21 warm-up

21 – The group (without teacher) huddles in a tight circle and together counts to 21 with players contributing one number at a time. If two people speak at once, the group must start over.
Lessons:
• Breathe; Don’t rush to speak; Share focus.
• We are walking backward, making each subsequent step based on the trajectory laid down behind us
• Don’t rush to 21, just build each move on top of the one before it
• Don’t emphasize failure; there are no “mistakes” on stage, only what happens
• The audience only knows you’ve “messed up” if you tell them you have

Red Ball concentration exercise

RED BALL, RED BULL, BREAD BOWL – With the group in a circle, a player starts by saying, “Dustin, Red Ball” then mimes throwing to that player who catches it, says “Red Ball, Thank you” then passes it by saying “Lauren, Red Ball.” Then you add more pretend balls/objects and try and keep them all going.
Variations:
• One version can go “green ball, purple ball, bouncy ball.”
• Another variation focuses on phrases that sound similar (Red ball, Red bull, Bread Bowl, Thread Ball, Party Hat).
Lessons:
• Listen to words closely but also pay attention to more than the words, because the physicalities should all be different here and if you pay attention you don’t miss it.

Want to play this game at another level?  Check out Red & Blue Ball HERE.

Circle Of Sequences concentration exercise

CIRCLE OF SEQUENCES – A player points at another and says any word. That player points at another player and says another word inspired by the first. This continues until every player says a word and points to another player, with the final player to contribute pointing back to the first player to contribute. This is Sequence One; repeat it continuously until the group is comfortable with it. Establish a Sequence Two the same way, and then a Sequence Three. When players are comfortable with each Sequence individually, tell them that they now will be keeping them all going at once. Start with Sequence One and then tap the player starting Sequence Two on the shoulder, then tap the player starting Sequence Three on the shoulder.
Lessons:
Focus outward – can’t be in your head freaking out; have to be ready and waiting for your turn
Be sure you’re heard – enunciate, make eye contact, and pointing helps
Each individual is 100% responsible for the success of the group – if a sequence is dropped, even if you didn’t drop it, pick it up
Variations:
Names – Make Sequence One “Your Name” and Sequence Three “Their Name” to add to potential confusion so as to force increased concentration

Focus Outward exercises

Focus Outward: There is a ton of material for us to mine in our improv if we are committed to seeing it, hearing it and embracing it. We don’t need to be in our heads worried about making something happen once we learn how we can follow what’s already happening to a collaborative end.

Suggested Exercises:

ACTION PASS – In a circle, a player turns to his left and executes an action, any action. The next player observes that action and attempts to recreate it EXACTLY in turning to the player to their left.
Progression:
• Do it once through. Then immediately have them do it again focused on slowing down and really noticing all the nuances of a player’s action and working to repeat the action exactly.
• Call out people that are in their head and not focused outward
• Call attention to what makes them laugh – straight repetition, embracing something “accidental”
• Call out when someone tries to force the evolution for a laugh – this will happen after they get comfortable with a few “successes” under their belts
Lessons:
See head to toe – take the time to really see all that players are giving you; Where are their toes pointed? How are their shoulders’ squared? What face are they making?
See more than you’re given – the things a player does subconsciously or accidentally should be noticed and repeated; What did they do before and after the action?
There are no mistakes/There is no “right” – there is only “what has happened” and “what’s happening now.”
Repetition is heightening – we don’t need to create unrelated information when there is already material at play to mine. Collaborative evolution is a fun enough; don’t force difference for difference’s sake.

PHRASE PASS – Like Action Pass, but with a sentence.
Progression:
• Focusing on exactly what was given to you
• Pick just one thing (one word, emotion, inflection, character, etc.) and heighten it 2 notches
Lessons:
• Even with small things, we create a feedback loop that will heighten everything we do to places no one could imagine or achieve on their own
You don’t have to force evolution – if everyone is concentrated on heightening what they see and hear, the phrase will naturally change. We want to continue embracing small changes to foster evolution instead of forcing mutations that separate an individual from the group.

Story Stealing memory exercise

STORY STEALING – Everyone in a circle. One at a time, players enter the center and tell a true, personal, 30 Second Story. Once everyone has told a story, the teacher tells the class that players now have to enter the center and recreate someone else’s story. Every story should be revisited once by another player.
Lessons:
Don’t mock; mirror – this is not about making fun of each other, it’s about making each other look good by remembering their story
The more you remember, the more options you have – you might not get the chance to revisit the story you remember best so you need to work to remember everything
Remember specifically – remembering a few specific details will be more powerful than remembering everything generally
Remember reactions – our emotional reactions are improv gold; focus on those when setting other player’s stories to memory
See what’s not shown – recreating what our fellow players initially did subconsciously is great fun. How do they stand? How do they move? What do they sound like?

One Person Walking focus sharing exercise

ONE PERSON WALKING – Students spread out through the room. Without talking, one person has to be walking at any given time. Students have to see each other to know when to give and take focus.
Variations:
• Now two people are walking at a time. Now three. Build to everyone walking and then work back down to one person walking.
Lessons:
• Make eye contact
• Give and take focus
• Be willing to surrender focus to your scene partner

Group Mind exercises

Group Mind: Having Group Mind is about immediate, enthusiastic acceptance. You need to show your fellow players that you respect and love their ideas, and trust that you can make a bold move and have your group respect and love it. “I trust you – I’m going to follow your ideas whatever they are, wherever they go, and I’m going to launch into my ideas and trust that you’ll follow me.” It is, however, not up to the group to earn this trust. You must surrender to the group. Give it your trust. Only then will the group get anywhere.

Suggested Exercises:

I AM SUPERMAN – Everyone stands in a circle. One at a time, each player will enter the circle, say “I am [NAME] and for the next 30 seconds, I am Superman” at which point the teacher will start a timer and the player does whatever they want until the time is up at which point everyone claps and the next player takes the circle. Players around the circle are NOT to interact with the player in the center. The player in the center should be encouraged to do something they’ve been told they need to do more of on stage. Do mime. Be emotional. Stand still. Doesn’t matter.
Lessons:
• Surrender to your group – let go of ego, let your team know that you’re ready and willing to commit to being awkward in front of them.
You don’t need anyone – you can be on stage alone for 30 seconds or for five minutes. Commit to yourself. Don’t rely on meeting your scene partner center stage before the scene starts. You can be alone.
It sucks to be alone – don’t let your fellow players suffer on stage alone. Get out there and support each other.

MIRRORING INTO BUZBY BURKLEY – everyone must commit to following and looking idiotic together. Get them to let go, trust each other and the teacher. Start everyone in paired lines, facing off as if looking into a mirror at one another. Have them start mirroring each other – head to toe, leading by following, heightening subconscious contributions, etc. – and have them keep going as you give more instructions.
Progression:
• Start with mirrored pairs
• Allow people to move closer and farther apart
• Allow people to move left and right, overlapping other mirrored pairs
• Allow people to switch the player they’re mirroring, making and breaking different groups
• Build to everyone moving around the room, switching mirroring, coming together, breaking apart – committing to following the crazy
Lessons:
• If everyone is “doing it” then no one looks dumb “doing it” – but the moment it becomes apparent that someone in the group is not committed then the audience doubts the entire endeavor.
When you are “playing” others want to play with you – if you’re having fun and committing the audience will follow you no matter how silly you look
That is the weirdest thing I’ll ever have you do – thank them for just doing what you asked them to without judgment; encourage them to remain that trusting throughout class