You must ask this question or else you are just doing warm-ups for no reason. If you’re doing warm-ups for no reason, you’re expending unnecessary energy and possibly irritating other improvisers because…what’s the point? If you’re ready to improvise and your partner(s) are, too, then don’t warm-up and just go do it.
Reasons to do warm-ups can boil down into several categories, including:
- Establish trust
- Establish emotional tone/expectations for rehearsal
- Review/introduce techniques
- Have fun before getting into it all
1. Establish trust
The most critical reason to do warm-ups. While you might be playing with 5 other people that have an innate sense of group mind, not all improvisers do. If you want to get 100% from all of your players and not just your heavy-hitters, you need to establish trust in your warm-ups.
Also, improvisers trust in different ways. Some need to bit all over the place to feel trusted. Some need eye contact and to actually know you are being listened to as a human being. Some people need to trust in very specific ways. Make sure every way is rewarded so ultimate trust is provided.
It’s a tricky dynamic, but one that needs to be established prior to launching into warm-ups. If you’re running warm-ups within your improv troupe, know how everyone needs to trust each other to create the optimal warm-up regimen.
2. Establish emotional tone/expectations for rehearsal
Are you a rapid-fire improv troupe? Or are you doing improvised Edgar Allen Poe?
If you choose to play Zoom, Schwartz, Perfigliano before your improvised Edgar Allen Poe rehearsal, you are putting performers in a weird headspace before forcing them to be dour. However, warm-ups like Character Walk can help reinforce tone and also introduce tropes for Edgar Allen Poe.
Your first 10-20 minutes of warm-ups set the tone. Don’t just waste it; use it to guide your players into the appropriate mindset before launching into the hard work.
3. Review/introduce techniques
If you only have rehearsal once a week, chances are you forget a bunch of things in the 6 days in between. You have to get the group back on track from last week. A quick refresher will do, but make sure you don’t spend too much time on it. Your players should remember and apply lessons from last week to this week’s rehearsals or else you lose it.
4. Have fun before getting into it all
Are you having fun? If you’re not having fun doing warm-ups, then you need to
- find new warm-ups
- check with the rest of the group and see if they’re having fun doing warm-ups
If you choose to do 2., then you should do one of the following:
- If they say no, find new warm-ups
- If they say yes, evaluate your position in the group
If you chose 2 on that one, great! You get a chance at self-reflection and figure out what you want/need from the improv group you’re in. You need to be having fun along with your group.
If you can have fun not doing warm-ups while your group has fun doing warm-ups, great. By doing this, you are running the risk of your group not trusting you, along with you not trusting your group. If you start having trust issues, you need to evaluate if you want to stay in the group.
Heady stuff, I know, but trust me. You should be playing with people you feel have your back versus people you know are funny. Don’t play to boost your improv career; play because you want to have fun doing what you want.