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Withers’s’ Warm-ups for Drama 2011


  • Pinocchio

  • Body Part Circles

  • Slap/dust yourself all over to get blood just below skin moving

  • Contagious body part shake in full circle – fling at another and call a name and body part as you do so

  • Shakedown (“1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8!”)

  • Yoga: (i) sun salutetoe touch/flat backbear crawl out/down to one push-upcobradownward dogturtle stretch (stretch neck forward for better spine stretch)|3 down/3 up ’cat back’ stretches (held 7 sec each) | (ii) all previous but ending on various ‘pointer dog’ balancing postures | (iii) end with ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and standing chair postures | (iv) end with pilates shoulder twists, between-leg stretch and seated-twist stretch (Andy’s)

  • Pilates (see sheet)

  • *Breathing and Alexander Posture Tips (see directly below)



  • Head rolls (various pathologist and Kita methods)

  • Arcenaux partial-yoga stretch/reach, then bent-knee diaphragm exercise

  • Alexander technique standing and breathing (and sitting) with the main tenet of ‘allow, don’t push, your body to do the following:’
  1. Explain with fist/wrist example how head should sit balanced at all times; keep it there loosely, atop a crucifix-like spine/neck & shoulder position, as much as possible [generally using your limbs much more independently of your torso, while head and neck stay mostly upright, then we tend to—e.g. reaching for tea or brushing teeth examples]

  2. Begin with golden thread notion, imagining it beginning in center of spine, up neck, out head—explain how this higher crown may actually lower head angle, ideal for more loose release of notes in singing or speaking;

  3. Now tell neck to let the head balance more loosely (its job is only to keep head from falling forward, not support it all the time);

  4. Roll shoulders up and out to allow fuller breaths (belly breath with lightly raised ribs), either through nose or “inner smiling” mouth;

  5. Try to keep lower body muscles loose and open (breathe in lower back) as well

  6. Keeping everything loose and pivoting only on ankle joints, practice shifting your weight ever-so-slightly forward and backward to feel the difference between proper balance and balance too far either way

On-back breathing and focus…

    • Basic deep breathing: Knees raised, begin counting: 7 in (nose); 7 held; 7 out (mouth); body feels 'heavy'—allow it to sink into ground as you exhale today’s stress away and allow yourself to focus on just my voice and your breathing

    • 6-sided box: Still on back, feel your six-sided box expand (3 breaths each): 1&2. Open ribs 3. Deepen abdominal breathing to your waistline4. Feel back expanding5. Head: visualize air intake right up nasal passages6. Exhale right out toes

    • Clench and release each body part starting at toes – always keeping chest loose -- releasing with exhale;
    • Very short ‘colour’ breathing exercise: Imagine, gradually, that you are sinking into the floor; begin to imagine a colour that makes you feel happiest, warmest or most secure, and picture your body, as you continue breathing, slowly turning that colour,spreading from your belly outward;

    • TO RISE FROM FLOOR RELAXATION: Look to side you want to get up onturn headkeeping head/neck loose, roll shoulders over until both knees are facing ground (may just want to kneel on one)rise to standing, allowing head to face the floor until shoulders/spine in place to support it

  • Grounding: a) Try to put words or images to the thing that’s bothering you most this week or today; really focus on it in your mind; b) With every slow inhale, imagine it is in an elevator inside you, moving one inch further down toward your belly; c) Repeat this movement downwards until it reaches your lower belly; d) In 5 strong, sharp, deep-belly breaths, exhale the worries right out of your body in a hiss-ss-ss-ss-ss!!! Now, put an image in your mind of one thing or place that makes you feel absolutely happy and safe. Try to pinpoint the feeling you have when you’re there or around this thing or person; With 5 deep-belly breaths, allow that feeling to spread outward from your belly further and further, until all that goodness, warmth and positivity fill the room.

  • Chakras cool-down: a) Starting at the lower back/tailbone, picture a red glow there and focus on your ‘strength’; b) move your awareness to lower back, picture an orange glow and encourage ‘creativity‘; c) move focus to your belly, picture a warm yellow glow and consider ‘courage’; d) move your awareness to your chest, picture a green glow and encourage ‘compassion and sympathy’; e) move awareness to throat, picture blue and reflect on ‘truth’; f) move your focus to the center of your forehead and concentrate on your ‘intuition’ - indigo; g) finally, move your awareness to the top of your head and ‘contemplate bliss: pure, simple happiness’ – sweeping outward to affect your whole surroundings in a violet glow

  • 'Magic carpet ride' with music in back (one soft/other energetic ready). Sample: breathing exercises; lying on the floor of a large, beautifully furnished room; slowly sink further down with every breath, through floor; several feet below, pass down through a games room, down through that floor into a children’s room; feel back & shoulders resting on a lush, thick carpet; note an open window; note that with every breath, after you clench tightly then release & exhale, the carpet rises a foot & glides toward window; realize with every inhale you move a few meters and with every exhale you move much more; not dizzying at all; describe trip out Alsation castle window, down to Switzerland, back through Kaiserstuhl, over Black Forest and onto peaceful meadow-> Optional end: a circus is there, getting ready for the evening; what do you see? Select one item you see to be when we rise on the count of 50; picture it exactly and how it moves; I play a prepared march; they rise and form circus parade; discuss what the others may have been)
    • *IF students want to try leading next day, have them first relax and picture a place they’ve been before other than current home, consider what all the interesting scenery around is like, then begin the carpet ride, keeping it pleasant

Name and Icebreaker Games
  • Line challenge opinions: "line up from…to…."  start with age, distance, shoe size, height…turn into the opinion range line as well (most confident about drama activities to least confident, etc.)

  • Shout name and step into circle with action; all in circle repeat /

then barbaric yop into circle

  • Mr. Poke/Whack (add another descriptor besides name alone if class is too familiar with each other…i.e. animals)

  • Act out animal that starts with your first name letternow go around circle and do someone else’s animal silently to pass turn to them; OR everyone’s before you (for memorizing names)turn into a Mr. Whack type game by saying or acting out another person’s name and animal

  • Group disentangle/centipede: (a) The whole group forms a large circle and slowly walks to the centre. Everyone should now take the left hand of a person across the circle that is not next to them; once done, do the same with the right hand. When there are no free hands, the leader breaks the link between two people and the group has to untangle themselves into a line - without talking. (b) group lap sit and walk


  • Whole zoo duck-duck-goose (break barriers, commitment to dramatic objective)

  • Chaos (eye contact, movement)

  • Dude/Look Up (eye contact and focus)

  • Wink and Handshake Murder

  • Squeeze: everyone holds hand in circle; the leader sends out a squeeze one direction and it ripples around the circle; he may then vary the squeeze in number or length (e.g. long, long, short) and soon vary the side it is passed on (e.g now right side). Variation: Squeeze Detective in the middle tries to locate the squeeze and eliminate the squeezer s/he sees

  • 'Zoom/zorch/swish/boing/bridge/zorchbridge' – don't forget to start them from a couple of angles; zoom (the energy wave)=turn and pass it to neighbour; zorch=change direction, swish/boing=throw it across room to where you point/throw it and receiver bounces, saying ‘boing’, which is repeated by all before zoom continues; bridge=skip over to the next person. *Try throwing in: teddy bear picnic, dance party, other inventions…

Games Needing Chairs

  • Scootch (one extra seat; person in the middle tries to get it as others scotch over to it)

  • Fruit salad: I assign everyone one of five fruit; every time IT in center of circle calls one of their fruit, they have to change places and IT tries to get their spot; FRUIT SALAD means everyone grabs a new spot

  • Bus (“Row 4 calling row 1”): all must rise and say same bus row in unison or they trade places with last rowgoal is to be in row 1 the longest

  • Fox in the henhouse: three students play tag, with one student as "The Fox" and another (a variation is 2 people) as the “hen”(s). The others sit in chairs scattered around. The hen(s) can avoid being tagged by running away or by tapping a seated student on the shoulder and taking that seat. The Fox then chases the student who was tapped. If a tag occurs, the roles are reversed, with a one-second delay. From time to time the teacher or designate can call "Barnyard!" at which time all of the seated students become chickens and are taggable until they find another seat.

  • Do You Like Your Neighbours? [IT must stay in center. Answer choices: ‘Yes’ (switch); ‘No, but I like…and…’ (those 4 must switch while IT steals a spot); ‘No, but I like people who…’; and ‘No, I don’t like any of them!’]

  • I’ve never…” (get up and run for a seat if you have done whatever they suggest)

  • Company (5 Chairs)

Focus/EnsemBLE BUILDING Games
  • 'Buzz': Students in circles of five. Slap knees, then snap fingers in rhythm, counting ‘1’ to ‘6.’ Add variations. E.g. students first say "buzz" instead of “six”, then say "bonk" instead of "three," and finally say "boom" instead of "one";V1: different key word for every multiple of 2, 3 & 5 and see which circle gets highestV2: try variations using actions instead of numbers

- Count to 20 nonsequentially as a group in two small circles (start from
1 every time that two people speak at once (jinx it))

  • Rainstorm: (Overlap the one before each time with the current action.) All in circle make wind noisesnap fingerspat bellyslap kneesshuffle on feetreverse back throughV2: number off V3 (if V2 didn’t work): number off the circle and assign these main 5 actions to numbers 1 through 5

  • Liz Swados 1.14-1.18 tennis ball circle ensemble builders:
    • 1.14> pass a tennis ball around the circle till all are in steady rhythm> add another ball, same, then opposite direction> speed up the beat> reverse direction(s)
    • 1.15> call the name of a person and throw the ball across circle to them (still to a beat)> do this with eye contact only> do this with multiple balls
    • 1.16> call the name of a person and throw it to the person on their left> and then to someone nowhere near them
    • 1.18> pass the tennis ball with a certain, obvious emotion (fear, love, sneakiness, suspicion) but show it in whole body, not just face

  • Red ball, yellow ball, etc. (vary size, speed and style of each ball)V1: Withers Balls: chicken ball, hot potato ball, V2: Emotion Balls: sad ball, happy ball, suspicious ball, terrified ball, hero ball

  • Liz Swados 1.21-1. Clap/beat-based circle ensemble builders:
    • 1.21> Set a steady, interesting rhythm all can do> go around circle saying: “my name is Scott and I have an awesome daughter” to rhythm> switch direction and say a new fact when it comes back to first person
    • 1.23> Try a basic conversation, first in around circle, then randomly across, to the beat> Withers’s variation: pass compliments in the same way
    • 1.26> “Many Parts:” the first person up says an object that requires many parts—e.g. bicycle, school—and others try to say parts until it comes back to the person on the starter’s left
    • 1.24> Each person presents a spontaneous pattern of stamps and claps to approx. 8 beats, and the whole group then echoes>
    • 1.25 in the next version smaller groups are needed, as each person builds onto the pattern of the person before (and the people before them)

  • Applaud around the circle: each person only claps once, but the circle tries to make it sound like one person’s steady applause (v1) do it around circle, playing also with volume and speeda; (v2) do it randomly in circle; (v3) clap off your neighbour’s hands; (v4) Zuppa style: turn to right and clap own hands> next person does the same> reverse direction when someone puts arms crossed back at you; (v4a) replace clap but keep body turn as you say the same word (go; yes; no; do; who)(v4b) replace or to clap with spontaneous abstract noises(4bc) say the same word with different subtext each time (why; boys; school; girls; dead)

  • Ali Baba (focus)> In small circle, one starts with saying Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (or whatever) while doing a hand action (clap). Then the person on his left says it and repeats the action… but meanwhile person one is repeating it but with a new hand action that the next guy will also have to do next; it builds around the circle; when it’s gone around the circle all the way, the leader drops out and one by one they all do too (focus/rhythm)

  • Triangles> keep equidistant triangles with two people selected till rooms reaches equilibrium

  • Mind benders:
(a) “You:” Begin with the word “you” & a gesture passed across circle in sequence> dump word>bring back word & dump gesture> face outward do word only;
(b) Pass the gesture: Invent a full body/face gesturewhen picked, pass it to either side—let them echo it back before they turn and send it on­—and watch it go around the circlebefore it’s completely around, the ref soon picks another player in circle, who presents theirs to a neighbour in opposite directionwhen your own gesture comes back to you, call another player’s name to begin theirsin the case of an exact overlap/intersection of gestures from two directions, the first person to turn toward other (or failing that, the person on the left) always presents first;
(c) try combining both of these (or either one with redball?)

  • Reflex: sit in two lines, back to back with other team, hands joined with their own teamif the correct object that both teams are looking for (i.e. red tape roll) is pulled from behind leader’s back, the first person in each row—the ONLY one looking (others should have eyes closed and straight ahead) sends the pulse each team is trying to be the first to grab the ‘prize’ (e.g. chicken) from the ref’s hand at the far end after passing a pulse/squeeze down the line

  • Telephone (Which of 2 lines gets the same ‘message,’ given to each group, most correct?): V1: words firstV2: 3-part movement/gesture

Active Movement
  • Nameslinger (great as early icebreaker—first no elimination, then elimination): (a) walk around like cowboys; when you make eye contact, draw pistols and say the person’s name faster than them to get them out (must do actions too); (b) Variations: say their name plus their pant type, shirt colour, eye colour, genuine compliment, one non-visible fact about them (locker area, eat with, where they live, talent)

  • Noses: walk around the room with noses in the air – everyone quietly chooses two people and tries to keep your nose halfway between

  • Walk around room and turn to ‘Enemies and Protectors’ game

  • Swords and shields (partners, then whole-class elimination)

  • Ship to Shore [bow, stern, port (left), starboard, up periscope, officer on deck, captain’s daughter, Sea King (helicopter), hit the deck, torpedo! (big splayed jump) | Stage Rage [stage positions, trapdoor (2), curtain call (3), Hamlet, stage kiss (1), fencing duel (2), slapstick (2 people comically injure each other, such as pie in face, etc)…]

  • Link tag: people sort themselves around room in pairs with linked arms; IT and NOT-IT run around among them, and the runner can escape by linking arms with anyone, forcing that person’s partner out as NOT-IT. Like Fox in the Henhouse, they trade roles when they tag each other

  • Blob (can move on anything but two feet; everyone the blob touches links up and is it too, till all are taken over)

  • (Handshake murder)

  • Animal Object Race (for e.g. exercise elastic), numbered off:

  • Hucklebuckle, numbered off: “Hucklebuckle 2s and knees!”

Active Trust

  • Prui/Frosty? (a twist on Blob involving trust): one person, the only one with eyes open is the Pruieveryone else walks around asking, when they touch someone, “Prui?”if they receive a negative-sounding answer, they walk on; if they bump into part of the Prui, they get an affirmative-sounding ‘prui’ and attach themselves, eyes still closed.

  • Various partner activities like:

    • Blind cars

    • Stand up back to back

    • Find their hands in a crowd

  • Fall within center of small group circles to either side as group catches you

  • Barnyard II (other version) – everyone is numbered 1-6 randomly around room; each number is assigned a corresponding animal with an obvious noise; everyone then closes their eyes and makes their animal noise, trying to congregate in their group (can be varied to other kind of noise-making groups)


- 'Simon Says’ or ‘Grandma’ game (or Red light/Green light): one person is Grandma - she faces a wall at one end of the room. The others in the group must go to the other end of the room and try to creep up to Grandma and tap her on the shoulder. However, at any moment, Grandma can turn around suddenly (saying ‘Sssh!). Whoever she sees anyone moving must start again from the end of the room.

  • ‘Magic Tunnel’ Walk (call on students to suggest surfaces): peanut butter; a hill of solid ice; a cowturd minefield; a smoking/afire building; coals; jello; an icefield; aquarium; asteroid belt; a roller coaster track

  • Teach your partner 3 moves of the new dance craze: the rattlesnake, the drunken skunk, wacky feet, limbotomy, pickin' fruit, the ice in pants, the happy janitor, the umbrella queen…

  • Walk around and show, through movement but not face: a colour, a feeling, a bad personality trait, a good personality trait, a character's health, a character's age, a character's self image

  • Lying down, use only body and sounds to create each of these things: bacon frying, gravy bubbling, ice cream melting, an egg boiling, a blender crushing ice, popcorn, a cake rising, a tire deflating, an engine starting

  • 10 Second Objects: In small groups. An object is called and the group has to make that shape while the leader counts down from 10 to 0. Examples: a car, a clock, a sewing machine, a birthday cake, a ship, a sofa, a guitar, a bridge

- Machines: In pairs, create: a vacuum cleaner cleaning; a fridge door

being opened; a lawn mower mowing; a kettle heating up and pouring water for tea

    • In fours: a) coffeemaker; washing machine; toaster; photocopier; carwash; b) create a mode of transportation (e.g. skateboard, ATV, sailboat, bike, helicopter)

  • ‘Armchair’—call out a number (of people) and a common object they must make; whenever I say the same object, they must return to it

  • Eric & Liam game: in small groups, a situation is called out and group will have 15 seconds to prepare, then 10 seconds to make it with lights off—game leader chooses least-impressive version each round to eliminate. Try it with a list of interesting song titles as basis or have students each contribute a ‘scene with conflict’

  • Group wacky machine: Version 1: each person 4 wacky machine movements and the Great Inventor puts the machine together—[use this to work with elements of movement that can then be altered; Version 2: each person adds to the machine by filling in the negative space of the person before (a) first static, then (b) a repeated movement; Version 3: “Essence machines”a theme is chosen and each group member picks a sound and repeated movement that fits to the theme, one by one you attempt to add to the first person

  • Charades

  • Most uses for the common prop competition

  • What are you doing? The first person enters the space and begins to pantomime a simple activity--for example, brushing his teeth. The second person runs on and says, "What are you doing?" The first person may answer anything EXCEPT what he is actually doing. The moment the second person hears the answer, she must begin to pantomime the mentioned activity. The first person goes to the end of the line and the third person runs on and says, "What are you doing?"

  • The Martha Game (zoo, beach, cafeteria, classroom, etc.)


  • You’re Telling Me: Partner A starts telling B what he or she did at the weekend. On commands from the leader, A tries to continue in a whisper, then in mime, then storytelling again, then in gibberish, shouting, singing…

  • Freeze: begin with two people; shout ‘freeze’ and an audience member must replace a person (preferably members themselves shout it out: go in order of circle if this isn’t happening)

  • Out of that chair! (Give them a reason to leave as soon as it’s your turn, then take chair)

  • Death in 30 Seconds: audience gives them a setting and/or a relationship and they must create an improv story that ends in death by 30 and not before 15 seconds

  • Story, story die (in a team, the other team gets to choose a story theme and the teacher/leader calls randomly on each member in that team, who must tell a continuing story exactly where the other team mate left off without pausing or they die; team that lasts the longest wins)

  • Story chorale (best in smaller circles/groups): an improvised oral story is continued around the circle until stopped by leader; each time one person finishes narrating, she tags out the central actor and can draw in anyone else from the circle as needed (or others can just step in); each narrator MUST set up scenarios that allow them to improvise action or discussion and pause to allow this to happen

  • Bus stop (the classic)—just practice “saying yes/not cancelling,” “making offers,” and presenting a character different than yourself

  • Pizza improv (airplane, restaurant, store, etc)

  • Snowball story> like pizza but free choice to enter and leave (perhaps make the setting “complaint department”)

  • Here come Charlie and Susan: after a few minutes to describe them, in they come… while fulfilling the character descriptions, still take the story somewhere interesting by having C and S make offers when they arrive

  • Hitchhiker: pre-plan character traitstake turns getting in and out of car once the car is full, the driver finds a reason to pull over and get out, everyone shifts up one towards driver’s seatagain, the challenge is not to let character overtake story progression too much: prevent this by making offers instead of just being contrary

  • Party Quirks OR Wedding Rehearsal Dinner OR Wake or Parent/Teacher Night (have students write some in advance; I have several pre-written): remember, guessing the trait isn’t the main point of game; try to keep action and story rolling forward with the traits as the secondary point

  • Let's Make A Date - (4) A parody of The Dating Game. One player interviews the other three as potential dates, rolling with their pre-planned idiosyncracies (like party quirks)

  • *Interview - (2) One player is a historical or famous figure, and the other is interviewing him/her; only the audience and interviewer know who the character being interviewed is. (They try to guess who they are)

  • A simple task (becomes an impossible odyssey/adventure—with or without narrator interventions)—SPOKEN version

  • *Moving People - (2-4) Players act out a scene but must stay still unless moved by pre-assignemd audience volunteers – great for arts night.

  • *Changing Emotions - (3-4) Players hold two objects, which they pass around. Their emotions change depending on the objects in their hands (could be combined with hitchhiker game).

  • Expert with other’s arms (2); Positive moment turns into crisis with many other arms (4-6)

  • *Every Other Line - (2) One player reads every other line from a play or other text. The other improvises on what has been said.

  • *Film Dub(bing) - (4-6) Can be done by having 2-3 students first accept a conflict by the audience while other 2 are out of room; then the 2 act out their conflict, moving lips only, while dubbers are brought in and begin improvising based only loosely on what they see

  • *Film Trailer - (4) One player narrates the trailer for an upcoming film. The other three act out the film's scenes.

  • Superheroes - (4) The first player is given a "Superhero name" by the audience (i.e.: Potato Man, Mr. Floppy, Captain Hot Studmuffin). He must solve a world crisis. The other three enter one at a time, and each are assigned a super name (even villain) by the previous player.

  • *Asides/Film Noir -(2-4) Each offstage player narrates an onstage actor’s thoughts and/or actions, as in Film Noir-style movies; actors speak aloud for themselves though.

  • Complaint Department: everyone who enters tries to outdo the oddness of thing they’re complaining about or asking to be fixed

  • Endowments (ask for animals or objects the main characters must show qualities of)

  • Professor Know It All: a one-voice game for two or more people

  • Improv Scene Wheel or stock scenarios


  • Teach some easy singing-oriented vocal warm-ups that apply equally well for speaking. Actually teach what I know about breath support, the voice box, etc:

    • Discuss the 10,000 mastery theory and that the implication for a singer is 10,000 hours of proper phonation in key

    • Then explain the way the quality of the voice is affected by breathing and projection (fully expanded 6-sided diaphragm), muscles (right down the back to the knees), tightness of lips, tongue, and throat, placement of air (chest/blend/head/nasal area), and fatigue or sickness… these are all why vocal warm-ups are so important

    • Basic exercises throughout semester:

      • Head & neck stretches; tongue & throat massage (also to pull voice box down); Arcenaux’s arm stretch and one-legged breathing exercises

      • 3 In-6 Out, then Sighing & Yawning, then Counting by 5s and 10s, then Chew-Talking exercises (highly vocalized; in mouth not throat; hand on chest and diaphragm to be sure chest stays down; partner to watch shoulders rising (shouldn’t)

      • *Motorboat lip and La-Ga &Taw-la scales (partner listens for steady sound, no cheating)

      • Glissando sirens: humming and chewing; Arcenaux “A-Ah-Aw” and other vowel sirens with (reverse) visualization tricks

      • ‘Nimm-nimm’ scales and “A!-a!-a!” to favourite music melody

      • Group of 3 (one’s a ref, then rotate 2 more times): Breathe in, then ‘lob’ a few sentences (decided in advance) that take 10 full seconds to say aloud to your partner, moving one step back from each other only after the ref confirms it was at an even level and just as audible from the center of the room as the first time was

      • TONGUE TWISTERS! Try especially excerpts from “Fox in Socks” and “Oh Say Can You Say” by Dr. Seuss

  • Have class do the “abstract noise orchestra” in four-five groups with clear criteria. They must have (a) rotating conductors (everyone takes a turn); (b) their own unique form of notation for the piece, proven by performing it identically twice (can have weird symbols on paper, use the board, keep it all physical, etc) – it’s alright if there is only a conductor’s copy; (c) their own unique way of conducting dynamics (e.g. quite parts and loud parts), pitch, and tempo changes/steadiness, as well as solo (or section) vs full ensemble sections; (d) it must have a clear mood and emotional arc; (f) each person must have their own unique, artificial/exaggerated timbre—though people can be paired (no more than 2) in sectionals with similar kinds of noises —and a full body unique movement to accompany their noise; and (g) overall, the visual impact of it should help convey the tone and mood of the piece

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