Kids Education

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Comedy Camp Activities

Join us for a fun, 30-minute comedy lesson for elementary-aged students and their parents.

Get Ready

Before we begin, you can get ready to be silly by trying our warm-up activities for the three actor tools: BODY, VOICE, and MIND!

Silly BODY: My Name is Joe

Silly VOICE: Everybody Do

Silly MIND: Bean Salad

Introduction to Improv

Comedy is often written down and rehearsed by actors before it is performed. However, improv is a type of comedy that doesn’t use any pre-written or rehearsed material! IMPROV is short for the word “improvisation,” and it means acting without a script and saying the first thing that comes into your mind.

For improv to be successful, the actors need to perform as an ENSEMBLE, which means they have to work together! To help with this, improvisers follow four main rules to help them collaborate, while saying the first thing that pops into their head:

  1. Always say “YES” to what another performer suggests.
  2. Always add on to what someone has suggested, which is known as “YES, and…”
  3. Don’t be afraid to make big, bold choices.
  4. There are no mistakes when it comes to Improv: There are only opportunities!

In theatre, Improv is mostly used during rehearsals to help create the show. However, sometimes it happens in the actual performance, and it can even be found in Arden Children’s Theatre!

In our production of Charlotte’s Web in 2018/19, the actors playing Goose and Gander used improv to name the goslings, or baby geese, that were born in the show. During every performance, they took volunteers from the audience to act as the goslings, and they worked together to come up with names for each one. None of this was rehearsed ahead of time. Rather, it was all made up on the spot. Let’s watch some rehearsal footage!

During this rehearsal, there were only a few adults in the audience, but during actual performances the actors had to name between 6 and 31—yes, 31—kids! Check out this photo Kate Nelson, the Stage Manager, took from the booth on the day that there were 31 goslings:

Saying “YES”

Now that we understand what improv is, let’s practice it for ourselves! First, we’ll focus on Rule #1: Always say “YES” to what another performer suggests. Saying “YES” allows you to work together with other performers on stage by agreeing with what is happening in your scene. Here’s an example of what this might sound like:

  • Performer A: What a beautiful day it is in the park!
  • Performer B: Yes, it really is. I love being at the park.

Performer B said “YES” by agreeing that they were, in fact, in a park. Saying “NO,” or disagreeing, makes it really hard for a story to continue. Here’s an example of what saying “NO” might sound like in an improv scene:

  • Performer A: What a beautiful day it is in the park!
  • Performer B: No, we’re not at the park. We’re at the aquarium.

When you say “NO,” the story completely stops. To practice saying “YES” and the first thing that comes into our minds, let’s play an improv game called WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Here are the instructions:

  • Stand across from a partner, facing each other, and decide who will go first.
  • The first person will begin by pantomiming, or pretending to do, an action or activity. For example, the first person could begin swimming.
  • The second person then asks the first person, “What are you doing?”
  • The first person should respond by saying they are doing ANYTHING in the world EXCEPT what they are actually doing. So for our example, they could say anything except swimming.
  • The second person should then pantomime whatever action or activity the first person responded with. So, if the swimming person responded by saying, “baking a cake,” the second person should pretend to bake a cake.
  • Then, the first person asks the second person, “What are you doing?” The second person responds with another activity, and the first person acts it out. This continues back-and-forth for as long as the participants would like!

Need a challenge? Play for a WHAT ARE YOU DOING? champion. Keep going until one person hesitates too long or can’t think of a new action. The participant who came up with last action is the champion.

Need to simplify? If you have a younger student, instead of playing the game as a partner challenge, have your student come up with as many actions as they can think of off the top of their head, and act them out as they list them. Then, switch roles so that everybody gets a chance to both list actions and act them out.

Saying “YES, and…

Next, let’s focus on Rule #2: Always add on to what someone has suggested, which is known as “YES, and… This rule is the key to moving your improv scene forward! Saying, “YES, and…” means you not only agree with your partner, but you also add something on to the story. Using our example from the previous exercise, here is what this rule might sound like:

  • Performer A: What a beautiful day it is in the park!
  • Performer B: Yes, it really is, especially now that the whole Earth is rainbow-colored.

By using the rule of “YES, and…” you are able to add new information to your scene and move the story forward. The story that you and your ensemble create together using this rule is called a group narrative.

Now, it’s your turn to create a group narrative of your very own! To practice we will be playing an improv game called DR. KNOW-IT-ALL. Here are the instructions:

  • Stand shoulder to shoulder with 1-2 other people. This group has now become “one” person named Dr. Know-It-All, who has multiple talking heads.
  • As a group decide what topic Dr. Know-It-All is an expert on. Some examples include pizza, dinosaurs, and outer space.
  • Now that Dr. Know-It-All has a topic that they are an expert on, it is time to ask the Doctor some questions. Have someone else in your home ask the group questions, or try answering some of these:
    • Why do you study this field?
    • How did you become such an expert?
    • What has been your greatest discovery in this subject?
    • How big is your brain?
    • What is your favorite type of [name a thing in this field]?
  • When responding, they must create a sentence one word at a time, cycling through each of the Doctor’s heads. When they are done, they say period.

Need a challenge? Each person could come up with a full sentence as part of the response to the question, rather than just one word.

Need to simplify? If you are playing with a younger student, prompt them with the beginning of the sentence and have them fill in the last word. For example, you could prompt them with, “My favorite type of dinosaur is…” and ask the student to come up with the answer.

Making Big, Bold Choices

Lastly, let’s focus on Rule #3: Don’t be afraid to make big, bold choices. This means that performers should choose exciting elements to add into an improv scene. Examples of exciting elements include over-the-top characters, really silly voices, or very dramatic suggestions. This helps keep the story interesting and gives your scene partner(s) great opportunities to add new things to the story. Sometimes, making big choices can be a little scary, so always remember Rule #4: There are no mistakes when it comes to Improv: There are only opportunities!

Now it’s time to create your own improv scene full of big, bold choices! To do this, we’ll play a game called PARK BENCH. Here are the instructions:

  • Have a partner take a seat on the “park bench,” which can be a chair, couch, or even the ground. Just make sure there is room for the other participant to sit next to them. The person on the park bench should begin pantomiming, or pretending to do, any “normal” activity, such as reading.
  • Now, the second person, who is playing an “extreme” character, should walk over and sit next to the first person. The goal of the extreme character is to get the first person to LEAVE the bench. They can try to make this happen by using any tactic that they think will make the first person leave, such as acting strange or weirdly, asking very nicely, or acting in an annoying way. Very importantly, they are NOT allowed to touch the first person!
  • When the “normal” person leaves, the “extreme” person then moves into the first person’s spot and becomes “normal.” The player who started as the normal character now gets to come in as an extreme character, and the process repeats for as long as the participants would like.

Need a challenge? The extreme character can try to get the normal character off of the bench completely silently, without saying anything. They are still NOT allowed to touch the normal character.

Need to simplify? If you are playing with a younger student, try prompting them with questions like, “How would you get me to leave by: Annoying me? Scaring me? Asking very nicely?” Then, have them act out the action.

Thank you for playing today!

We would love to see your PARK BENCH scene or how you played any of the improv games! Tag us using @ArdenTheatreCo on Facebook or Instagram if you would like to share.

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