Theatre Games for Your Next Rehearsal

Looking for some new games to start off the year in your new classroom? Look no further! PYA is here to help with games for new students to warm up to your class and get excited for a new year of theatre arts

Nervous Auditioners? The Audition Game

One “auditionee” is given a line to perform for the rest of the class, who serves as “the casting team.” Sadly, they do not have the character quite right, but someone on the casting team is happy to explain why, by saying something like, “the character is actually sad in this scene” or “the character is supposed to be very old” or “the character actually thinks they’re a cat.” The possibilities are endless!

The auditionee will now perform the line again with this new note, only to find out they’re still not quite getting it, because they’re missing one more aspect of the character. The auditionee will have a few different chances layering every note that the casting team gives, but after three or four, they luckily get the role.

This game brings out the silliness in any student while giving them a low-stakes way to give a small-scale performance by themselves. Learning not to take things too seriously and just do their best is a great step to overcoming audition anxiety.

Need to change up seating? Shuffle Your Buns

Photo by Dan Norman

Set up your classroom with a circle of chairs, one for every student, with some space in between. One person will remain standing in the center of the group (but be trying to sit in an empty seat). There are two ways to play!

The Merry Go Round: Everyone switches one chair over at a time in a circle, moving over as soon as the chair next to them is open. If someone slaps the seat instead of moving, the direction changes and the group continues circulating through the seats. The person in the middle is sent running in circles trying to sit down, but if they get a seat, the person whose seat they took is now in the middle.

The Trade Off: Remove one seat so there’s one less than your class size. Students try to make eye contact with one another and if they are met, they must switch seats. The student in the middle must try to steal an open chair while people switch seats. If someone’s seat is stolen, they are now in the middle.

This exercise is an easy game to teach that gets kids moving and excited. Everyone enjoys working together as a group or as pairs to switch seats, and they quickly forget about trying to sit with friends.

Photo by Dan Norman

Trying to spark imagination? I Am A Tree!

This picture-creating game works in threes, but always starts the same way. Standing in a circle, one student walks to the middle and declares “I am a tree,” while striking their best tree pose. The next student must add to the picture with a new object, such as hanging off a branch and declaring “I am an apple.” A third student completes the picture with a final object, something like “I am a worm.” The first student to enter the circle (in this case, the tree) then announces “I am a tree and I am taking the apple,” and removes one of their classmates from the circle with them. The student who remains would reintroduce themself, saying “I am a worm,” and the process starts again with a new scene. Once there are three people in a scene, the first person always takes someone with them. Remember, it’s not about who you take with you, but who you leave behind.

A great warm-up for students to have a moment to think — this game can move quickly or allow some time for contemplation depending on the mood of your class. Some classes will also pause before taking people out and have the students briefly animate their picture, with just movement or adding dialogue. You can continue on without acting out the pictures, the tableau formed still challenge the students to think of new ideas and reshape scenes when characters and objects are reused.

Practicing focus and instructions? Stop/Walk

Photo by Dan Norman

Red Light, Green Light and Simon Says get trickier in this game that requires room to move and attentive students. Ask students to spread out and prepare to move around the space, but only on your instructions. Your first announcement will be “When I say stop, you will walk. When I say walk, you’re going to stop.” Give the students a chance to try this out as you call out various directions. Once they’ve had a chance to learn this pair of rules, you may begin adding more, such as “When I say clap, you will jump. When I say jump, you will clap.” Continue to add rules throughout the year using dance moves, sound effects, or whatever you see fit to test your students with these backwards rules.

If your class is determined to have students get “out,” you can easily eliminate anyone who messes up until you have the last student standing. If this is not your preference, this is also a great ensemble building exercise to see if students can also respond to your commands as a unit, clapping together, stopping together, etc. Students are challenged to listen and build muscle memory and will enjoy progressively stringing commands together throughout the year.

End of rehearsal fun? SPLAT!

Photo by Tom Sandelands

Have the class stand in a circle and you are in the middle, serving as the painter. Your goal is to eliminate students by “painting” them. To do so, you simply point at a student and say “SPLAT!” The student must duck, or they are out. Once a student ducks, however, a showdown with the two players next to them, one on either side, occurs. These two students flanking the one who ducked must point to the other and also yell “SPLAT!” in an effort to paint the other first. While there can be a tie with no eliminations, students must react quickly to avoid getting out. The game gets trickier as students are eliminated and they have to watch out, as people on either side of them will change.
Continue the game until only two players remain, then host your final showdown. This can be whatever you decide for your class, but a common one is to have a Splat! Standoff. Have the two students stand back to back and, on your countdown, take 3 steps away from each other and quickly turn around to yell “SPLAT!” before the other.

Another great game for focusing, this one gets student’s adrenaline running. Once students have got the hang of the game, you can let one of them be the painter in the center and let the game run itself. Students must stay focused to avoid getting eliminated. Depending on the class, the game can last a good bit or move quickly and allow for multiple rounds.

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