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Three Theatre Games To Break The Ice

By Kerry Hishon

Theatre games are a great way to get rehearsals off to a fun start. Games get the energy flowing amongst a new cast, class or group of students. I’ve used Fruit Basket, Questionnaire and Fairy Tale Tableau with adults (and children) as ice-breakers and bonding exercises with great success. Try them at your next rehearsal.

Now, let the fun begin!

GAME ONE: Fruit Basket

One of the most popular games I use is called Fruit Basket. It’s high energy and lots of fun!

Fruit Basket (The Basic Version)

  1. Everyone sits in a large circle (the biggest the room will allow). Make sure that the space is cleared of debris and anything that people could trip on.
  2. The leader will go around the circle and everyone chooses a different fruit and says their fruit out loud in a big voice. Nobody can use the same fruit!

Get creative and move beyond just strawberry, banana and orange. I’ve heard the gamut of fruits, from boysenberry to guava to dragonfruit to coconut!

  1. One person (“It”) stands in the middle, and calls out a fruit. The person whose fruit is called must jump up, say the name of someone else’s fruit, and sit down again before “It” tags them. The second person whose fruit is called must jump up, say the name of another fruit, and sit down again before they are tagged, and so on!
  2. If someone is tagged, they are the new “It,” and the previous “It” takes their place in the circle. If they say the name of the fruit that “It” is, they are also in the middle! You can play as many rounds as you like!


Both butt cheeks must stay on the floor! (No cheating by squatting or kneeling!)

You must jump right up to standing! (No cheating by hunching over or other Igor-esque moves!)

You cannot run around the outside of the circle or try to leap out of the way to avoid being tagged.

“It” must state the first fruit by standing still in the middle of the circle. (No cheating by saying the first fruit while running towards that person.)

Variation #1

“It” calls two different fruits (i.e. “strawberry and peach!”). Strawberry and Peach must jump up and try to switch places before “It” steals one of their places. Whoever is left standing is the new “It.”

If “It” calls “Fruit Basket” then EVERYONE must change places!

Variation #2

You can change up the subject matter to be any kind of big group listing you’d like! I usually suggest trying to keep choices to single words (“dog” versus “golden retriever” unless you want to be more challenging!) and fewer syllables but really, the sky’s the limit!

For example:

Vegetable Garden (carrot, pea, cauliflower, lettuce…)

World Tour (countries of the world… I usually say that nobody can be your home country to make it fair)

Pet Store (animals)

Olympics (sports)

Use your character names from the show you’re currently working on (Tzeitel, Motel, Hodel, Tevye…)

GAME 2: Questionnaire

Completing a tag questionnaire could be a “great getting to know you” game with a new cast! Or, you could answer the questions anonymously, mix up the answers, read them out loud and guess which actor gave which answer! This one comes via Theatre Girl.

So… on with the questions!

  1. When did you start getting into theatre?
  2. How many shows have you been in?
  3. Favorite role ever played?
  4. A tip you always give to new theatre kids?
  5. Biggest theatre pet peeves?
  6. Biggest strengths? Biggest weaknesses?
  7. Who is your biggest inspiration in theatre?
  8. What’s your dream role?
  9. Plays or musicals?
  10. Favorite improv game?
  11. What’s your favorite show?
  12. Most awkward onstage moment?
  13. Best off stage moment?
  14. Most challenging role to play?
  15. What would you do if theatre didn’t exist?

GAME 3: Fairy Tale Tableau

Tableau vivante (or, frozen picture) is where the body is used to create a frozen picture. Tableau may not use movement or words — just your body and your imagination. Tableau can be used as a warm-up activity, as a game, or even in productions as a different way to tell a story!

Fairy Tale Tableau is a game that I use to introduce young actors to the concept of tableau. It has rules and limits, but allows for creativity. It’s a great area to start with if you have a new class or cast.

Divide the actors into small groups (3-5 kids per group) and secretly give each group a fairy tale or nursery rhyme to act out. Some examples might include:

  • Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Frog Princess

Each group must create three different tableaux: Scene 1 is “The Beginning,” Scene 2 is “The Middle,” and Scene 3 is “The End.” The groups will usually try to ask for more scenes — nope! Only three! This forces the group to think of the most important parts of the story.

Each member of the group must be something in the scene. If there are not enough characters to go around, then the extra members need to think creatively as to what they will be in the scene. They could be a set piece, a piece of furniture, a new character… whatever they want! For example, a group of 5 actors is presenting “The Three Little Pigs” — four of the actors are generally going to be the pigs and the wolf, so what is the fifth actor to do? I’ve seen actors be a house, the chimney that the wolf falls down, the pot of boiling water that the wolf falls into… the possibilities are only limited by the actors’ imaginations!

Give the groups a time limit to figure out their scenes, then have each group perform for the other groups. Make sure the group holds each tableau for a minimum of 10 seconds (one-one thousand, two-one thousand…). Ten seconds doesn’t seem like a long time, but try to stay frozen when your foot suddenly starts to itch… or you get the giggles… or somebody burps mid-tableau!

Once the three tableaux are presented, the other groups have to guess what the story is that was just presented.

It’s up to the leader of the game to decide whether props and/or costumes can be used. I’ve done this game both with and without props and costumes. I sometimes allow the actors to use “what’s in the room” or “what’s on their person” (i.e. sweaters, hats, and so on) to switch it up.

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