Amazing Kids! Magazine

Improvisation – A Fresh Take on Theatre

By Cathy Yan, Assistant Editor, Amazing Kids! Adventures Column Editor, and Global Village Editor

 

Improvisational theatre is a truly fascinating mix of randomness and mismatched spontaneity, with lovable characters that will keep you laughing until the very end. Unlike a play or a musical, improvisational theatre is made up on the spot with nothing written down beforehand. Actors go out on stage and literally invent scenarios as they go.

My first taste of this strange art form was through drama class at my school. During the lesson, we focused on several exercises including ‘Yes, let’s!’, ‘Freeze!’, and going along with whatever is happening. Although these activities felt awkward at first since they put one person into the spotlight, at the end of the class, everyone was laughing with tears in their eyes.

Out of the three games listed above, ‘Yes, let’s’ is the simplest. Basically, everyone stand in a circle with one person in the middle; or, to make the atmosphere less intimidating, everyone just wanders aimlessly throughout the room with one chosen person. The chosen leader will suddenly yell out, “Let’s (insert humorous action here)!” to which all of the other people respond, “Yes, lets!” Then, everyone follows the leader’s example and acts out the motion in dramatic, exaggerated gestures. Highlights of my experience were bungee jumping (much harder on solid land), and mining for gold.

‘Freeze!’ was another one of my favorites, mainly because everyone could feel comfortable enough to participate. Whether you are a brave soul alone on stage or the last to join the class of thirty, this game has something for everyone. It starts with one person on stage who makes up a random story. They then perform the sequence, adding in a lot of actions. The audience members could yell “Freeze!” at any time, which cues the actor to stop moving and pose. Then, someone else would go up there, mimic their pose, and take the story in a completely different direction. A lot of randomness and hilarity ensues. The funniest example was when one girl turned the storyline from seeking out land on a ship using binoculars to pretending to be raccoons. Both involve making circles around your eyes.

All in all, the golden rule in improv is to always say yes and go along with whatever your co-actors dream up. That way, everything is always moving along at a fast pace, which is exactly what you want. An improviser’s nightmare is being stuck on stage with no fresh ideas to use. The audience’s nightmare is seeing one actor shoot everyone else’s ideas down.

Improvisation is best done in large groups of ten or more, which makes it an ideal game for a party. It promotes group involvement, strengthens friendship bonds, and requires nothing more than a medium sized space. The next time you’re bored at a large event, toss the idea of improvisational theatre into the air and be prepared to laugh.