What Are You Doing?        An Improv Therapy Group Exercise

After warming up I want to give players a taste of performing in a fun low-stakes charades-type way, so I play What Are You Doing.


Players are in a circle. 

I ask for a suggestion of someone’s hobby. “Knitting” I then ask the person to my right to pretend to knit. While they are doing that I tell them that I am going to ask them what they are doing, and they should respond by saying something other than knitting, while continuing to pretend to knit. 

Me: What are you doing?

Knitting player: I’m bouncing a ball. 

I then pretend to bounce a ball. (Knitting player can stop knitting now.)

While bouncing a ball I tell the player to my left to ask me what I’m doing. 

Player: what are you doing?

Me: (while bouncing ball) I’m tap dancing. 

That player pretends to tap dance. The next player asks them “what are you doing” and so on. 


Three things going on here. 

  1.   Brain Yoga. Saying one thing while doing something else stretches our brain in a way it’s not used to. It improves our observational skills & our ability to multitask without stressing out.

      2.   Doing things we don’t know how to do in real life. Chances are some players just pretended to do something they don’t actually know how to do. Can you imagine if improvisers actually had to know how to do all the things we pretend to do on stage. It would be impossible. We’d have to have degrees in everything and training in everything. If I ask my audience for an occupation and they say surgeon, I’m going to jump right out there and pretend to cut someone open. I’ve never had an audience member come up to me and say, “I’m sorry, but that’s not how you perform surgery. You’re a terrible improviser.” They know we’re playing, so please give yourself permission to do things here that you don’t know how to do in real life.

     3.   “Gift-giving.” What you say, the next person does. In improv we call that giving a gift. It’s never our goal to give our partner something that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s our goal to set them up for success. 


What Are You Doing is a fun way to introduce those three important improv therapy concepts.