Dramatically playful games

Orchestral Tune Up (a.k.a. Reaching a Chord) (get it, reaching a-cord?)

Players pretend that they are in an orchestra, each with a musical instrument of their preferred ilk. Simultaneously, they all make the sound of their instrument, changing pitch until everyone is in harmony.

Leaderless Circle

Players walk in a circle, each one following the other as precisely as possible. Start the game with everyone walking in a circle. Appoint a leader. Tell them to follow the person in front of them, regardless of who is actually the leader. Then encourage them to follow that person as closely as possible. Change leaders a few times. Then announce that no one is leader, but they should continue following each other anyway.

Round conversations

Use any melody that can be sung in rounds (e.g. row, row, row your boat). Players select a partner. They start singing with each other, taking turns, or simultaneously, saying anything that comes to mind. After a while, suggest that they try it in rounds. After a longer while, combine pairs.

Word-at-a-time stories

Players sit in a circle. The starting player says what she thinks should be the first word in a story, the player to the left then says what he thinks should be the second word, etc., etc. After a while, suggest that a player can reverse the direction by saying a new word back to the person who just gave him a word.


“Not only did we play the dictionary game last night (this is one of my geeky favorites) but one new thing we’ve been doing is pulling random books of the shelves at bookstores, libraries and then give a serious performance as we alternate reading sentences from our very different books. It’s fun to use your voice and body language to get the flow of “meaning” going. It’s also amazing how often things sync up, like characters with same names, or towns, or emotions flow into each other. I like doing it because it’s crazy. It loosens my brain-head and makes me ride in a new way. It’s senseless and poetry-y and meaningful and interesting at the same time.”

Via HiHo Silver Away (a.k.a. PinkNinya YammerblastLil – honestly) in response to my article on Scholarly Fun

Take a Bow

Milling or sitting around, someone, when so moved, starts applauding – any kind of applauding will do: polite, appreciative, standing ovation with bravo-ing. That person is applauding someone for something – known only to that person. Others who feel similarly moved may join. If anyone in the audience believes, assumes, or just wants to be the one being applauding, that person may, depending on the enthusiasm of the applause: nod acknowledgingly, doff an imaginary hat, wave appreciatively, bow, perform some victory display worthy of a football player… And then join the ranks of audience members waiting for someone else to applaud.

Reception line

Form a line facing forward. The last person (we shall call her Ms. Alice) in line steps out, turns, introduces herself, shakes hands or bows or curtseys to the next person in line, who introduces himself whilst greeting the person in a salutary and otherwise kind manner. Formality, or something reminiscent of formality is the rule. When Ms. Alice has been sufficiently introduced, she goes down to the next person in line, the person she just greeted (The Honorable George), waits politely until Ms. Alice has introduced herself to the next person in line (Dr Spark), and then follows her, introducing himself to the Honorable George. The reception continues until everyone has had the opportunity to introduce themselves to everyone else at least twice. There is no reason for this.

Making groups

Players silently choose from a category, and specific example, that the leader provides – superheroes (superman, batman, wonder woman), ice cream flavors (rocky road, chocolate, butter pecan), flowers (venus fly trap, rose, stink weed), cereals (oatmeal, cheerios, lucky charms). After they make the choice they mill around, looking for people who have chosen the same item, and making a group with those people. If the categories have sounds [animals (pigs, horses, ducks), musical instruments (cymbals, harps, trombones), modes of transportation (bicycle, motorcycle, garbage truck)], people close their eyes, start making the noise of their selection, and try to find others who are making the same noise. In all events, the categories and choices should be as fun (as in silly) as possible.

One Clap

Players sit in a circle. They clap once. When ready, they try again, and again, until they are satisfied that they have all clapped at exactly the same time. They can clap their own hands or each other’s hands.

Contact Calisthenics

In the spirit of Zen Hip Swing and Human Spring, players either stand in pairs or in a circle and perform something like an exercise, with their bodies always in contact with each other. For example:

  • hip swivels where players stand side to side and, keeping contact with each other’s hips, rotate their hips clockwise, counterclockwise, or just swing their hips left and right
  • shoulder rolls – stand shoulder to shoulder and roll your shoulders clockwise or counter-clockwise
  • lean to – players stand facing each other, lean in to each other until their palms are together, and then slowly shuffle their feet back until they’ve gotten as far apart as they are comfortable with

Sound Travel

Players lie comfortably. The leader describes an event that takes place over time: the evolution of the dinosaurs, a bus ride from the Lincoln Center to Penn Station, a surfboard ride in Hawaii… Players then begin, whenever they feel moved, to make sounds that describe the event. A variation – instead of events, just set the stage and let the group create the story in sound. For example: airport, mall, beach, restaurant, elevator, fast food line, ticket line, sport event, fireworks display, circus, skating rink.

Eye Zap

Played like Zoom, Zorch, Berfigliano, only silently, just using the eyes. Players sit in a circle. The starting player looks to the person on the left or right, that player then does the same thing, etc., etc., passing the “look” to the left or right around the circle. To begin the game, make it the rule that players can only look at the person on their right, and can’t pass the look until they have received it from someone else. After a while, you can add the rule that players can look in either direction, and then another rule that a player can wink at you, in that case, you also have to pass the wink.


Players get in pairs – one player is the ventriloquist, the other, the dummy. Pairs then go visiting each other, the ventriloquists conversing with each other through their dummies. Pairs switch roles.

Blind Sculptor

Three players. One is the clay. One is the sculptor. The third is the model. The model assumes a pose. The sculptor tries to form the clay into that pose. You could have maybe 5 sculptor/clay pairs all working off the same model. As the name of the game implies, the sculptors have their eyes closed for the duration. It’s probably more fun if the clay also keeps their eyes closed. And if I were the model getting all that touched, I’d probably want to have my eyes closed, too, just to make the game even more, well, touching.


Human Clay Reverse Charades

Two teams. It’s like charades only it’s Reverse Charades. (If you need help in figuring out what to act out, here’s a resource for near-infinite charade ideas. And don’t forget our favorite app for playing Reverse Charades). In this version, instead of using words at all, the clue-giving team sculpts the clue-guessing team into an illustration of the phrase to be guessed. They may choose to animate the clay (the clue-giving team moving parts of the clue-guessing clay back and forth and the clay continuing the motion) until the clay can guess the chosen phrase. If score’s your thing, you can time the whole thing.

New Ballet

Three groups. One group is the orchestra. It is an ultra-modern orchestra playing new music – which is whatever sounds they decide to make together. A second group is the ultra-modern ballet. They dance to the music in an ultra-modern manner (e.g.: using only their faces, using their hands as puppet ballerinas, lying on their backs and dancing with their feet and hands in the air. The third group is the ultra-modern, highly sophisticated audience. Allow each group to rehearse. Perform act one. During intermission, players change roles – the orchestra becomes the dancers, the dancers the audience, the audience the orchestra. Act two. Second intermission and role change. – see Face Dancing and Finger Ballet

Inner Elevator

This is a meditation game, similar to Recess for the Soul. Players relax, close their eyes, and imagine they are on an elevator. When somebody says “ding” (the sound of the elevator doors opening), the leader tells them what floor they are on. It could be anything: a museum, an agent’s office, a cafeteria, a boardroom, a heliport. At the end of the game, players meet in small groups and tell each other what they saw.

Affirmative Count Up and/or Down

You can count from zero to three – all with affirmative hand signs. I’m not sure what to make of the fact that zero and three are the same. Anyhow, try, for example, every time you count off to start a game, counting silently, from 0-3, using the hand signs. It’s kinda funny even.

See also:

The Real Verbal Ping Pong
Machines – a theater-like game of collective body building
Psychic Handshake – mystical group gathering
Prui – the game
Glass Cobra – get yourselves together together
Bomb and Shield – a mad milling game
Cosmic counting: how high can you count together without interrupting each other
BaaBaaBaaTwinkleEFG – a game of mental exacerbation
Handland – puppet theater of the air
Darkroom – build an image and see what develops
Everlasting Games
– pointless fun forever
The Frog – make a friend for life

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