2015 EdTA China Young Thespian Improv Festival

What is Improv?

  • Improv is… short for Improvisation.
  • Improv is… acting spontaneously without a script.
  • Improv is… a series of made up stories and moments based on suggestions from the audience.
  • Improv is… fun, challenging, scary, exhilarating.

If you have seen the American TV show Who’s Line Is It Anyway? or 谢天谢地我来啦, great! You will have an idea of what you will be doing and what is expected of you. If you have not seen either shows, don’t worry! The festival will happen like this

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Festival Infor

Contestant: grade 6-12
Date: Sunday 24th May, 2015
Time: 9am-5pm
Location: Floor 6 Block 11 303 Songhu Road Yangpu Shanghai, China
Registration deadline: Sunday 10th May, 2015

Festival Introduction


Step 1: Everyone who participates will be put into random groups of 10. You will be asked to play in a series of improv games in front of a judge who will give you points based on specific criteria (see below).

Step 2: If you get over a certain number of points, you will be placed into a new group of students. You will then be lead by a team facilitator who will help you get to know your team members better and help build a group dynamic. It is important to be able to work well with your team members, so the better you know them, the more comfortable you will be and the more fun you will have.
You will then enter a second round and again be judged based on your performance. Depending on your score, you will advance to a new round with a new team and so on until a final team is chosen.

Step 3: If you get under a certain amounts of points after any round, you will be placed into a workshop team, where you will have the chance to take drama workshops throughout the day where you can gain valuable experience and practice in drama skills and techniques.


1) Say ‘Yes, and…’
It is important never to say no to your partner. If the players don’t agree, the scene cannot move forward and you make your partners feel stuck. Always say ‘yes’ and suggest what to do next.

2) Establish Who/What/Where
For a story to be built, the players need to establish who is in the story, what they are doing, and where they are. This way, the audience knows what’s going on from the start.

3) Don't Block
Don’t turn your back to the audience and don’t stand in front of each other.

4) Tell a Story
Storytelling is probably the easiest rule to remember but the hardest one to do. The real magic of improv is when we see the players take totally random suggestions (like a plumber and a cab driver selling shoes in a shikumen) and somehow continue a dialog and make things happen in a chronological order with a beginning, middle, and end.

Games played at each competition round (tentative)

Round 1

Questions Only, Taxi, Freeze Improv

Round 2 

Pan left-Pan right, Change, Party Quirks

Round 3

Game Show, Dubbing, One Minute Scenes

Round 4

Party Quirks, Questions Only, Late for Work

Games Descriptions

Questions Only
Form two lines, one person wide, facing each other. Have a conversation with your partner only consisting of questions! If a person says a statement or hesitates too long they get buzzed and have to go to the back of the line. The new person always starts the conversation.

Two chairs are set up facing the audience. One player begins in the stage left chair, driving the taxi. They pick up the first hitch-hiker (with a wacky personality). The driver then assumes the hiker’s personality for about 30 seconds when he then finds a reason to leave. The hiker then jumps into the driver’s seat and picks up the next hitch-hiker and so on.

Freeze Improv
Two people start a scene, the rest watch until they see something that gives them an idea—usually an interesting physical position. When someone from the audience calls, “freeze,” the actors freeze and the person who called ‘freeze’ taps one player out and assumes their physical position. They then start a completely new scene using that physical position. This game can also be played using a verbal cue instead of a physical one. After the new player calls, “freeze,” he taps one of the players on the shoulder and uses the last line of the previous scene as a first line to the new scene. The new player is always the one to start the new scene.

Pan Left-Pan Right
4 players make a square like in four-square except they all face the audience. The host gets suggestions from the audience on basic 2-person relationships (doctor/patient, mother/son, etc.). The host assigns the front pair a relationship and then instructs them to either pan left or pan right and the next two are given a different relationship until every combination (4 in total) are assigned a relationship. The game begins with the two front (most downstage) players playing a scene within their given relationship. The host (or audience if you wish) can call ‘pan left’ or ‘pan right’ at any time so that the two front players play their scene, picking up where they left off the previous time they were in the front.

In this 2 or 3 person game, the host can call “change” at any time, and the last person that spoke has to change the last thing he/she said. For example:
A: “Do you like my new shirt?”
B: “I love it.”
Host: “Change.”
B: “I hate it.”
Host: “Change.”
B: “Can I have it?”

Party Quirks
4 players, one is a host of the party and he leaves the room. Meanwhile, the audience chooses personas for the three party guests such as a loving Frankenstein, a French kleptomaniac, and a cowardly lion. A good way to coach the audience to think of creative persons is for the host to say, “May I have 3 descriptive words like adjectives, verbs, or character traits? Then may I have three things like occupations, animals, or objects? The crazier the better.” Once the personas are decided and distributed, the host is brought back into the room and begins the scene by setting up for his party by talking to himself or doing things. After about 10 seconds, the first guest arrives and through his interaction with the guest, the host must guess his persona. Leave at least 30 seconds between each guest’s entrances. Once the host correctly guesses the persona of the party guest, that’s the party guest’s cue to leave.

Game Show
5 person game: a host, a bachelor/bachelorette, and 3 contestants. There is a host to introduce characters and manage the game like on TV. The bachelor leaves the room while the audience decides on 3 personas for the contestants: there is always one celebrity, one superhero, and one quirky person. (i.e. – Taylor Swift, a woman with extendable arms, a man who says every word twice.) The questioner returns, the host introduces the game, and the bachelor proceeds to ask 3 dating-related questions to the contestants. At the end, the bachelor must first announce who they don’t want to date by stating their persons and then declare who they want to date by stating his/her persona.

4 person’s game. Two players act out a scene using gibberish; two players stand to the side on either end of the stage and translate after each line.

One Minute Scenes
Usually done with three players (but can also be done with 2 or 4), after getting a suggestion from the audience, the players do a timed one-minute scene. They then have to repeat that same scene in 30 seconds, then in 7 seconds, then in one second. Focus on the physicality and telling as much of the story as was told in the initial scene.

Late for Work
In this scene there is one boss, three employees, and one employee that is late for work. Before the game begins, the late employee leaves the room and the audience decides why she was late. The better suggestions are something ridiculous and physical such as ‘an elephant sat on him.’ The game begins with the late employee entering and the boss questioning her. The late employee must guess the reason based on the charades (pantomime movements) of her three co-workers who are standing behind the boss. If the boss turns around and sees the other employees “goofing off,” he may fire one and hire a new employee to take his place. The game ends when the late employee correctly guesses why she is late.




What they do




Competition round 1

Students divided into 10 groups of 10; Each group goes into a classroom where each judge plays 3 games and scores students based on the judging criteria. After the round, judges submit score sheets and the scores are tallied to determine the top 40 scoring students.



10:30-11: 15

Workshop 1/Ensemble building round 2

The 60 students eliminated from the competition will be divided between three workshop groups: comedy, movement, sound/music; the selected 40 students will be divided into 4 new groups of 10 and will use this time to build an ensemble by practicing the games they will play in the next round of competition


Competition round 2

The 60 workshop students (and the judges, staff and parents) watch the 4 teams compete; 24 are selected to advance.




Workshop 2/Ensemble building round 2

The 76 workshop students take a second workshop while the 24 advancing students are divided into 3 new groups of 8 players and practice for the next competition round.


Competition round 3

The 76 workshop students watch the 3 teams compete; 12 are selected to advance.


Workshop 3/Ensemble building round 3

The 88 workshop students take a third workshop while the 12 advancing students are divided into 2 groups of 6 players and practice for the final competition round.


FINAL Competition round 4

Everyone watches the final round of competition and judges select winning ensemble.


Judge and Public vote


Awards Ceremony

Judging Criteria

Direction :
When two actors are given a who/what/where scenario with no preparation before hand, it is up to the actors to make things happen, to lead each other and the audience through a story. Actors require risk-taking and imagination to think of something interesting and unexpected that happens, in other words to create direction. You will be awarded points based on how well and how often you are able to take initiative and lead the story along with your partner.

Creating Environment:
When you are improvising, you have only your body and your imagination to create an environment. It’s easy for you as an actor to know and see where you are, but the audience needs to see where you are and what you are doing, too. So we will evaluate you based on how well you can use your body, voice and imagination to bring the environment alive and visible to the audience.

Eye Contact:
When acting, especially in groups of three or four, it is essential to look at your partner(s) when talking to them for several reasons: 1) So that they know you are talking to and interacting with them. 2) To make the scene more real. 3) To connect and engage with the audience. The more your “talk” with your eyes, the more points you will get.

Voice Projection:
This one is obvious. If we can’t hear you, then we are lost. The louder, clearer, more interesting your voice and tones are, the better you create an interesting story and the more points you will get.

Body Movement:
It is important in improv to use our entire body when creating a story because, that’s all we have. The more open and expressive your body is, the more believable you become and the more real you make the story become to the audience.


1) Make Choices
It’s not fair to your partner to ask them open-ended questions like, “Who are you?” or “What are you doing?” Rather, suggest who you are or what you are doing. For example, “I’m so full. Thanks, mom, for cooking that delicious meal.”

2) Be Specific: Provide Details
Details are the key to moving a scene forward. Each detail provides clues to what is important.

3) You don't have to be funny.
The secret of improv is that the harder you try not to be funny the more funny your scene is going to be. Why? Because the very best kind of improv scene you can do is an "interesting" scene, not necessarily a "funny" one. When you do an interesting scene, a very surprising thing happens: the funny comes out all by itself!

4) Change, Change, Change!
Improv is about character change. The characters in a scene must experience some type of change for the scene to be interesting. Characters need to go on journeys, be altered by revelations, experience the ramifications of their choices and be moved by emotional moments.

5) Don't Deny
Denial is the number one reason most scenes go bad. Any time you refuse an offer made by your partner, your scene will almost instantly come to a stop. Example: Player A) "Hi, my name is Jim. Welcome to my store." Player B) "This isn't a store, it's an airplane. And you're not Jim, you're an antelope." Player A) Uh….

6) You can look good if you make your partner look good.
When you are in a scene, the better you make your partner look, the better the scene is going to be and, as a direct result, the better you are going to look. You make your partner look good by always saying ‘Yes, and…’


  • 1.Best Improv Troupe (each of the 8 members gets a trophy)
  • 2.Funniest Improviser
  • 3.Best Physicality
  • 4.Best Character Actor
  • 5.Best Team Player
  • 6.Best Listener
  • 7.Most Spontaneous
  • 8.Greatest Risk-Taker
  • 9.Best Overall Improviser
*Any participant can get the above awards, not only members in the final troupe.

Registration and Fees

Contestant: grade 6-12
Date: Sunday 24th May, 2015
Time: 9am-5pm
Location: Floor 6 Block 11 303 Songhu Road Yangpu Shanghai, China

Max students: 100
Fee: 200 CNY/person

  • -Entry Ticket
  • -2 free workshops before the festival
  • -Lunch
  • -Workshops
Registration deadline: Sunday 10th May, 2015


021-61907080- 684 Ms. Zhang | 021-61907080- 652 Mr. Ding

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