By Amy Harder
This is a game that we do in my “Let’s Play: Learning Puppetry Improv” class. It’s a good introduction to discussions about characterization. In order to perform a character, we need to know about him: how does he move, in what environment does he exist, etc. This is also a helpful physical exercise to get your body moving and give you an opportunity to really think about what it’s doing and why.
Set up. This improv game is intended to be played in a group setting, but you might find it a good solo exercise as well. You’ll need an open area free from tables, chairs, and other obstructions. During the game, players will mill around the room and follow the directions from the leader.
Action. As the players move around the room, inform them that you are going to be changing the air into various substances and they are going to need to act and react appropriately. (You might also need to tell them that they should not worry about breathing problems because they each have an invisible oxygen mask.)
As you call out new substances, start with lightweight thin things like wispy clouds or mist and then go on to progressively thicker, gooier material like soda, cream, dish soap, and honey. Encourage your players to think about what it would feel like to really have to move around in these things. Have them imagine what it would feel like between their fingers and toes.
As the game progresses, keep getting into thicker messes as you move on to gelatin, pudding, then wet cement. Finally, have the cement harden and the players freeze. It’s always fun to end by suddenly changing the imaginary cement into air without warning.
Variation. This is a great game to take into the puppet world. After you’ve played it a few times (perhaps over a few weeks time), tell your puppeteers that you’re going to play it again… this time with puppets! It can really be challenging to transfer your thinking into how a puppet character would move through these substances. Provide lots of direction and feedback so puppeteers can improve the believability of their movements. But have fun and let them explore this kind of mime action in a new way.