Here's some ideas from the performance end of things:
Voice and Performance Games
- to recognise the energy in words
- to explore the performance energy that words and phrases evoke
- to explore natural, exaggerated and authentic performance styles
- to play with words, phrases and performance styles
- to find the energy ready to take to the stage with confidence
- to bind the group through shared playfulness
- to have fun
To break out of a normal conversational energy for energetic exploration, face the participants and instruct them to copy the next action. Then sing / shout a great, big LAAAAAAAA! in operatic or bellowing style and gesture to the participants to do likewise. Often unused to such extrovert expression, the participants together may not be as loud and powerful as the show-off in front of them. The group or groups within the group can then be challenged to competitive LAing.
Sometimes this can be a good point to point out the importance of not destroying the vocal chords.
Introduce the idea that words often have a natural energy by instructing the group to say the word ‘up’. It is usually spoken with a slight upward inflection. Then try the word ‘down’. This is usually spoken with a downward inflection (except in Northern Ireland, or when a participant has already sussed the nature of the game and is being contrary. Either way, such exceptions prove the rule.)
Then try ‘quick’ with its short vowel sound and hard snappy consonants, and ‘slow’, where the s slips into the l and the o is long and the w lingers. Try other words that display these qualities.
Accentuate the Positive… or Negative
Split the group into two teams. One team has the word ‘yes’ and must say it together, giving the word expression in a performance that tries to convince the other team that the answer to some unnamed question is ‘yes’. the other team does the same with the word ‘no’. Each team takes turns, either at their own instigation or at the leader’s signal. If the leader is pointing to the teams to take their turns, the teams can be instructed to repeat the word several times before it is the other team’s turn. Again this is often a competitive game and it be obvious (or not) which team was the most convincing.
Split the participants into four groups. Give each team a word that has obvious ways of expressing it e.g. happy, angry, silly, sad. As in the ‘accentuate’ game, each team takes it in turns to be as expressive of their word as possible. An individual can then conduct the orchestra of teams by pointing to them consecutively, repeatedly or even simultaneously. The game often leads to an increased awareness of how the energy of words interacts in a phrase.
Turn it up to 11!
Each individual picks a line or two from a poem and says it to the group. Perhaps point out the natural performance that comes with speaking the words, particularly facial expression, hand gestures and physical stance / movement. Taking that level of performance to be a mid-range level of performance (an imagined 4-6 out of 10), try turning the performance level down to 0, speaking the words with almost no performance. It can often be surprisingly hard, leading to an increased awareness of the natural performance that goes with speaking words to others. Even trying to speak the words like an automaton becomes a performance. the group can point out performance when individuals are trying not to perform.
Then at the opposite extreme, try speaking the line, turning the performance level up to 10, an extreme extrovert performance. This may point out how far the level of performance can go, or how far feels comfortable. It may point out how ridiculous performing continually at this level can be.
Try changing the level of performance in one or two lines, going between 0 and 10 and/or back again. It may be obvious, or need pointing out, that the level of performance is not necessarily the same as volume or speed.
Finally, having experienced the extreme levels of performance and the range in between, find a level of performance that feels authentic to the piece being performed and practice it.
Take to the stage!
These games can be played at the start of a session to warm up a group, at any time during a session as energisers, or as the lead up to a performance.
Michael James Parker