Phenom: Tabletop Improv
A game for two groups of two.
With your partner, think of three interesting places to set a story. Then, find at least two kinds of story that you both like. Finally, think of think of five names for potential characters.
Now trade your list with the other pair. With your partner, choose one place, one kind of story, and three names from the list in front of you. Circle your choices on the list. Cross out the options on the list that you did not choose.
Now add to this list by writing down a list of three kinds of character that are common in the kind of story you’ve chosen. Add to that list three kinds of character that are common in the place you’ve chosen. Finally, write at least two examples of the kind of conflict or problem that characters face in the kind of story you’ve chosen.
When both pairs are finished adding to the list in front of them, trade back. Look at what sort of story the other pair has chosen for you to tell them. Now use their character list and examples of conflict to plan a brief story with your partner. Spend no more than five minutes planning. You do not need to use all of the other pair’s suggestions, and you may modify them however you wish. Be ready to tell a story that meets the following formula:
· Introduce the characters in the story
· Show a problem that the characters are facing.
· Show the problem getting worse.
· Show one of the characters making an important, transformative choice in order to resolve the problem.
· Briefly show the results of that choice.
Spend more time planning the first two parts of the story. You will make up most of the details for the last three parts as you go. When you and your partner have a very rough outline, stop talking and wait politely for the other group to finish.
When both pairs are ready, the pair with the oldest player goes first. Begin to act out your story. As soon as the other group feels the characters have been introduced, they should give you a brief hand of applause. When they applaud, immediately move on to acting out the problem your characters are facing. When they understand the problem, they will applaud again. As soon as this happens, stop talking. After a momentary break, it is their turn to begin their story. When you believe the characters have been introduced, applaud. They should then move on to showing the problem. Once you understand the problem the characters are facing, applaud again. They should then immediately stop.
Now, put seven minutes on the clock, or in some way give yourself an alarm for seven minutes. You and your partner should act out the remaining three steps of your story (problem getting worse, character making a choice, the results of the choice) before that timer runs out. The other pair then does the same, but they only have five minutes.
How do I act out the story?
You and your partner should act as the characters in the story. Talk to each other, argue, play, cry, and do whatever else your characters would do. If you need to narrate something that happens in the story, look at the other pair. Only look at them when you are narrating. Otherwise, look at your partner or somewhere else.
Say whatever comes to mind. Do whatever seems obvious to you. Don’t worry about whether your boring or whether you look silly. Neither of these matter during this game.
Keep in mind that anything your partner narrates, happens. Anything you narrate, happens. Build on each other. Go a bit crazy. Don’t feel like you have to stick to your rough outline.