Crystal Ball – an exercise in present and future improvisation

Purpose of the activity

This is a lovely game for exploring the role of “visioning” and “futuring” in improvisation. When is knowing or deciding the future a help or a hindrance?


Start with a group of five, with everyone else watching.

Decide a scene to be played out. For example, a picnic.

Choose someone to be crystal ball gazer (can be fun if you play this with a real crystal ball – a football or goldfish bowl will do!

At any point during the scene, a member of the audience can shout “Crystal ball!” at which point the crystal ball gazer gazes into the future and announces what will happen in the scene and how soon into the future. For example:

“In three minutes time there will be a loud explosion and someone will get blown up!”
“In one minute two of you will fall in love”
“in one minute someone will reveal a dark secret”

The group then play out the scene, making the prediction come true! Until it does come true, no other predictions can be made (though you can vary this adding as many as you wish, overlapping with each other, but this becomes a different exercise.

The skill is to weave the new future into the present, without losing the playful spontaneity of what is unfolding in the “now”. This is easier if there is shared vision, or inspirational leadership, or if the crystal ball gazer creates desirable futures! But how do we deal with less desirable futures? Plenty to reflect on after this exercise!


Discussion questions:

– does knowing the future help or hinder the improvisation/story
– what kind of futuring is useful and what limits us?
– how does being present get helped/hindered by being told or deciding the future?
– how do future and present relate?