8 New Improvisation Games You Need to Try

I had the pleasure of meeting @ivanwschew at an Improv Night a little while ago now. It was being hosted by some friends of a friend who have taken advantage of a council grant and created a puppetry workshop (amongst other things) in an old shop.

I hadn’t been along to see any adult improvisation for a long time so it was refreshing to see some energetic, quick thinking actors on stage. Several of the games they played I hadn’t heard of before.

I had the opportunity to speak with Ivan at the end of the evening and I asked him if it would be OK to share these games. Ivan’s life was changed by improv and drama. His story is a fascinating, uplifting one of someone unlocking something that was hidden inside themselves by taking a chance with drama and improv. Now he’s not looking back.

The thing I loved about the whole night was seeing people who are passionate about their craft sharing it with others. I felt very inspired and uplifted by it. Below are the eight games I learnt from Ivan and his team of improvisers. You could use them in an improvisation unit or perhaps as a way of developing character or storyline in a unit of work.

Ivan hosts workshops for those new to Improv. You can find out more at his website.

Also, be sure to listen in to his radio show on Tuesdays 3-5pm, Community Radio 2RDJ.

1. Accent Rollercoaster – Audience members provide suggestions (“ask for’s”) for accents and a location. Actors are given a situation and throughout the scene the host will call out the accent that they need to use and they must accept and progress the action.

2. Spoon River – Two actors are on stage. Both are dead. They must recount how they came to die. A country/location, an unusual food dish, catastrophic event and dark descriptive words must be used and these are suggested by the audience.

3. Marshmallow Mania – Actors are given a situation. Each time an actor says something funny and the audience laughs they are given a marshmallow that they have to put in their mouth, not eat and continue the scene. Please be aware this may cause choking. The game has been banned in some circles so practice with care.

4. Character Swap – A location and situation is given. When called, the actors need to switch characters and continue the scene.

5. Lining the Bucket – A series of one liners are written out and placed in a bucket. Actors pick a line from the bucket before they enter the space. As they enter they must say the line. They can also pick out lines during the scene. This game is great for less experienced improvisers.

6. Playbook – Situation is given. One of the actors is restricted to the lines of dialogue from a script.

7. Pop Culture – Situation is given. Actors play the scene but they can only use lines from pop culture such as songs and movies etc.

8. Crime Endowments – Audience suggest a crime, location and famous actor. The actor being interrogated is in another room at this time. They enter the space and are questioned by another player. Audience react as the actor gets closer to guessing the crime, location and actor. There is also the variation “Teenage Endowments” (see comments below).

3 Comments

  1. Thanks, Karla! Glad you enjoyed the night, and hopefully the other shows coming up too!

    With the games, the “ask fors” (i.e. suggestions from the audience) are typically open and not specific unless required for the game (a la ‘Accent Rollercoaster’). An open suggestion allows the player to interpret how they wish, and it’s also an insight on how their mind works from a teacher’s viewpoint; whether the player is literal or abstract.

    Also, Line in a Bucket (although ‘Lining’ works too, I guess) can be played as a ‘Scene Starter’ for the less experienced players, but during game play, the lines are picked up during the scene as well.

    The ‘Man For All Seasons’ is a great title! I’ll have to make up a game for it, but the game you described was called ‘Playbook’; the ‘Man’ name was the title of the play that we used (I’ve still yet to read it..!!).

    There are a number of variants for Actor Interrogation; the one we played was called ‘Crime Endowments’, but there is another one called ‘Teenage Endowments’ where actor has to guess their activity they did, location and mode of transport. This is a great game to have in workshops where both the parent and child is playing when the roles are reversed. I ran this for a family improv night and it was quite insightful for both generations.

    Finally, beware of ‘Marshmallow Mania’, as there have been some cases where people have choked on the marshmallows, and some places have banned them. It’s also called ‘Chubby Bunny’ in some circles.

    Great blog too! I’m halfway catching up on the previous posts with interest!

    Ivan (ImprovisAsian)

  2. Pingback: Day 236 -Party Quirks and Other Games – The Improv Prompt – marielightmanpromptresponse

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