Verbal fluidity & Setting Scene Basics
Method description and History
These exercises support participants in improvising with less fear, mostly accepting the words or solutions that come out when we do not think too much but just allow ourselves to improvise, accept other proposals and build on them.
To read more about improv theatre methodology in general, please read other chapter of this toolbox.
The advantages of using these methods are that participants will slowly let go of control and gain more trust in their first reactions. This will allow the group to cooperate better, building trust and great moments of fun.
Passing words around – Exercise to reduce self-censorship and increase speed and confidence in our own reactions.
In a circle tell a random word to the person on your side. That person should then quickly think of another word that comes to mind when hearing this first one and pass it to the person next to him/her. That person will do the same and so it goes around the circle. You can continuously start new “strings” of words, ensuring that after a while, everyone is in a steady rhythm of hearing a word and telling another word to the next person with almost no waiting time. A string of words can be “white – snow – cold – fridge – beer – drunk –violent – storm – black – witch – …”
Making New Proverbs – Exercise to practice collaboration and creating sentences together. In small groups of 5 or 6, use the same principle as in the exercise before to create proverbs collaboratively. One person starts by saying one word and one by one everyone will complete the proverb with the next word. It’s over when the group decides that the proverb is complete. A new proverb can be: “When-rainfalls-hard-no-man-goes-mad.” Once one proverb is
finished the next person can start a new proverb.
Sit in a circle with the group and ask participants to share their feelings during the exercises. Relate the groups’ findings and insights with the practice of Improv Theatre and explain its main principle: “Yes, and…” as well as the importance of improvisers jointly establishing the main dimensions of the scene/ story they are creating – Who are we? Where are we? What are we doing? – at the beginning of a scene. The next exercise will help participants understand these principles in practice.
Freeze – Exercise to increase awareness, foster risk-taking and improve the capacity to start scenes together. The group sits (or stands) in a circle and two persons (A and B) start a scene from a random word given by anyone. The facilitator will say freeze when the main aspects of the scene are clear. Improvisers A and B will freeze the action by standing still in their positions, like statutes. A new person (C) from the circle goes to the center and taps one of the improvisers on the shoulder (let’s say they tapped on the shoulder of Improviser B). B will leave the scene and C takes their exact position and starts a completely new scene inspired by the body positions that were “inherited” from the scene before. In this case, A and C will start a new scene. The improviser that joins the scene should
be the one kicking off the new story until both have created the main dimensions: Who are we? Where are we? What are we doing? Then the facilitator will say freeze again and a new person will substitute one of the improvisers, starting a new scene again. The facilitator can also say freeze even if the improvisers did not manage to develop a coherent scene beginning. It is important that there is a bit of rhythm and that all participants can be in the center at least once.
A dubbed soap opera – Exercise to develop collaborative storytelling skills. In teams of 4, participants are invited to make a dubbed soap opera. The whole group proposes the title of the soap opera and that’s the inspiration for the team to start. Two improvisers are acting out the scene without talking (but moving their lips as if they were) while the other two are out of the scene but making the characters voices. Everyone is improvising and should act as one team together to make the best scene possible.
- Explore with participants the feelings and findings brought out by the last exercises. Relate their experience with important Improv skills such as active listening, not being afraid of making mistakes, reacting honestly, pausing, accepting your partner proposals, etc.
- In buzz groups ask participants to discuss what kind of life skills they were developing while playing.
- Ask participants to share some of the conclusions from the buzz groups in the big group and name their takeaways from the session.
When you might use it: This sequence can be useful if you want to prepare a group to start making more complete scenes together or when you want to develop team cooperation.
Time Required: 1:30 h – 2:00 h
How many people involved: 5 – 25
Target: 8-80 years old
Where: Ideally you will need a space that is big enough for participants to move around and where the group is not exposed to external observers in order to create a safe space for them to be able to freely express themselves without fear of judgment. Having a wooden or soft floor (carpet, grass or other) is preferable, so that participants feel comfortable using the floor (to lay down, crawl, sit, etc).
Materials Required: No specific materials are required, but participants should wear comfortable clothing. You can also use a sound system if you want to use music during the exercises.
The methodological description is based on the text produced by Anita Silva. Developing Youth Work Innovation. E-handbook. Project Future Labs. Erasmus+, KA2, 2019. Publication of Humak University of Applied Sciences, page 48.