For a good exercise in impromptu storytelling, try performing a well known fairy tale in one minute flat. Drama classes and acting troupes alike can use the “60 Second Fairy Tale” to sharpen improvisational skills. It's also a great game for families and kids.
Your cast size should be at least three people. (Four or five would be ideal.) One person serves as the Moderator, a person who interacts with the audience and plays the narrator, if necessary. The rest of the cast are the fairy tale performers.
The Moderator asks the audience for fairy tale suggestions. Hopefully, the audience will shout out some great choices:
- Snow White
- The Little Mermaid
- Hansel and Gretel
- Sleeping Beauty
- Little Red Riding Hood
Then, the Moderator selects a story everyone in the cast knows quite well. Remember, narratives such as “Cinderella” and “The Ugly Duckling” are more preferable— and more performable— than obscure fairy tales from ancient Babylonia.
The Performance Begins!
Once the story has been chosen, the 60 second show can start. To keep the storyline fresh in the mind of the performers, the Moderator should quickly recap the key events of the story. Here’s an example:
MODERATOR: “Okay, great, I heard someone suggest “The Three Little Pigs.” This is the one where three brother pigs each go about building their new homes, one with straw, the other with sticks, and the third with brick. A big bad wolf proceeds to demolish the first two houses, but can’t destroy the third. Now, let’s see this famous fairy tale performed for us in 60 seconds! Action!”
Then the performers begin to act out the story. Even though they are trying to complete the entire tale in a very short amount of time, they should still create funny, interesting characters. They should also establish setting and conflict. Whenever the cast members slow things down, the Moderator can prompt them by narrating a new event, or simply by reading from a stopwatch. Nothing moves a scene along like calling out, “Twenty seconds left!”
Although the fast-paced nature of this game is very entertaining, there’s no harm in trying a “slower” five minute version. That way, actors can take their time and develop more character interactions and hilarious moments.
Also, if the well of popular fairy tales runs dry, feel free to try out some of these Aesop fables:
- Tortoise and the Hare
- The Mouse and the Lion
- The Fox and the Crow
- The Boy who Cried Wolf
Or, if the talented acting troupe has a taste for pop-culture, try performing a movie in a minute. See what you can do with films such as:
- Star Wars
- The Wizard of Oz
- Gone with the Wind
As with any improvisation activity the goals are simple: have fun, develop characters, and think fast!