Drama Activities for the Classroom and Beyond

Improvisation
Improvisation and Theatre Games promote teamwork, confidence, and creativity. Raul Urbina/Getty Images

Whether you are a drama instructor, a stage director, a summer camp counselor, or just someone who wants to organize a fun activity, theatre games can inspire confidence and creativity in participants. Take a moment and read this article - Classroom Improvisation Guidelines - to ground yourself as a leader of theatre games and improv activities and then take a look at the recommendations that follow.

Ice Breakers 

These drama activities to help the participants get to know one another in a friendly, low-key, non-threatening ways. They can also be used regularly as warm-ups for your actors before you have them delve into more challenging improvisation exercises.

"Captain is Coming" is a terrific warm-up that promotes teamwork.

Then try Fabulous Introductions to encourage actors to go "over the top" when they introduce one another.

"Yoohoo!" works especially well for groups that need a shift in energy.

Check out this page for a variety of Circle-Themed Games.

Speaking Clearly

It doesn't do students any good to be creatively warmed-up if the audience (or the teacher) has no idea what they are saying. These enunciation exercises provide a fun way to alleviate the dreaded mumbling, mush-mouth syndrome.

Be an Ice Cream Cone

Okay, maybe your students don't need to specifically become an ice cream cone (as the mean drama teacher in A Chorus Line demanded).

However, one of the best ways to develop out-of-the-box thinking (and acting) happens when actors imagine themselves not just as other people but as a completely different species or even as inanimate objects. This article on Developing Non-Human Characters features activities for very young performers all the way up to adult professionals.

Location, Location, Location

It seems every time I am working with novice improv members, the same three settings come up again and again:

  • "You're at a bus stop."
  • "You're at the mall."
  • "You're at Disneyland."

If your class or group is running low on location ideas, you may want to print up this list of over one hundred imaginative settings.

Another improv activity that gives actors practice in communicating settings is "Where Are You?"

Improv settings can also be communicated via opening lines, so check out this resource list called 29 Improv Opening Lines.

Beginner Improv Games

Once the ice is broken and the actors are warmed up, an improvisation exercise can be a great way to develop unique characters and (often) humorous storylines.

Here are some easy-to-learn improvisation games:

"What are you doing?" is a favorite of most drama teachers and their students.

Three Words Improvisations provides the words to jumpstart a scene.

Freeze Tag

Taxi Cab

60 Second Fairy Tales

Working with Large Groups 

Here's a large group warm-up that will both energize and focus participants: "Bah!"

"Next" - This rapid-fire improv activity allows lots of actors to take the stage and initiate action as well as react within a situation that another actor initiates.

Creative Collaborations gets groups working together quickly and (as the title suggests) creatively.

"Families" involves many players simultaneously.

Advanced Improv Games

Not all drama activities are created equal. Some require a sharp tongue and a quick wit. If you're up for a theatrical challenge, try some of these improv games:

Alter Egos

Surprise Guests

Foreign Film

Off-Script

Genre Switching

More Improv and Theatre Game Resources

Now that your drama students, acting troupe, or other willing participants have taken on some intermediate improvisation challenges, you may want  to explore the complete library of the About.com Plays/Drama Improv Games. Here you'll find anything from mini-games which take only a few minutes to play to long-form improvs such as The Harold.