The Wizard Stretch
I brought the group into a circle for some stretching and visualization. The benefits of this warm-up were offered on multiple levels: First, I was able to focus my group on the activity at hand and me as the instructor. Second, all of the players (including the coach!) got a lovely, necessary stretch break from our day. Third, I began supporting the kiddos through seeing themselves as characters...and not just playing themselves. At least as important as the physical and focus goals, we began to jump into fantasy as a play space.
Our Wizard Stretch involved the following:
- Reach up, up, up to grab some stars. Squeeze them between your hands and let the star dust rain down on the land below.
- Reach up to the top of your head to feel your pointy wizard hat. Notice that you are currently an apprentice wizard and that your hat is very tiny.
- Reach down near your toes to pick up two rocks on the ground. Bring your closed fists behind your back and sqeeeeezzzzeee until you've crushed them to magically make some jewels.
- Open your treasure chest and place the jewels inside.
- Feel your wizard hat. It's gotten a bit taller.
- Reach forward to stir the potion you've been brewing on the hearth.
- ...and so on.
- Imagine what your face looks like.
- Imagine (...but don't say aloud!) what you like to eat.
- What do you like to do at night, Troll?
- ...and so on.
Of course, now that they were character experts, we had to apply the same process to a new type of character.
As we began the next step, I was reminded of one type of character distinction: heavy vs. light. When I develop improvised characters, I often ask myself, Where is the center for this character? How heavy or light is she? Does she flow or stomp? (There is a wonderful resource for looking at character physicality based on four different dimensions. Check out BioMotionsLab to see the interactive tool!)
As a last, semi-performance activity, I set up a line. One end of the line was the Troll spot, and one was the Fairy End. I paired up students who wanted to perform, and I told them who would be the troll and who would begin as the fairy. While the rest of us watched, Emily began to stomp down the line as a scary, heavy, mean troll. At the same time, Delilah pranced toward her as a light, winged fairy. When they encountered each other in the middle of the line, they walked around each other as if engaging in a duel. Delilah took on Emily's troll-like characteristics, and Emily pranced to her new fairy home.
In 25 minutes, a group of six-year-olds and I got to play in the world of fantasy. I can't wait to begin to tell developed stories next!
(Thanks to Rich Cox of ImprovImpact for the link to BioMotionLabs. He presented this resource at the Applied Improv Network meeting in San Francisco last December.)