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A Guide to College Theater Class Warm-Up Games

Welcome to Acting I! Most of you are here for an easy A, but three of you are freshman, anxious, fueled by 6 shots of espresso, and incredibly serious about becoming theater majors—I’m not going to say who, though, so have fun trying to avoid getting paired up with them!

We’re going to start today by doing some warm-ups, so everyone kick your shoes off and come join us in the circle. Don’t worry if your socks match or if your feet smell, but do be sure to know that later we’ll be playing a very invasive focus game that involves someone touching your face with their feet. I hope you don’t have a weird foot phobia or this is really going to suck for you.

Now that we’re all here, grab the sweaty palms next to you for a quick name introduction game. Why’re we holding hands? Don’t worry about it! This is meant to be a fun, stress-free start to the class, so don’t worry if you mess up someone’s name. However, if you do, you should be aware that everyone will be silently judging you for it!

Regretting not just taking intro psych instead? Buckle up because we still have two and a half hours left!

The Actor’s Neutral Walk

Begin by walking around the room in a random pattern, adjusting to how your feet feel on the ground, how your arms swing by your sides, and how you’re now completely aware that you’re holding in a toxic fart.

Try not to think about how you keep almost running into to people, quietly muttering “sorry,” and making a beeline for the corner of the room. Remember, the walls are lava so you have to stay in the center! Bump into Sarah, whose name you got wrong in the name circle, and watch as the class “pauses” to turn this into a teachable moment. Realize you’ve made a mistake being here.

Park Bench

For this fun, pressure-free improv game, an actor will sit down in a chair while the other actor tries to get them to get off the “park bench,” trading places, and starting again. I’m going to ask for a volunteer to go first, but, even though you don’t raise your hand, pick you anyways. This is how I’m going to make sure you’re as uncomfortable—I mean involved—as possible!

Try to come up with something to say while Sarah, who’s really excited to be on stage, refuses to leave the chair. Watch in horror as she turns this into a Shakespeare monologue workshop, forcing you to stay on stage with her the whole time. Do you think she might be one of the theater majors? Either way, it doesn’t look like anyone is going to intervene.

One-Word Stories

Everyone take a seat back in the original circle, and get comfortable—you only have a minute or two before your left leg will fall asleep. For this game, we’re going to tell a story one word at a time. Three turns before we get to you, someone’s going to make the story about aliens and screw the whole thing up. Don’t get worried about this even though Sarah is shooting death eyes at you from across the circle. It’s not your fault, but it might as well be.

Why is everyone taking this so seriously? Don’t let anyone see you almost cry after two rounds of this light-hearted warm-up or you’ll get pegged as the whiney-bitch for the entire semester and no one wants that. This is the real acting challenge. Is it part of the game? You have no idea.

Pass the Ball

Great! Now we’re all going to stand up really fast, even though your left leg is still asleep. Be sure to bump heads with the person standing up next to you in the process. You might be wondering why I have six brightly colored hacky-sacks, and that’s a great question! I’m going to start randomly tossing them into the circle, telling you that it doesn’t matter if you drop one, but also setting up a rule that whoever drops a ball has to put on a giant green sombrero and be referred to with the nickname “Mr. Clumsy” for the rest of the game.

Now that you’ve immediately dropped the very first ball, strap on your sombrero, and solidify your position at the bottom of the class hierarchy for the next eight weeks.

But the fun doesn’t stop here! Accidentally hit Sarah in the face with a hacky-sack, watch as she milks the “injury” for attention, and join the class in “giving her a round of applause” when she insists she’s fine to keep playing. What’s the point of all these stupid games anyways? No one will give you a straight answer until finals week during your mandatory performance in Chekhov’s Three Sisters. You’ll get the hang of it eventually, Mr. Clumsy!

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