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Fear in a Hat

by admin

Fear in a Hat
(Intence improv but really useful)
Collect participants “fears” in a hat, tin or bag. Set an appropriate tone, e.g., settled, attentive, caring and serious.
The tone could be set by introducing the topic of fear and explaining how it is normal and natural at this stage of improv exercise that people are experiencing all sorts of anxieties, worries, and fears about what might happen. A good way of starting to deal with these fears is to have them openly acknowledged – lay them on the table, without being subject to ridicule. Having one’s fears expressed and heard almost immediately cuts them in half.

Can be done as the first activity in a program, during the initial stages or well into the program. When used early on in particular, it can help to foster group support and be helpful for alerting the group to issues they may want to respect in a Full Value Contract.

Ask everyone, including the group leaders, to complete this sentence on a piece of paper (anonymously):
“In this trip/group/program, I am [most] afraid that…” or “In this trip/group/program, the worst thing that could happen to me would be…”

Collect the pieces of paper, mix them around, then invite each person to a piece of paper and read about someone’s fear.
One by one, each group member reads out the fear of another group member and elaborates and what he/she feels that person is most afraid of in this group/situation. No one is to comment on what the person says, just listen and move on to the next person.
If the reader doesn’t elaborate much on the fear, then ask them one or two questions. Avoid implying or showing your opinion as to the fear being expressed, unless the person is disrespecting or completely misunderstanding someone’s fear. If the person doesn’t elaborate after one or two questions, leave it and move on.

When all the fears have been read out and elaborated on, then discuss what people felt and noticed.
Can lead into other activities, such as developing a Full Group Contract, personal or team goal settings, course briefings which specifically tackle some of the issues raised, or into other activities in which participants explore their feelings and fears (e.g., see the
Fear in a Hat description at www.nurturingpotential.net)
Likes and dislikes – in two separate hats
Favorite moments

Paper and pen/pencil per participant; Hat, tin or bag.

~5 minutes + 1-2 minutes per participant, e.g., 15-20 minutes for a group of 10.

Brief description:
People write personal fears anonymously on pieces of paper which are collected.  Then each person reads someone else’s fear to group and explains how the person might feel.

Links to other versions:

Mirror Image

by admin

Mirror Image
This activity involves people in pairs, with one person mirroring the actions and movements of the other person.
Body movement exercises can be most revealing, confronting and rewarding. “Human sculpting via mirroring” brings body movement exploration into the dyad. By reflecting body movements of another, several subtle but complex processes are activated, heightening self- and other-awareness. Immediate non-verbal feedback exercises in the right time and place have the potential to be transformational. Other times this can simply be a fun loosen-upper.
Works with any size group; split into pairs/couples.
Although it is simple, the activity can be confronting and requires experienced leadership and a well chosen moment/sequence/program.
Usually, make sure the social ice is well and truly broken, and that there have been other body movement and physical warmup/stretching exercises, with some laughter and some seriousness.
Offer a demonstration. Invite a volunteer to stand facing you about half a meter apart. The instructor initiates action, with the other person following in “mirror image”.
Make your movements engaging and slow enough for the other person to mime as if they were a full-length mirror.
Also include zany stretches/contortions to get a few laughs, especially facial gymnastics. Include action sequences for tasks like brushing your teeth. The demonstration helps to loosen up conceptions and inhibitions.
In pairs, one person stretches, the other follows. Then swap after some time.
Debrief as you see fit.

Variation: Reverse-mirror image. Try following partner’s movements in reverse-mirror image (i.e., swap left <-> right)
The exercise can be done in different ways to emphasize difference aspects, e.g., for trust-building, drama warmup, ice breaker, etc.
Related Activities
Finger Dancing
Kirtans (calling – response chanting)
Walking in Sync


  • No equipment needed, just a place where people can spread out.


  • Total ~ 10-15 minutes.

Brief description

  • Involves people in pairs, with one person mirroring the actions of the other.  Stimulates self- and other-awareness.


How do you feel

How do you feel.

This is an 2 person at a time team building game.
This exercise is to help make a person more emotionally literate.
Emotional literacy is a great tool for a stronger more effective leader.

2 people sitting facing each other:
One person asked the question “How do you feel?”
They sit attentively listening to the other person without any interruptions.
There are 4 main questions to this,
The second person in one minute answers the following for questions
I feel physically. In general I feel. In a relationship I feel. Right now in this moment I feel.
Use positive and negative emotions other than happy and sad, try to be more specific and in touch with your feelings.

Here are some emotions.


Building the Letter H

by admin

This exercise uses teams of 2 people that use their bodies to build the letter “H/h”.
This is a team work exercise as well as a way to find out if you are one of 2 types of improv people.  It’s always good to know what your natural tendencies are so you can either embrace them or learn to make them work with the team. The extremes are you can be bossy and be a Dictator (DicProv) or you can be a total follower and not offer anything and just expect to be told what to do (WimpProv).

This is all about offers. An offer is only half the solution, one person can offer part of the H and it’s up to the other person to complete the offer. This is very important in the world of improv as well as in everyday life. You want to meet people half way. You should don’t want to be over bearing or controlling or on the other hand have no steak in the solution.  We all have our strengths some of us may be problem solvers and others may lean on the follower or flexible side.

Red Ball

by admin

Red Ball is a space work warm up exercise. It is a great tool for beginners and younger improvisers.


Players pantomime throwing objects around in a circle. They should be encouraged to use the object deliberately and demonstratively, showing it’s weight or value (or anything else) by the way they handle it. Additionally, this exercise should inspire agreement and acceptance, as an object shouldn’t change when it is thrown to another person. If one player is handling something incredibly hot, another player needs to maintain that reality when they receive it.


Players circle up with enough space to move comfortably. The improviser running the game pantomimes reaching into a large bag, and pulls out the Red Ball.

Like Zip Zap Zop, the Red Ball is passed around the group with deliberate focus and acceptance. The way to pass it is as follows:

Player One (as she is throwing, making eye contact with Player 2): “Red Ball”
Player Two (receiving): “Red Ball thank you.”
Player Two (to someone else): “Red Ball.”

This exchange is important, as it ensures that the improvisers send the objects clearly, and that the receiver acknowledges what she has just caught.

From here, the improviser running the game can pull anything she’d like out of the bag. It’s common to stay a little grounded before you pull out crazy stuff, and many people will go from “Red Ball” to “Green Ball” (no obvious difference from Red) to “Lead Ball” (very, very heavy). After that, consider pulling out “piano,” “puppy,” “fire,” or anything in the known or unknown universe.

Zip-Zap-Zop aka Psycho Circle

by admin

This is all about Being Present  (In the moment and no thinking ahead.) and how to Recover from a mistake and move on.

Level One

Players stand in a circle. One player, Player A, claps his hands, ending in a pointing position toward the direction of another player. Simultaneously Player (A) will say the nonsense word “Zip!” Player B repeats this action, clapping and pointing at another player, Player (C), while saying “Zap!” Player (C) repeats this action, pointing at yet again another player while saying the word “Zop!” Players do not need to follow any order can clap and point at any other player they choose, but they should follow the patter of “zip, zap, zop.”

Level Two

After the group has gotten sufficiently good at this, you can have them remove the clapping or the saying of the words “zip, zap & zop.” Focus is passed from one person to another by just saying the words or by just clapping, not both.

Level Three

When they’re really good at that, you can remove any clapping and words all-together. Focus is passed by making direct eye-contact.


  • In some regions, the nonsense word “zop” is often replaced with “zub.”
  • At any point, the players can break from the circle and move freely about the room. They must still maintain the passing of focus from one person to the next.
  • Players can match and copy the manner in which they receive focus. Basically, you imitate the way “zip, zap or zop” was said to you as you pass it on to someone else.
  • This can also be played as an elimination game where everyone who says a word out of order (ie. saying “Zop” instead of “Zip”) or takes too long is eliminated from the game till there is only one left.
  • Once the game has been mastered, invent your own “zips,” “zaps,” and “zops” and pass those around. Once a new pattern (ex: “potato,” “gleep glop,”) has been established, it should maintain it’s original order. It can also keep the same energy and inflection as well (ex: always saying “potato” with an Irish accent, because that’s how it was initiated).
  • Send multiple versions of the energy around at the same time. This can occur in a synchronous or asynchronous fashion. Synchronously, this round consists of “zip,” said in unison, being sent by two different people simultaneously, then “zap,” said in unison, being sent by the two recipients, and so forth. Asynchronously is more bent on listening, and less on group unity. You listen for what is sent to you, and then send the next one on. “Zips” and “zops” could then be thrown around simultaneously when playing asynchronously.http://wiki.improvresourcecenter.com/index.php/Zip_Zap_Zop
  • Notes:
    When you start adding other tasks to this game its call “Psyco Circle”.This is a great way for a great stress reliever for a department or team as well as teaching them how to both focus and how to recover from a mistake. The most important rule in improv is to recover seamlessly from anything that throws you or you may find as a mistake.Some add on’s to this are:
  • Beep: you can beep to the person to the left or the right of you.
  • Ca-ching:  Deflects the last call back to the person that sent it your way.
  • Lemboda: Moves left or right from you but skips one person.
  • Bunny bunny bunny and Viking are other 3 man additions.