is about more than objects. What sounds fill the space? Ambient noises? Loud music? A series of unexpected explosions?

What about the atmosphere? Is it hot? Raining? Low gravity? 

Suggested Exercises:

SOUNDSCAPE – Sit players in a circle, give them a location and have them build out the noises of that location.  It’s basically one vignette in a Bat opening.  Emphasize fleshing out the space.  Remind them to share the air.
•       Let them create an environment without a suggestion, building on their contributed sounds
•       Experience the cacophony – push them to explore all the different types of sound: words, mechanics, organics, ambiance, etc.


SPACE JUMP – A short form game focused on exploring Atmosphere.  One player enters stage, miming their reaction to an atmosphere (temp, precipitation, pressure, etc.).  A second player enters, signifying a new scene.  This player sets up a new atmosphere and both players react to it / exist in it.  A third player enters and sets up a new atmosphere for all three players to react to.  Repeat with a fourth and fifth player.  Then have the fifth player leave stage to return the remaining players to the fourth scene.  Then the fourth player leaves, returning the scene to the third atmosphere.  Repeat until the initial player is back in the initial atmosphere/environment.
•       Explore the options – push them to explore all the different types of atmosphere: temp, precipitation, pressure, dust, fog, etc.
•       Feel it, just don’t speak to it – feel the drops of rain, become crippled by the cold, sweat in the heat, etc.

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  1. Pingback: “Playing It Raw” lesson with exercises | Improv As Improv Does Best

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