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Props and Scenery

By Amy Harder

It’s time for another silly improv game. Try this one with your group of puppeteers to force players to think quickly and work together to make a harmonious whole.

Set up. Gather your group around one person who will be “it” for the first round. Players need to be able to clearly see and respond to what the “it” person does.

Action. “It” gets to choose and play an action that clearly defines where he or she is located. For example, the player could mime primping or brushing her hair. When the action begins, the rest of the players immediately must become the props or set pieces that would be in that kind of environment… in this case it might be a mirror, a sink, a faucet, a toilet, a shower, a bottle of hairspray, etc.

Allow the play to continue for a short time after the objects have been created. The “it” player could turn on the faucet or flush the toilet. (I warned you that this would be silly!) But before things get out of hand, end the scene, announce a new “it”, have some more fun in a new location.
Remember that the other players are to become the props and scenery and not other humans in the scene!

Variation. If you are working with younger or inexperienced players, feel free to supply the “it” person with predetermined actions. Put the ideas on paper with some extra instructions to help spur some acting: “You are a cheerleader in the bathroom primping for the prom. Your date arrives in 15 minutes and you have to finish your makeup and hair.” (This is a good way to help teach backstory development.) The other players may need some coaching to think through what objects might be in this kind of location.

Here are some other scenarios to get you going:

  • You are 85 years old, driving your Pontiac to the supermarket.
  • It’s a beautiful day so you have decided to hang your laundry on the line in the backyard.
  • You are a new mother, trying to get your baby to stop crying.
  • You are hunched over your garden picking weeds.
  • You are a chef, experimenting with a new soup recipe idea.
  • You are typing an e-mail on the computer in your office.
  • You are the ragboy at the local carwash, drying cars as they exit.
  • You are vacuuming the floor of your apartment.

Wrap up. Whether you choose the simplified version and supply your players with ideas and coaching, or you go the more challenging route and allow your players to create and devise on their own, this game is a great exercise in creativity, fast thinking, and collaboration. You can also use this to reinforce simple staging concepts as you encourage players to think about their positioning in relation to the action and the audience.

In puppet performances, players need to be alert to the actions of other players and the happenings around them. This exercise helps heighten this awareness and will encourage puppeteers to begin thinking about the scene as a whole… not just their own little part in it.


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