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Looking for some creative theatre games to play with your students, actors, or friends? Local teaching artist Gillian Jorgensen helped director Andrea Allen put the cast of Circle Mirror Transformation through a “Creative Drama Boot Camp” to prepare for the show. Here Jorgensen shares her favorite theatre exercises—just don’t call them games!
Jorgensen says that theatre exercises are important for artistic development and personal growth. But when we asked her about her favorite theatre games, she had a surprising answer. “This is the fun part where I say that I hate theatre games,” she says. “And there is a difference between something that is a game and something that’s an exercise. The distinction for me is that it’s a game if you’re just doing it on its own and you could do it at summer camp. But it’s an exercise if you’re offering that human experience and reflection part. It’s like saying skit instead of sketch.
So what are her favorite theatre exercises?
The Countdown Exercise
What you do: Participants alternate calling out numbers as part of a countdown, such as from one to ten.
Why do it: Jorgensen says that the counting exercise makes participants focus on the “energy that’s in the room and find ways of being aware of people without looking at them.”
Tip: Have students lay down during the exercise to simplify it.
Fun fact: This exercise is also played by characters in Circle Mirror Transformation.
What you do: Move about the room, walking and looking around, at different speeds and different physical levels.
Why do it: It’s a simple exercise that involves “being aware of the environment and space in neutral ways,” Jorgensen says.
One Hand Clapping
What you do: Participants stand in a circle. Two people clap at the same time facing each other and then one person turns to the next to “pass” the clap all the way around the circle.
Why do it: This exercise stresses the importance of establishing rhythm as an ensemble.
Tip: Jorgensen likes to complicate the game by combining it with another game, “Yes,” where participants constantly swap places across the circle while still passing the clap.
Fun fact: Jorgensen likes combining two simple games together so her students aren’t focused on when it is their turn to go, but rather participating in the exercise.
What you do: Students sit or stand in a circle and one person starts with a good luck statement such as, “Fortunately, I received a birthday invitation in the mail,” to which the next person adds a bad luck statement, “Unfortunately it was the same day that I’d already planned to go to my grandmother’s house.” The next student adds a “Fortunately” statement, so on and so forth.
Why do it: It requires students to listen to one another, build on an idea, and help change it into something else.
One Sentence Story
What you do: Everyone lays down in a circle with a hand in the air, and pretends that hand is a puppet. One “hand puppet” starts the story and the next person adds to the story with their puppet, etc.
Why do it: Jorgensen says it’s another game that encourages “better group involvement because the focus is on the story” rather than students thinking, “Oh my gosh, is it my turn? What am I going to do?”
Fun fact: Jorgensen says, “It’s pretty fun. And it’s pretty ridiculous to see the hands talking.”
Gillian Jorgensen has taught in Seattle for over fifteen years at various theatres including Seattle Rep, Seattle Children’s Theatre, ACT, Book-It Repertory Theatre, and Youth Theatre Northwest.
Since the characters in Circle Mirror Transformation spend so much time going through theatre exercises on stage, the play’s director, Andrea Allen, wanted to put the cast through a “Creative Drama Boot Camp” before starting rehearsals.
She enlisted teaching artist Gillian Jorgensen to lead the cast through a series of exercises like the ones featured in the play. Below, watch what went on at the Boot Camp (get ready for some interpretive movement!), and Gillian shares her thoughts.
Have you ever played a theatre game? Tell us your favorite in the comments and you’ll be entered to win two tickets to the show!