Philip Feinstein, Music for Refugees

Lots of people are now stuck inside their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pretty miserable hey . . . Especially if you are a kid (or a fun adult) who wants to get out and play. Children are bored and stressed – they want something to do . .  !


Here is something that will amuse both your kids and yourself, give you lots of laughs, and believe it or not, will even educate you with another skill. They are very clever and amusing games. Give it a try . . . Many of the games can be played with someone over the phone. And some can even be played solo, by oneself. That’s why they are called:


Image of childs illustration ''It was a dark and stormy night"

Image provided by author

What is ‘Theatre Games’?
It is a type of acting where there are no rehearsals, no experience needed, and no hard and fast rules. In fact, there is only one rule: You must accept what the player before you said.

For example, if said “There is a lion in the tree”, you must accept that. You might then say “I never knew that lions climb trees”, or “I’m frightened – let’s run away”, or “That’s my pet lion” And then, whatever you say must be accepted by the next player.

So, to summarise, you must never contradict or block what the previous player has said.

In Theatre Games there are a variety of games, all at different levels. Some of them involve saying nothing, just using movement to express yourself; Some might involve you singing a short line; Some might involve you creating a poem or a song. There are very many games from which to choose. The games listed here will be broken up into categories of Easy (for kids or newcomers), Medium (a good introduction before the harder ones), and Challenging ones – great to try them! At the end of this form there are contact details in case you want more advice on any of the games.



I belong to various groups of people who have been doing Theatre Games for many years. We find the best way to start off is to introduce ourselves with a funny or unusual tagline. . . So each player could tell us their name and add something that they like doing . . .

For example: “My name is Philip and I like playing the piano”. Or tell us their name adding something they would never do: For example: “My name is Philip and I am too frightened to try skate-boarding.”

Another way is to introduce yourself in the “3rd person” with 2/3 truthful characteristics.

Examples: “This is Philip. He composes on the piano but cannot read music. Every second Friday he goes to Villawood to jam and teach music to refugees. And he likes to be called Flip” Add your own thoughts to the introduction.


It’s good to start with a special warm-up game: The game is called “Yes and . . . . “. Going around in a circle, or even if only two of you, after one player says something, the next player continues the same story by starting with the words “Yes and . . . .”And just keep going until the story has a nice or funny ending.

Example: “ I had a dream last night that I would win a lot of money”
“Yes and I thought I would use the money to buy a camel to ride in the desert”
“Yes and because I had ridden horses before I thought it would be easy”
“Yes and I then remembered the time I fell off a horse”
“Yes and I started to change my thought about what I would buy”
etc. etc.

Now you’re in the mood to start . . . .
Before you start, make sure that you decide which part of your lounge room, bedroom, balcony or garden will be the “stage”. I have broken the games up into 3 different categories:

(a) Easy; (b) Medium; and (c) Challenging.

I suggest children under 15 or newcomers start with the first category: (a) Easy.

A golden rule is that players do NOT discuss beforehand what they will be doing or saying. As soon as one player starts, the other player(s) accept what was said, and join in the scene that was set by the first player.

If there is a facilitator, they will need a whistle for some games.

Under the listing below, P/D means “Predetermined Place or Situation” for the game, like in school, at the movies, a wedding, in a motor car, a butcher shop, on the moon. The audience nominates a place, or scenario, before starting the actual game.

The number in (brackets) is the number of players needed for that game. That can change and even vary from game to game.

As the games progress, should any of the players feel that the game has come to an end, for example when something funny is said, they can just bow. The other players must then follow him/her and also bow. They cannot say something like “wait a minute, I have something to add”. When the game is over, the game is over. Sometimes when a game is going too long, the facilitator may blow the whistle and say “Game ends in 1 minute”.

(a) I AM A TREE (3 or more) One player starts in a position of a tree. One at a time, other people join in and become the objects that relate to the tree, or objects of the other players (e.g. A branch might have leaves; A leaf might fall on the ground; A ranger might pick up fallen leaves)

Player must announce what they are when they join in. (Examples: I am a branch on the
tree; I am a leaf on the branch; I am the ground where the leaves fall on)

(a) MIME (4 – 2 off stage) Four players: A – B – C – D. Players C and D leave the room. Player A will then mime (no talking) a scenario to player B, once only. They must be very clear what they are doing. Scene must be maximum 1 minute.

Player C then joins the stage and watches player B who acts out exactly what they saw player A doing, once only.
Player D the joins the stage and watches player C who acts out exactly what they saw player B doing, once only.
Player D then acts out exactly what they saw player C doing. They then tell everyone what they did. This is what they thought the scene was.
Player C then acts out exactly what they saw player B doing. They then tell everyone what they did. This is what they thought the scene was.
Player B then acts out exactly what they saw player A doing. They then tell everyone what they did. This is what they thought the scene was.
Finally, player A comes back on stage and acts out his/her original scene. They then tell everyone exactly what they were doing.

(a) SHOPPING LIST (1 + 1) (Set at the Enquiry Counter of a large shopping complex)

One player sits at the Enquiry Counter.
People come up, one-at-a-time, to ask the Enquiry Counter where they can buy certain things. For example: “Where can I buy love?”; Where can I buy top marks for my exam?”
and so on.
The player at the Enquiry Counter comes up with some clever or quirky answers and sends them on their way . . .

(a) SPEAKING AS ONE (3 – 6)
Players link arms and get ready to answer a question. But there is no preparation . . . The facilitator will ask a simple question like “What did you have for breakfast?” or “What is your favourite colour?” or “What is your lucky number?”.
Without rehearsing or having a conversation, the players will try to answer the question. But the trick is to answer it loud and very slowly. And as you all hear the others, eventually players will give in and hopefully will all answer the same.

2 or 3 people stand in a line and prepare to tell a story. They will be told where they are (e.g. At the zoo; at a movie; in the office). A bit like the Warm-up Game “Yes And”, they will accept what the previous player has said and will add their part to the story. No more than 2 sentences each and then the next player will add their bit.
Go round three times. And don’t forget that the last player must end the story.

Two of the players face each other and have a conversation. However, these players have their hands in their pockets. Where legal and safe, the other 2 players each stand behind a
player and have their arms from behind, taking the place of the other players arms.
This extra person cannot speak, but they can make arm movements in line with the dialogue. Example: If the dialogue is about eating, they could move their hands towards the speaker’s mouth; If the dialogue is about coming first in a race, they could raise their arm in the air as a winner would.

(a) WALKING PUPPETS (2 + 2) P/D (3 min)
2 Players will be puppets and the other two will be puppet-operators. Although the puppets can speak, they can only move in the direction that the operators move them in. And the operators can move the puppets head, hands, legs, etc. Operators cannot speak.
Before starting, puppets need to be put in a starting position – that can be anything.

(a) FREEZE TAG (2) Two players on stage start to act out any scene at all – then other player joins in. Someone in the audience shouts out the word “Freeze”. The players on stage immediately stop whatever they are doing and freeze in their position. The “Freeze” audience member becomes a player, enters the stage and signals which player must leave the stage.
They then take up the exact position that the leaving player had, but starts a brand new game (based on their physical position) which the other player follows. They keep acting until someone in the audience shouts out “Freeze” and the routine starts again.

(b) = Medium level group

(b) SHARED STORY (3 – 4) P/D
Each player tells only one sentence or phrase of story. Go round 4 times.

(b) ONE WORD AT A TIME (4) P/D 1-2 minutes
The group will create a story but each player tells part of the story, one word at a time. They begin with “Once-upon-a-time . . . .”

(b) YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN . . . . (3) P/D
2 or 3 players act out a scene. The scene is acted normally, but every sentence from every player must end with “. . . you know what I mean”
Game goes for about 3/4 minutes.

3 players act out a scene. The scene is acted normally, but every sentence must start with the word “Fortunately” or “Unfortunately”. Players alternate so that they get to say both.
Game goes for about 3/4 minutes.

2 players act out the scene (one sentence at a time) where the first one begins with a word starting with the letter A, next player starts with B and so on.
A good idea is to start the game in the middle of the alphabet, like ‘L’ or ‘M’. The game always ends with a word just before the starting letter.
When it comes to ‘X’ and ‘Z’, it’s OK to “cheat” and use words like “excite” and “extra”. Or “Zillions” and “Zupper”.

3 players on-stage and 1 player off-stage. The 3 playing on-stage are either standing, sitting or lying down. Every time they change positions, they must verbally justify it. (EXAMPLE:
Player #1 who is standing: “I am tired so think I will lie down”) The player lying down has to change their position or leave the scene completely – they must justify as well. Player #4
who is off-stage might chose to come on and will of course justify that as well. They will go or whatever position is open to them, once again justifying their move.
This game obviously consists of lots of getting up and down, leaving the stage and returning.

One player is looking for advice on a problem. The 3 other players go around 3 times to give good, bad and horrible advice alternating each time.
For example: Player wants advice on buying a friendly puppy. Player #1 states: “Ask your friends for one” (good advice); Player #2 says “Take one that is tied up outside a shopping centre” (bad advice); Player #3 says “Steal one from the little old lady down the road”.
Players then rotate.

(b) HALVE THE TIME (3/4) P/D
Players act out story about 30 seconds long – story should have lots of action.
On whistle they redo story in 15 seconds. On whistle they redo the story in 7 seconds. On whistle they redo story in 3 seconds.

(b) I LOVE YOU (3/4) P/D
Players told where they are. They act out a story which somehow ends with the words “I love you”. It does not have to be towards a person – people love their cars; people love their pet; people love their home.

Create some words of emotion in big letters, fold up and place in a bowl. The players come on to the stage and take one of the pieces of paper which they can look at.
When the game starts, they hold up the piece of paper so that the audience can see it. They the commence acting the scene using that emotion. When the facilitator blows the whistle,
they all take new emotions and place the old ones in the bowl. The same scene continues, they the players now have new emotions which they would have help up to the audience.

Angry, Serious, Bored, Lonely, Happy, Tired, Sad, Solemn, Alarmed, Serious, Suspicious, Contradictory

Players sit in a circle. In the middle of the room is a bunch of objects, example a belt, a hat, a saucepan, a broom
One at a time, each player selects any object and starts to share with everyone “why that object is so important to them”. However, the object will not be what it is. The player uses the
shape and pretends it is something else. Example: a belt could be a very long chocolate bar; a hat could be a pouch for hiding money, etc.

Players only ask questions. If they make a statement or answer a question, or can’t continue with the dialogue, they leave the stage and a new player takes their place.
Examples: “How are you?” Next player: “Why are you asking?” First player: “Can’t I ask you?” etc.

(b) STATUES (3/4)
3 players form statue-like poses. The 4th player explains their positions and creates a story around them. No dialogue with the statues who do not move.

Find a recipe book from your kitchen. The 2 players read and discuss the recipe book in different genres. (Example: Western; Horror; Comedy; Thriller; Romance; Action)
The facilitator calls for genre changes and also for recipe changes from time to time.

(b) SPACE JUMP (Everybody!) One player stands in the middle and starts a scene.
When someone shouts “Freeze” the player stops moving. The new player joins the first person and starts a new scene based on the first player’s frozen position. While acting the new story, someone in the audience then shouts “Freeze” and the first two players stop. This new person starts a new story based on the positions of the two already on the stage. They keep on going until someone else shouts “Freeze”. The same thing happens again.
When people stop joining in, the instructor blows the whistle which indicates that the last player who came on must leave the stage. The remaining players then go back to playing the previous scene. When whistle goes again, the same process happens. And it keeps on going until the original person is left on the stage on their own doing their original story.

Each player is given a dice which is numbered 1 – 6. They all start acting out a scene until the facilitator blows the whistle. They then all roll their dice. Depending on the number they
get, their emotion will change in the same story.
If they get a low number (1 – 2) they will be meek and mild. If it is 3 – 4, they are mediocre. If they roll a 5 – 6, they become heavy handed, maybe even arrogant.
Keep going until the facilitator blows the whistle again.

(c) = Challenging level group

(c) BOOK ME IN (2 + 1) P/D
While 2 players act out a scene, a third player, text book in hand, reads out random lines which must be incorporated by the other 2 players into the scene.

Players start acting out a scene with 5 words per sentence. Facilitator occasionally calls out a number (1 – 9) which is the number of words that have to be in future sentences. After a
short time the facilitator calls another number which the players change to. Occasionally a sentence might have as few as one or two words in a sentence – players should consider
using lots of emotion. (Example: “Wow” with hands in the air)

Did you know that everyone can speak Gibberish? It is a language that is not a language. It’s a little like saying “Blah Blah Blah” and then saying I mean “How are you?”. So it can
mean anything. The only difference in Theatre Games is that the player ‘speaking’ Gibberish makes sounds other just Blah-Blah-Blah. And the other side of that is that there is someone
‘translating’ what is being said. And the players doing the translation virtually becomes the players who are really directing the scene.
So, in the game 2 players act a scene talking Gibberish and 2 other players translate, one at a time, in order. So, as an example: The scene might be “in a bank”, when the first player
says “blah emil bloo” which in his mind is “Can you change this $50 note?”, the translator might say “Hands up – this is a bank robbery and I want all your $50 notes”. All players have
to accept that and move the scene along.
Then other player says something in gibberish which is translated by their translator.

(c) KNOCK – KNOCK (2)
Everybody forms 2 parallel lines. Any player from the left line approaches a player opposite them and “knocks” on their front door making a statement (e.g. “Knock-knock – I’ve come to
collect my money”; “Knock-knock – Is my wife in there?” “Knock-knock – I’ve got the stuff you ordered.”) Player answers with an appropriate statement. (Anything goes) Short scenes only.
When all players have had their turn, the same lines are reformed and this time players from the right line knock on doors opposite.

(c) LET ME IN (2 or 3) P/D
There is an ongoing story when the facilitator throws words in every now and then. The players currently speaking must instantly include that word sensibly into the framework of
their dialogue. (Examples of words facilitator could use: custard, helicopter, roller-blades, the bible)

(c) MINISTER OF ….… (2-5)
Player in turn takes on different roles of special ministers in government and tells us how he/she will change things. Examples: “I am the Minister of Rain and I will get our scientists to
formulate more rain;

(c) MINISTER OF ….… (2-5)
Another variation of this game is where the audience nominates a bizarre law that the government has recently passed. Example: “Everyone must wear a giant pink sombrero
whenever they go to the shops”.
2 or 3 players then take to the stage. They represent ministers of the government who are making a public service announcement, to try and convince the public that this law is a great
idea. One at a time, each player introduces themselves by stating what department they are the minister of (does not have to be a real department), and why the law is such a good idea.
Examples: “I am the minister for Piggy Banks at Home, and we currently have too many people overspending and getting into debt. Thanks to this new law, people will be so
embarrassed to go to the shops, that they will only buy the bare necessities!” “I am the minister of Sunshine and, as people seldom go outside now, the new law with help
to protect wearers from the sun.”

Players act out a 1-minute scene from a famous movie. On whistle they re-enact the same scene, but with different genre given by the audience. Example: Western; Horror movie;
Love story)

(c) MUSICAL (4 – 6) (Title given. Example: “Bondi Rocks”; “The Purple Skirt”)
Players act normal, but on director’s instruction, they are asked to sing about the point they are now making. Sing for 30 seconds only, then back to dialogue.

(c) PHRASE ME IN (4) P/D
Before the game starts, everyone is invited to write a phrase on a piece of paper and put it into a bowl. Examples: “Pink shoes are great”; “Eating porcupines gets you out of prickly situations”; “Mum says drink lots of milk”
Players proceed but periodically remove a piece of paper from the bowl. They read the phrase and must incorporate it into the scene they are in. Two pieces per player.

(c) POEM (4) (After a few times, reverse order)
Title of poem given (Example: “The Lighthouse”; “The Olympics”; “Man in Red”; “The Hitman”)
Rhyme will be A-B-C-B In other words, second and forth lines rhyme. Others do not.

On a famous TV Channel, each of the four players enact a different broadcaster:- Headlines / Current Affairs / Sport / Entertainment. The facilitator occasionally switches channels and
the appropriate broadcaster immediately starts talking about their subject, maybe even midsentence.
The facilitator must make it very clear which channel he/she is switching to.

(c) OPERA (4 – 6) (Title given. Example: “Hiking in Peru”; “Rain at Last”)
Players act normal, but on director’s instruction, they are asked to sing in opera style about the point they are now making. Sing for 30 seconds only, then back to dialogue.

(c) RAP SCENE (2) P/D
2 people verbalise using rap music in time to the rap.
They have 4 lines each. Dancing is encouraged.
Player 1 starts by saying 4 lines, in time to the beat, with the rhyming sequence ABCB.
Player 2 then responds by saying 4 lines, with the same rhyming sequence, ABCB.
This goes back and forth for a few rounds until the scene reaches a conclusion.

Two players having a conversation in rhyme. Each makes 2 short statements.
Player #1 makes a single statement (just to start).
Player #2 makes a statement rhyming with the 2nd line from player #1.
Player #2 then makes another statement – anything.
Player #1 makes a statement rhyming with the 2nd line from player #1.
Player #1 then makes another statement – anything.
Player #2 makes a statement rhyming with the 2nd line from player #1.
Player #2 then makes another statement – anything.
And so it goes on until an appropriate ending is reached.
Similar to “ Rhyme with Rhyme” but the player, when instructed, has to repeat their last sentence and change the last word rhyming with their previous last word. Example: “Last week I went to the zoo”. Instructed to change. “Last week I went to the loo”.
The next player responds.

(c) TWO LINES EACH (3) P/D About 20 statements are supplied in a hat – see below.
Two of the players each choose 2 statements from a hat, but do not read them yet.
Whenever they speak, they can only state either of their 2 preselected statements, once only. The third player is normal and, within dialogue, tries to answer or fit in with the previous
player’s statement.
Example: Let’s say player #1 chose the following statements: “Is that the position you prefer to take?” and “I would definitely have to agree with that”
Example: Let’s say player #2 chose the following statements: “If you only knew the repercussions of that ” and “Well that came out of left field”
Now, if the story were going along and the 3rd player said “The car has broken down and we will need a mechanic”, the 2nd player might say “If you only knew the repercussions of that ”. The
3rd player has to respond, so he might say: ”Well at least we’ll get to our destination.”
Game ends when players #1 and #2 have said their two statements. Player #3 must end the story.

Frankly I don’t know why I am here / I think you had better leave that alone / Well that came out of left field /Backing off is not necessarily a cowardly thing / There is a time limit to this type of thing/ I implied that but you know what I mean / Would you mind helping me out with that? /Are you sure that is the only way to do it? / The methodology is now completely different / I would definitely have to agree with that / I really enjoy doing it this way and that way / Nothing is something which is very meaningful / Can you say that again? / If you only knew the repercussions of that / What you don’t know you don’t know / Is that the position you prefer to take? / Well that brings me to my knees

(c) TYPEWRITER STORY (1 + 3) P/D (4 -5 min)

Image of a typewriter

Image provided by author

This is a bit like someone telling a story with 3 people acting out the parts.
Player #1 sits in the floor with an imaginary old-style typewriter in front of him/her. They start the story (pretending to type) by voicing the scene to a certain point. After that the other
players start to act it out.
The typewriter person, Player #1, can at any stage interrupt and change the direction of the story. Players #2 and #3 then come back on stage.
The story will end when the typewriter player chooses the end.
Example: Player #1 starts: “It was a cold winter’s night when a siren could be heard in the distance. Michael grabbed Sarah’s hand assuring her that things would be OK.”
Player #2: “Don’t be afraid darling. The siren is probably the Red Brigade looking for us. After all, we have the secret plan which is so valuable.”
Player #3: “But what happens if they find us before Jacob dies?”
And so the story goes on . . .

(c) SINGING (3/4) P/D
Like POEM, but with music.
Title of song given (Ex: “Song of Rain”; “The Sunshine Melody”; “Love with Love”)
Rhyme will be A-B-C-B In other words, second and fourth line rhymes. Others do not.

(c) ENDOWMENT GAMES Very Challenging level
Games of ENDOWMENTS mean that one player does not know enough information about himself/herself and they learn that information from clues given by the other players.
Even if a player gets something partly correct, everybody gives a small handclap. Here are a few endowment games . . .

In this game one player is endowed by 2 or 3 others as (a) A character or person (Pinocchio; Davy Crockett; The Queen; Donald Trump; Robinson Crusoe; Santa Clause; Little Red
Riding Hood; etc); Where they are right now (On an island; in a castle; on a prison farm; at the Grammy Awards; in a court room; at Club Med; at a beauty pageant; in jail) and What is
unusual about them (Has 2 noses; missing an ear; foot is in plaster; is blind; has the hiccups; smells terrible; head is back-to-front).
A scenario could be welcoming the player and starting dialogue including giving clues. Examples: “Have you been eating garlic?” – “Why are you limping?” – “What’s with the big

The applicant has applied for a job, but does not know what the job it is. The 3 players interviewing the applicant can ask questions which would become clues. Examples: “Are you
afraid of heights?” – “What experience have you had in working with animals?” – “How many languages do you speak?”
The applicant player can ask obvious questions as well. Example “What are the hours, wages, overtime?”

Player #1 has done something amazing. Really amazing! But they don’t know what it is. Example: Became the first person to ever fly, using just their hands, and flying backwards; or
the first person with four hands and able to play guitar, piano and mouth organ at the same time; or able to scream so loud that people in neighbouring countries can hear them.
They are now being interviewed by the media.
Media asks one question at a time (Example “Did you feel outrage at the time”; Do you have any regrets for what happened?”; How do you justify the ramifications since the discovery?”
“Do you now feel superior?”)
Don’t forget a small hand clap when Player #1 is in the right direction.

This game consists of a mother, father and teenage child who went on a date.
The child player goes to the next door room, or behind a tree, and cannot hear what is being said. The audience chooses (a) where the teenager went on the date; (b) which famous
person they were with on the date; and (c) how they got home.
The parents, quite upset with their child, want some answers . . . . Example: “This person whom you went with, how long have you known them and did they feed you?”; The place
that you went to – was there lots of water, because I know that you cannot swim?”

This game consists of a mother, father and teenage child who is overseas.
The child player goes to the next door room, or behind a tree, and cannot hear what is being said. The audience decides what dangerous or weird thing it is that the child has
done while overseas.
The game commences when the parents receive a phone call about their child who has done something wrong and the parents are now mad / worried.
The parents phone the child asking questions about what the child did. From the questions and hints the child needs to find out what they did.
When they find out, the child needs to tell the parents how they will rectify the problem.

NOTE: Some of the Endowment games can have another element to them when safe: This is called EXPERT DOUBLE FIGURES. This is where each of the players has their
hands in their pockets while an extra player, behind them, has their arms from behind, taking the place of the other players arms. This extra person cannot speak, but they can make arm
movements in line with the dialogue. Example: If the dialogue is about eating, they could move their hands towards the speaker’s mouth; If the dialogue is about coming first in a
race, they could raise their arm in the air as a winner would.

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I sincerely hope that you enjoy these games. And I hope that you look at making up some of your own games as well.

If you get stuck with any of these games, contact me on my email address below. When you write to me, please include a phone number where I can call you back. Please don’t be shy – if you need a hand, email me and I will get back to you ASAP.

Please remember to follow the rules to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic. No touching another person. Keep a safe distance. Wash your hands. Cough safely.
PS Special thanks to Valerie Nadisic, Conrad Gillard, Adam Baliva and Steven Fernandez for their help.

BTW my email address refers to my work with refugees, both in and out of detention. I have also taught them Theatre Games during my 20+ years of doing this.
The Website and Facebook Page below will give you more information.

Again, I hope the games give you a lift!

And feel free to pass this information on to anyone. This is a free service.

Best regards

Philip Feinstein
P.O. Box 1000
Bondi Junction NSW 1355
EMAIL: [email protected]
FACEBOOK: Music for Refugees

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