Theatre games are a great way to break the ice, warm-up the body, and unite a cast. Some games are designed to focus on one specific skill or task, while others are aimed at building community. They are also a great way to “take the temperature” of the room and find out more about the personalities of your group. Who is willing to jump right in? Who hangs back to avoid participating?
Theatre games can also be a great tool for a director or teacher to tailor feedback and future games to actors’ individual needs. The director or teacher doesn’t need to tell the group why they are using a particular game or is goal, but they can be a great way to get your group working together as a team and “speaking the same language.”
Whichever way you use them, they are a staple of every drama class and rehearsal. Here are some warm-ups and theatre games for you to try:
Silent Scream – The goal of this exercise is to try to scream without making any sound. Use your body to physically express the sound and emotion.
Body Check-in – Lay down on the floor and check in with each muscle group. Start with the facial muscles and move down the body and check to make sure there is no tension in any muscle groups.
Aerobic Warm-Up – Walking, Marching, Jumping Jacks. Anything to get the body moving and the blood pumping!
Ha Ha Ha – Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your belly. Breathe in and feel your stomach expand. Exhale slowly and say, “ha ha ha ha” as you feel your belly contract. Repeat. This will help teach proper diaphragmatic breathing.
Tongue Twisters – Practice a few of these tongue twisters to warm-up your voice and facial muscles. Exaggerate the consonants.
- Red leather, yellow leather
- A proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot
- Unique New York, Unique New York, Unique New York
- Mommy made me mash my M&Ms
- Cinnamon aluminum linoleum
Yawn and Sigh – Open your mouth as wide as you can as if to yawn while taking a deep breath. Sigh loudly starting with the highest note you can flowing down to the lowest note you can.
Zoom – The group stands in a circle. One person says “zoom” while they clap and point in one movement (think of sliding one hand across the other) towards another person in the circle. That person needs then needs to say “zoom” and clap and point to the next person. The goal is to “catch” the zoom and keep a measured pace.
Build A Story – This is a great way to encourage listening skills. The group builds a story with each person only contributing one word. Go around a circle until the story is finished.
I’m Going on A Trip – This is a great warm-up for listening and memory. One person starts by saying “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring…” and they name something that starts with the letter “A.” The next person says “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring…” and they have to mention the item the person(s) before them said and add something that starts with the next letter.
IMPROVISATIONAL THEATRE GAMES
Theatre games can be used at any time during a theatre class or rehearsal. You can choose one aimed at something specific you plan to work on that day, or just as a way to get your group focused and ready to work. In any case, you don’t need to let your group know the purpose of the game.
Here are a few theatre games for you to try:
Who Started the Motion? – Actors stand in a circle. One actor is sent outside the room. While they are outside, another actor is chosen to lead the motion. When the outside actor returns to the room, it is their job to guess who is the leader. The leader can change the motion whenever they want. The goal is not to get caught. Once the leader is identified, a new person is sent out of the room and a new leader is chosen.
Build a Machine – This is a great game to build teamwork. One person stands up and makes a simple repetitive gesture with a single sound. The next person stands up and adds to the “machine” with a gesture that somehow connects to the first person’s. Continue until the whole group is a part of the machine.
Fill the Space – This game is helpful for special awareness and focus. Have the group all stand and start walking slowly and silently around the space. Encourage them not to walk in straight lines, but rather to weave in and out of each other. Ask them to speed up their walk and change directions. The goal is to keep their pace consistent and be aware of each other so as not to walk into anyone.
Emotional Square – This game aims to get your group to explore how different actions affect character. Divide the room into four quadrants and assign a different action to each location. For example, to inspire, to criticize, to challenge, to frighten. Give each participant a line of dialogue and have them play the action in each quadrant.
Photo Booth – This game is great for getting a group out of their shells and “going big.” One person stands in front of the group and the leader gives them a situation to physicalize in a frozen tableau. For example, “angry customer,” “King giving a proclamation,” “sleepy baby.” The leader takes a “photo” of them in the pose. Encourage actors to use different levels and explore different ways of expressing emotion with their bodies.
Theatre games are a creative way to teach theatre skills and build self-confidence. Be creative and come up with your own games. And most importantly…have fun!
For more tips on vocal warm-ups, check out our post on warming up before singing.