Many people think that when actors do an improv skit that they just “wing it.” There are actually rules that the improv actors must follow for their performance. Lydia “Campbell” McMillan is a theater major and former CentriKid staffer, and she shared some of these rules of improv with me and also shared a few games for kids to play using the rules of imrov.
Rule 1: Always AGREE. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt.
Rule 2: Don’t just say yes, but “YES, AND.” You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with “I can’t believe it’s so hot in here,” and you just say, “Yeah…” we’re kind of at a standstill.
Rule 3: Make Statements. If one character is only asking questions, it puts all the pressure on his partner to carry the whole scene.
Rule 4: There are no mistakes, only opportunities. The point of improvising is usually to have a candid or funny scene so don’t worry if there’s a slip-up, just roll with it and continue!
Bippety, Bippety, Bop – All kids in a circle for the game, one player in the middle. The player in the middle closes his eyes, holds right hand pointing in front of him, and spins around. When done spinning, he opens his eyes and says, as fast as he can `Bippety Bippety Bop`. If he manages to get to `bop` before she can say `bop`, she becomes `it`. He could instead say `bop` if anyone else reacts, that person becomes `it`. Or he could say `Elephant 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10`, after which 3 players build the elephant: the player picked does the trunk (hold nose and squeeze your other arm through) and her neighbors do the ears. If any of the 3 players mess up , freeze up, or don’t make the elephant in 10 seconds, he or she becomes it.
Tug-o-War – Divide kids into 2 groups and mime a Tug-o-war fight. They must work together because they don’t have an actual rope. The leader should make sure the mimed rope does not stretch or shrink. Someone must win in order to complete the game. This game emphasizes focus and teamwork, not actually “winning the contest.”
Free Association – Ask kids to say the first thing they think about when hearing (or seeing, feeling, smelling or tasting) anything another player provides. It should be stressed that anything is valid, as long as it is not preconceived: the association should be based on what the previous player has offered. The kids will begin to notice that the things that they say will start to relate to each other. ie grass, green, boogers, nose, hands, feet, shoes, etc.
What Are You Doing? All kids start at one end of the room in a long line. The first player of the line steps up and starts miming an activity. As soon as the activity is clear, player 2 approaches player 1 and asks `What are you doing`. The first player answers something that has nothing to do with what he`s actually doing. E.g. if player 1 is cutting someone`s hair, when asked what he`s doing he might say “I`m reading the newspaper”. The first player moves away, and the second player starts miming the activity stated by the previous player. A third player comes up to player 2, asks what he is doing, and so on. Play until everyone has mimed something, and has answered the question.
We hope these games can be fun for your group to play. These games for kids were adapted from the Improv Encyclopedia.
Share a comment to let us know how you use them and what your kids gain from the experience!