It’s In the Cards

 It’s In the Cards

To begin this exercise divide the participants into groups of about 8 to 15 people.  Give each participant a random playing card.  Tell the participants to think of a type of person or character that would match the status of card’s place in the deck.  For example, if a person has a King they might think of a powerful politician or a rich celebrity.  If the person has a two, they might think of someone in poverty living on the street or someone shy and awkward.  Explain that the participants will mingle in character for a few minutes.  Remind them that they are not to tell who they are, but rather show it. Tell them to think about how the status of the character makes them move, walk, talk, even breath.

After a several minutes of mingling ask the participants to line up from lowest in the deck to highest.

In reverence, talk about what it was like exploring status.  Were they able to arrange themselves correctly at the end? What was it like to be low in status?  High in status?  How did people of differing status interact?

Adapted from:

McKnight, Katherine S., and Mary Scruggs. The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom: Using Improvisation to Teach Skills and Boost Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.


Great for the themes of: Wisdom, Evil, Salvation, truth, Brokenness, Economy, and insight.

The Everything Ball

The Everything Ball

This is a basic imagination, creativity and mime game. Before the exercise prepare by getting used to miming a ball that can be changed.  As the sidecoach you should be well acquainted with some of the mime before you teach it to others.  Begin by getting the participants into a circle or surround the space.  Tell them that you are going to give them an amazing gift.  An Everything Ball.  Take the everything ball out of your pocket or out of an empty bag.  Explain that this is your everything ball and that it is amazing because it can be anything and everything.  Take a moment to rip off a small piece of your ball and give it to each of the participants.  Asking them to hold out their hand to receive it.

Try not to use the words imagine or pretend.  It should be as if the ball was a thing that really existed and it is not a question.  Here are some things you can do with your ball to start:

Sidecoach:      Let’s make our ball the size of a tennis ball.  You will need to stretch it from the piece I gave you.

                        Let’s throw our ball up in the air and catch it.

                        Let’s bounce our ball on the ground.

                        Let’s make our ball the size of a beach ball.  Bounce it up in the air on your hand.

                        Now our ball is as heavy as a bowling ball.  Wow that is heavy.  Now it feels like a small boulder.  Remember to lift with your legs.

Once you have gone through some basics of the ball you can begin to make it into anything that fits your purpose.  For example:

Sidecoach:      Let’s make our ball into a hammer to build a new home for someone that needs it.  Use your hammer.

                        Let’s make our ball into sandbags to stop a flood.  Stack your sandbags.

                        Let’s make our ball into a machine that will end hunger.

                        Let’s make our ball into something that make bad actions good ones.

And so on for as many as you would like.  Make sure at the end of the exercise participants put their Everything Ball into their own pocket or bag to take with them.

In reverence, talk about the power of the Everything Ball.  What other problems could it fix?  Do you have a visible tool that you could use?

Adapted from:

Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1986. Print.


Great for the themes of: Imagination, Creativity, Justice, Ultimacy, Salvation, Preparation, Divinity, and Evil.

Wisdom Mirror

Wisdom Mirror

To begin this exercise break the group up into pairs.  Give the pairs a topic of conversation that you have decided on.  One person in the pair begins to talk about the topic that you have given.  They are the initiator.  The other person in the pair, the follower, mirrors the words that the first partner exactly out loud.  Their goal is to speak the words that the initiator is saying exactly.  After a short time the sidecoach will say “Change” and the follower will now start to be the initator, picking up where the two just left off.  The first speaker will now become the follower and begin to mirror the words of the new initator.  The goal is to have no break in the flow of the conversation.  For example:

Sidecoach:  Ok the topic is meditation.  First speaker begin!

1st Speaker (initiator): Meditation is something that you can do anytime and anywhere…

2nd Speaker (follower): mirroring speech simultaneously Meditation is something that you can do anytime and anywhere…

After a period of time

Sidecoach: Change!  Try not to stop the flow.

Change the initiator and follower several more times throughout the conversation.

In reverence, talk about what it was like sharing the conversation.  Was it hard to keep the flow?  Did it get easier as you went along?  Did you begin to know what the other person was going to say?  Did you share some wisdom or learn something new?

Adapted from:

Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1986. Print.


Great for the themes of: The Sources, Wisdom.  This could work with any theme if you provide it as the topic of conversation.

Who Started the Movement?

Who Started the Movement?

To begin this exercise get all participants in a circle.  Send one person out of the room who will be the seeker.  Once the seeker is gone, choose one person to be the leader who will start the motion.  Call the seeker back in and put them in the center of the circle where they will try to discover the leader who is leading the other people in the circle to do different motions.  Everyone in the circle follows the leader.  The leader may change the movement as much as they like.  When the seeker figures out who the leader is, the seeker may choose a new seeker.  When the new seeker leaves the room the leader may choose a new leader.

In reverence, talk about what it was like trying to find the leader or be the leader.  What was it like to have the job of leading everyone?  Was it easier to follow?  How did you find the leader?  Was that a hard job?

Adapted from:

Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1986. Print.


Great for the themes of: Vocation and justice

Also a great warm up.

Writing For Three

Writing For Three

For this exercise you will need a piece of paper for each group.  The paper should be divided into three columns with a number 1, 2 or 3 and a word or subject at the top of each column.  Begin by dividing participants in to groups of three.  Then you can explain how the game will work.  The participants will sit in a circle and will always pass the paper to their right.  You can either say “pass” or “switch.”  Practice passing the paper so participants get in the habit of just passing to the right.  Now explain that after you tell them to pass, you will say a number of one of the columns.  When they hear the number they should start writing about the word or topic immediately.  Between the three people, they will all write about the topics.  For example:

Writing for 3

Sidecoach: Ok first person ready.  Two!  Write!  (Wait 45 seconds or so) Ok Switch next person!  One! Write! (Wait 45 seconds or so) Ok Switch next person!  Three!  Write! 

You should continue around at least twice and randomly say the numbers.  At the end you should have paper filled with three different people’s writing on the three subjects.  Have the groups read together what they wrote.

In reverence, talk about what it was like writing in a community.  Did they just write their own or did they try to read and add to what was there?  Was one person’s idea of the topic the same or different?

Adapted from:

Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1986. Print.


Great for the themes of: Community, scripture, grace, the sources, learning and growth, common ground.  This would be a good exercise for any of the themes.  Just change the topics to fit that theme.

Heartbeat of Humanity

Heartbeat of Humanity

To begin this exercise, break the group into smaller groups of about 8-10.  Once the groups are separated explain that they are going to explore oneness through a rhythmic movement.  One group at a time, with the others as observers, participants will sit or stand in the movement area.  Explain that in a moment you will call an object and each person in the group will, without thinking begin a repetitive movement that relates to that object.   Once they have the rhythm, you will change the setting and they will change their movement to match that new place.

You can use every day items like washing machine, bike, etc.  Or perhaps an object that relates to your purpose like chalice, protest sign, etc.

You should use music if available.  Need some?  Click HERE.

For example:

Sidecoach: Ready.  Protest sign.

Participants: Begin to do their movement.

Sidecoach: I see that you have the rhythm, now forget your object and feel the rhythm!

Participants: Continue doing their movement in rhythm together.

You will now quickly change the setting for the participants.  Try to go somewhere that suits your needs, but is very different from where your first object might have been.  You could take them to a homeless shelter, a refugee camp, a village in drought, etc. For example:

Sidecoach:  Alright, while still moving in rhythm, transform your movement to someone in a homeless shelter!  Transform!

Participants: Develop a person that is moving in rhythm that might be in that setting.

If some participants have trouble you may need to step into the exercise and help them individually.

The goal here is to keep the rhythm as a group while transforming.  Make sure each group has a chance and they all have different objects and settings.

In reverence, talk about what if felt like to be different people with different movements, but all have the same rhythm.  Isn’t this like the unity that makes us one?  A heartbeat of all humankind.


 Adapted from:

Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1986. Print.


Great for the themes of: Grace, Transcendence/Transformation, Justice and Change.

Seeing as the Divine

Seeing through Object-Seeing as the Divine

In this exercise, participants will get to imagine themselves as the divine looking at and through the world.  Begin by explaining that as a UU we believe that anyone can be an example of the divine and that a divine sight is available to them.  To start the exercise, you may want to have the participants look through a nearby window and describe what they see.  This is a nice warm up.  Once they have the idea you can expand the idea further.  For example:

Sidecoach: Alright, let’s begin by reaching out with our sight to somewhere you know well.  Take your sight through the walls and to the outside.  I want you to take your sight down the streets all the way to your house.  Think about what you see on your way home.  What does it look like outside?  Who is on the street?

Go through the walls of your home and look around.  What does your house look like?  Is there anyone there?  What are they doing there?


You can visit many different places and situations.  Here are some places they could take their sight:

A friend’s house

Somewhere that is experiencing a social injustice (definitely talk about the people there)

To someone that is sad, happy, elated, in pain, in grief, etc.

Somewhere that a person is helping.

There are many more options.  In reverence, talk about what it was like to have divine sight.  Did seeing something make them want to take action?  How did they feel?  Etc.

Adapted from:

Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1986. Print.


Great for the themes of: Divinity, Imagination, and Justice

The Future Machine

The Future Machine. This is game you have probably played before, but with a few tweaks.  The games is basically human machine.  However, for this variation you will need to give each participant a piece of blank paper and a marker.  Explain they will have exactly two minutes to design a fantastical machine that will solve a big problem.  Water shortage, poverty, homelessness, etc.  They will need to choose a problem and then draw a schematic for the future machine.  Tell them to use their imaginations.  I often do this with K-1 kids and they come up with the coolest stuff.  Tell them to think in that realm.  Once the two minutes is up, explain that now they will be the foreman and build this machine out of the people in the room.  You may need to split the participants into groups.  Also explain that each piece must move and make a noise.  The foreman will explain their machine to the group and then build it and start it up.  Try to get through as many people as possible.

Adapted from:

Rohd, Michael. Theatre for Community, Conflict & Dialogue: The Hope Is Vital Training Manual. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998. Print.


Great for the themes of: Imagination, Justice, Peace, Preparation, and Vision.

What are you doing?

What are you doing? To begin this game, separate the larger group into groups of 5-10.  They will need to be in a circle.  Explain that they will be using mime to create solutions to big problems.  The first person in the circle begins to mime an action to solve a big problem.  The next person in the circle asks “What are you doing?”  The person miming gives that person an action that would solve a problem.  The second person now begins to mime that action.  The third person in the circle now asks “What are you doing?”  and the game moves around the circle in this way.  For example:

Person 1: Begins miming building a house for the homeless

Person 2: What are you doing?

Person 1: I am finding water for someone that has none.

Person 2: Begins miming finding water.

Person 3: What are you doing?

Person 2: Giving someone who needs it a hug.

Person 3: Begins miming hugging.

And so on around the circle.  It might behoove you to play a round doing normal actions to get them in the mode of mime.  Things like baking a cake, brushing teeth, playing soccer, etc.


Great for the themes of: Compassion, Creativity, Imagination, Justice, and Preparation.