Silent Games

Aaron Grant once took the stage across from me, making eye contact but planting his feet firmly just beyond the stage right wing. I mirrored him on stage left. He mimed the mimeclassic flirtatious fishing move. I played his fish but broke his line bashfully, the stage’s distance remaining between us. I danced as someone with a club; he played my seal. He loaded his heart into a gun and shot it at me. I loaded my heart into a mortar and launched it at him. He shot me with a bazooka of love. I put love in a centrifuge and then in a bomb that erupted in a mushroom cloud of hearts. He built and climbed into a B-52 bomber than rained love upon me. We both stood up from the rubble and traced out hearts to one another. Never a word was spoken.

How does one teach Silent Games? Read on! Continue reading

Mirror, Action, Object an exercise in personal active stakes

Nothing bugs me more than a scene where two improvisers meet stage center, stare only at each other and talk only to and about each other.

I get it. Your stage partner is truly the only other active element on stage with you. But, c’mon, show some imagination.

The audience likes to see us interact with things we imagine. The audience loves to see us care about things we imagine. The audience f*#king adores when what we imagine makes us feel.

If you and/or the ensemble you’re in and/or the ensemble you coach are having the tendency to do centerstage talking heads scenes then this warm-up exercise might be right for you.
Continue reading

SWOT #2 – The Details

The surprise inherent to improvisation is made even more satisfying when we’re specific in-the-moment. If we are too cautiously vague or too ungrounded in grasping for hilarity, then we deny the scene, our partners and the audience the power inherent in the specificity of The Details that allows a world to form from the nothing on stage.

The Details

If this Weakness is identified, the following posts may prove helpful in coaching to the Opportunity:
* The Details – 1st 3lement
* Endowments
* Mime
* Mime Exercises
* Here’s What I Know

SWOT #6 – Committed Mime

When we fill a blank stage with objects and an environment through committed mime, the world we create becomes that much more engaging, for players and audience members alike.  The audience loves to be able to “see” what we create on stage.  And if we really look at what we create on stage, we’ll find it easier to generate active endowments that can (and should) affect our play.  If we do as too many improvisers do and stand with our hands on our hips at stage center and engage only our mouths we’re putting a lot of undue burden on our words, and we should not aspire to be in-the-moment script writers.  Focus out and engage the world being created around you.  That’s good advice in improv as in life.

Committed Mime

If this Weakness is identified, the following posts may prove helpful in coaching to the Opportunity:
* Mime
* Stage Picture and Environment
* Magic Clay
* Build A Room, and more


Mime is critical to improv as improv does best.  We have a blank stage to fill with objects and environment.  We have actions to commit our bodies and attentions to.  We have space between and around us that has weight, volume and density.   We have all this…if we have mime. Continue reading

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.
• 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).
• 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.

Magic Clay mime warm-up

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.
Weaponized Reactions – form a weapon out of the magic clay, attack another player with it. That player should react to the attack and die if called for.
Weaponized Retractions – form a weapon out of the magic clay, attack another player with it but, before you attack, decide not to and put your weapon away. The key is to feel your desire to attack and then to feel the change of heart.

Mime exercises

Mime: Weight, volume and tension are the key characteristics of a mimed object that help players and the audience “see” the object. If nothing else, be deliberate – your commitment to engaging the environment will enable the audience to accept any weird ass thing you do.

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.