By Kareen King
(Events and Births adapted from Wikipedia)
1. 1328 – Joan of Kent, known in history as “The Fair Maid of Kent” and who was called by French chronicler Jean Froissart “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving”, was born (d. 1385).
a. Using Froissart’s words as a template, make unique declarations about your residents. For example, “Arlene – the cleverest woman of Brookside,” or “Jim – the most patriotic man of Brookside.”
b. Have improv volunteers act out their own version of “Snow White,” capitalizing on the magic mirror (“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”). For further ideas, look up Magic Mirror Snow White at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Mirror_%28Snow_White%29.
2. 1511 – Michael Servetus, Spanish theologian, physician, and cartographer was born (d. 1553).
a. Servetus was a polymath in that he was good at multiple things: mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, geography, anatomy, medicine, pharmacology, jurisprudence (the theory or philosophy of law), translation, poetry, and biblical studies. Ask who’s multi-talented.
b. Hold a boasting contest with some improv volunteers by determining who has the most talents or areas of expertise. Encourage outlandishness, aka one-upmanship improv.
3. 1518 - Jacopo Comin (“Tintoretto”), an Italian painter, was born (d. 1594).
a. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterized by its muscular figures and dramatic gestures.
b. Furioso!!!! Dramatic Artist Demonstration: Have an improv volunteer stand behind a large easel or dry erase board and pantomime sweeping artistic movements, flailing dry erase markers, etc. When, finished, have him turn the board or easel around to show his masterpiece.
4. 1571 - Michelangelo Merisi (Michele Angelo Merigi or Amerighi) da Caravaggio, or simply “Caravaggio”, an Italian painter was born (d. 1610).
a. Caravaggio vividly expressed crucial moments and scenes, often featuring violent struggles, torture and death. He worked rapidly, with live models, preferring to forego drawings and work directly onto the canvas. His work featured Tenebrism, ("dark, gloomy, and mysterious") where there are violent contrasts of light and dark.
b. Build upon the “furioso” painting demonstration by adding speed, dark music, and flickering lights.
5. 1640 - Antoine Coysevox, a French sculptor who at the age of seventeen produced a sculpture of considerable merit of the Madonna was born (d. 1720).
a. Invite improv volunteers to create several human sculptures either as a group or individually to the tune of Lady Madonna by Lennon-McCartney.
6. 1798 - The United States Department of War first established a regular army with the strength of several hundred men.
a. March while seated to the Official Song of the United States Army, The Army Goes Rolling Along (YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4i3jRe0yEY).
7. 1789 – The first United States Coungress adjourned. “Congress is the ‘heart and soul’ of our democracy.” – Lee H. Hamilton
a. Sing, sway, and/or dance to Heart and Soul by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser.
b. Invite a pianist to play the famous song and/or play the accompaniment and invite “players” to take turns improvising on the right hand. (YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8CSjDC18b0)
8. 1810 - Elizabeth Gaskell, English author of Mary Barton, Cranford, North and South, Wives and Daughters, and also a writer of ghost stories was born (d. 1865).
a. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of Victorian society, including the very poor. Do a “Status Walks” Improv:
i. Have improv volunteers walk across the space with various parts of their body leading (i.e. lead with the nose, the chin, the stomach, etc.). Have audience observe how these postures might affect their “status”.
ii. Tell ghost stories! (Note: Several of Gaskell’s ghost stories are public domain and can be located at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0605581h.html).
9. 1864 - Alexandra “Xie” Kitchen, English model and favorite photographic subject of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) was born (d. 1925).
a. The photographic works made by Kitchin and Carroll were often in tableau (a posed picturesque grouping of objects or people) form.
b. Improv Exercise – Tableaus
i. Have improv volunteers do quick “scenes,” then freeze. Take photos of each tableau.
10. 1864 – Miguel de Unamuno, Spanish philosopher and author of The Tragic Sense of Life and Abel Sanchez: the History of a Passion, a modern exploration of the Cain and Abel was born (d. 1936).
a. Creative Quote: “A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age; a man dies of ______________ (being a man).”
11. 1879 - Marius Jacob, a clever French burglar with a sharp sense of humor who was capable of great generosity toward his victims, was born (d. 1954).
a. Ask for a show of hands who has stolen at least once. Discuss why people steal. Then share the logic of Marius Jacob: “A liquor seller and the boss of a brothel enrich themselves, while a man of genius dies of poverty in a hospital bed. The baker who bakes bread doesn’t get any; the shoemaker who makes thousands of shoes shows his toes; the weaver who makes stocks of clothing doesn’t have any to cover himself with; the bricklayer who builds castles and palaces wants for air in a filthy hovel. Those who produce everything have nothing, and those who produce nothing have everything.” – Marius Jacob, from Why I Was a Burglar https://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/jacob-marius/why-burglar.htm.
12. 1881 - Ludwig von Mises, Austrian-American economist, sociologist and philosopher and author of his magnum opus, Human Action, was born (d. 1973).
a. Creative Quote: “The root of evil is not the construction of new, more dreaded weapons. It is _________________ (the spirit of conquest).” – Ludwig von Mises
b. A magnum opus is a large and important work of art, music, or literature, especially one regarded as the most important work of an artist or writer. Ask the residents to tell of one accomplishment of which they are most proud.
13. 1895 - Clarence Ashley, an American banjo player and singer was born (d. 1967).
a. When Clarence was very young, he was nicknamed "Tommy Tiddy Waddy" (after a nursery rhyme) by his grandfather Enoch, and thus became known to friends and acquaintances as 'Tom'. As he was raised by the parents of his mother, the name "McCurry" was dropped in favor of "Ashley".
b. Recite well known nursery rhymes as a group (Jack Sprat, Jack and Jill, Little Jack Horner, Old King Cole, Little Miss Muffet, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Little Boy Blue, etc.)
c. Nickname Partner Conversation
14. 1895 – Joseph Banks Rhine, an American botanist and parapsychologist known as J. B. Rhine, who founded parapsychology as a branch of psychology, was born (d. 1980).
a. Improv Exercise: “Dr. ESP” (Played like the improv game Dr. Know-it-All) Three players (this number can be varied), sit or stand beside each other. They are only allowed to speak one word at a time. Absurd questions, which can be asked by any of the participants or from a designated interviewer, may be asked since the multiple-headed doctor knows everything. The doctor should rephrase each question and should answer beginning with the same player and in the same order of players each time.
15. 1895 – Roscoe Turner, a record-breaking American aviator who was a three-time winner of the Thompson Trophy air race, and widely recognized by his flamboyant style and his pet lion named Gilmore, was born (d. 1970).
a. Creative Quote: “There is no excuse for an airplane unless it will ________________ (fly fast).” – Roscoe Turner (for fun, say it flamboyantly, and end with a “roar”)
16. 1897 – Herbert Agar, an American journalist and historian and winner of the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for his 1933 book The People's Choice, a critical look at the American presidency, was born (d. 1980).
a. Creative Quote: "The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which ___________ (men prefer not to hear)." – Herbert Agar
b. Discuss how you feel about the current President. Just kidding. J
17. 1899- László Bíró, a Hungarian inventor who invented the ballpoint pen, was born (d. 1985).
a. Creative Quote: “I always_______ (write) the same way. I always write with a yellow pad and a ballpoint pen in my hand.” – Woody Allen
b. Ask, “What’s the last thing you wrote with a ballpoint pen?” Or share writing experiences.
18. 1899 – Billy Butlin, the South African-English businessman who founded Butlins, a chain of large affordable holiday camps designed for ordinary British families in the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1980).
a. Billy Butlin's inspiration for his holiday camp empire came from an unhappy holiday on Barry Island in his youth, when he had been locked out of his bed and breakfast accommodation all day by his landlady which was normal practice at the time. Sing or watch YouTube performance of Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp), a novelty song by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch.
b. Reminiscence: Share camping stories.
19. 1901 –Enrico Fermi, an Italian-American physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1and who was dubbed "architect of the nuclear age” and the "architect of the atomic bomb", was born (d. 1954).
a. Creative Quote: “When asked what characteristics Nobel prize winning physicists had in common, Fermi said, “I cannot think of a single one, not even _____________(intelligence).”
b. Nobel Prize Quiz: Q: What are the five Nobel prizes? A: Chemistry, Physics, Physiology (Medicine), Literature, and Peace.
20. 1904 – Greer Carson, winner of the 1942 Academy Award for Best Actress in Mrs. Miniver and credited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest Oscar acceptance speech at five minutes and 30 seconds, prompting the Academy Awards acceptance speech time limit, was born (d. 1996).
a. Sing This is the Song that Never Ends and substitute the word “speech” for “song”.
21. 1907 - Gene Autry, an American “singing cowboy” and actor, and the only person to be awarded stars in all five categories on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for film, television, music, radio, and live performance, was born (d. 1998).
a. Sing Back in the Saddle Again – his signature song.
b. Have a Christmas sing-along with his memorable Christmas holiday songs, the first of which he wrote: Here Comes Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
22. 1908 – Eddie Tolan, the first non-Euro-American to receive the title of the "world's fastest human" after winning gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters events at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, was born (d. 1967).
a. Tell and/or act out the Aesop’s Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.
23. 1910 – Bill Boyd, an American singer and guitarist who recorded Wa Hoo and performed it with Bill Boyd's Cowboy Ramblers, was born (d. 1977).
“Oh, gimme a horse, a great big horse, And gimme a buckaroo,
And let me Wah Hoo! Wah Hoo! Wah Hoo!”
a. Improv Game: Invite “popcorn-style” expressions that start with “Gimme a ___________!” Then, the audience responds, “Wa Hoo!”
24. 1935 - Jerry Lee Lewis, American singer-songwriter and pianist was born.
a. V Dance to Jerry Lee Lewis’ Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Fire
b. Maracas to Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On (Or just shake your body and “play guitar”)
25. 1939 - Tommy Boyce, co-writer of (Theme From) the Monkees, was born (d.1994).
a. Diamond Dance to (Theme From) the Monkees
b. In the spirit of “Monkey See-Monkey Do” or “Simon Says,” either do Mirror Partners or make sounds and movements which should be mimicked by your audience.
26. 1936 – Hal Trosky, Jr., an American baseball player for the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox who batted left-handed and threw right-handed, was born (d. 2012).
a. Sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and insert your favorite team.
27. 1948 - Mark Farner, American singer-songwriter and guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad and Terry Knight and the Pack, was born.
a. Do a dance “train” to We’re an American Band.
28. 1948 – Bryant Gumbel, an American journalist was born.
a. Improv: Gibberish Journalism
Have an improv volunteer act as a journalist from a foreign country (have audience make up the name of the country). He is to provide late-breaking news, which you translate for the audience.
29. 1966 – The Chevrolet Camaro, originally named Panther, was introduced.
a. The Camaro is classified as a “pony car” and a “muscle car”. If possible, watch Dina Shore’s performance of See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet.
b. Creative Quote: Ask the participants to fill in the blank, “I’d like to see _________(name a favorite destination or person) in a Chevrolet Camaro.”
Photo below by Kareen King:
"Furioso!" played by Travis Beaty, a Registered Nurse who blesses the residents and staff at Wellsville Retirement Community with his playful spirit and improvisational talent, showcases his masterpiece. :)