Improv for New Actors Workshop

When we started offering drama classes through GiGi’s Playhouse 5 years ago, we had just 6 regular members. Over the years, we’ve grown and grown and now have 20 regular actors in our program (including those 6 founding members). It’s a joy to watch our ensemble develop from one semester to the next, and to see them learn new skills and grow in confidence. We’ve come to know each other very well, and are a tightknit community. It was such a privilege this weekend to get to know some brand new actors at our Improv for New Actors Workshop!


You might recall we ran an Improvisation Workshop over the summer for our regular actors. This workshop followed the same format, but we only opened registration to individuals who had never participated in any of ABLE’s programs before. Enrollment was tiny – only 2 actors attended – but that gave teaching artists Lawrence and Katie the chance to really get to know these new friends to and personalize the class. With only 4 of us – actors Maggie and Anna, and teaching artists Lawrence and Katie – class moved quickly from one exercise to the next. We started with a Dance Party  to Walk the Moon’s "Shut Up and Dance” and took turns teaching each other different dance moves to warm up our bodies.


From there, Katie led a Warm Up focusing on breathing and getting our voices going. We played with making our voices go from low to high, and also learned a tongue twister: “We speak the words we want the world to hear.”


For Check In, we talked about improvisation. Improv is a great way for new actors to get started because you don’t have to worry about a script or set characters. All you need is to listen to your scene partners and use your own imagination. We practiced this with a bunch of different games and exercises.  


Elephant was a big hit! With only 4 people playing, everyone had to stay on their toes and think fast about whether they had to be the elephant’s ears or nose. Here’s a pic of Katie, Anna, and Maggie showing you how it’s done.


Yes, Let's: We start walking around the room, and anyone can shout out "I have an idea! Let's..." and then the rest of the group says "Yes, Let's!" and starts acting out that activity together. Some of our suggestions were to go to the beach, to dance, to sing “Bad Blood by Taylor Swift, to skateboard, and to go to the movies.


Model & Clay: This is another 3 person game - one person in the Model, one is the Artist, and one is the Clay – our tiny group took turns cycling through all the roles. The Model "strikes a pose" and then the Artist has to mold their Clay into the same pose. Maggie and Anna were both great artists and used a lot of different strategies to get their clay to do what they wanted – they talked to them, moved them, and even posed with them. But of course, everyone most enjoys being the Model.


Presents: In this game you give your partner the best gift EVER and your partner accepts the gift and says what they're excited to do with it. We went around in a circle giving gifts to the person next to us. We got concert tickets, movie tickets, a puppy, and sweaters.


World' Best/World's Worst: For this game, you have to think about what makes someone good or bad at something. We took turns being the BEST and WORST pilots, teachers, swimmers, and doctors. Anna’s worst swimmer was one of our favorites – she fell to the floor and called “I’m drowning…it’s done.”


On the Spot: In this game, we think of different locations, and make a living tableaux of that location. Together, we went to The Beach, a Baseball Game, a Movie Theatre, and School.


Here to There: This game is an ABLE standby. One side of the room is “here” and the other is “there”. It starts pretty simply where we just have to walk from here to there. But then we take on different characters. We went from here to there as babies, old people, superheroes, shoppers, and more!

From there, we taught our new friends ABLE’s traditional call-and-response closing blessing: "I Take From the Heavens" and went off to enjoy the rest of the weekend!


It was such a great opportunity to make some new friends and introduce them to the work we do. This workshop was a great reminder for our teaching team to keep things simple and to break things down into manageable chunks, and it also helped to show how much our core ensemble has grown! They were all new at one point too, but now are so comfortable and familiar with the class format and exercises that they are willing to be more bold and creative. We look forward to hosting more of these workshop and expanding our programming to more actors this year to help them develop their confidence too. If you know someone with a flair for the dramatic who might want to join in, sign up for our newsletter to get notified about future classes.