Sometimes when you do improv, especially long form, we focus on building up the narrative, painting a picture, creating an environment bot you and the audience can enjoy. In short form, you have only on average 2 minutes to create an environment and really try and reel the audience in. If you are trained in long form, this can be a very difficult thing to transition to and when you predominantly train in short form you need to make sure that you are always on your wit and ready to produce a quick world for your audience to live in. So, to do this, there is a fun warm up activity you can do that I am going to christen “Speedy Theatre” (I am sure there is a better name for it but I like that.)
The idea of the Speedy Theatre game is to play a scene in 2 minutes. Someone starts a scene by doing a random physical action and someone jumps into it and you have 2 minutes to create a scene. The action needs to be something physical so that the person playing the scene and at the edge waiting to jump into the scene has something to work with. As soon as the person jumps into the scene they need to make sure they do all the Improv basics, justify, explain and define who they both are. It can work really well and can lead to some really good and fun scene work.
In the past when I played this game with Ian from The Suggestibles, there were some really interesting scenes made out of the two minute barrier. A guy who thought he was a dictator when actually he was in a care home, a teacher and a pupil, rivalry between an understudy and an actress behind the scene and a cat that the vets accidentally killed.
This exercise can help you learn a lot – having the ‘Director’ be a strict time keeper will mean that you use the time strongly to justify everything and also gets you in the short form concept. It pushes you to be creative and also focussed when jumping into a scene and to make sure you pay attention. It is also a great way to train yourself how to go into a scene that has no suggestions.