Tag Archives: pre-show

Pre-Show Warm Up Chant


“Tarzan, swinging from a rubber band, crashed into a frying pan, ow that hurts. Now Tarzan has a tan, and I hope it doesn’t peel! (peel is said in a falsetto voice) like a banana (beat chest). Jane, flying in an aeroplane, swept up by a hurricane. Ow, that hurt. Now Jane has a pain, and Tarzan has a tan, and I hope it doesn’t peel! Like a banana!”


According to my informant, this chant is a repeat-after-me type of chant that’s used as a pre-show warm-up in school theatres. My informant says that there will be one or two leaders who will start the chant, and after every line, the rest of the cast in the theatrical production will loudly repeat after them. According to her, it’s been done before nearly every single show she’s ever been in, and is used to bring everyone’s energy levels up before the show officially starts. Alongside different inflections in the voice when one performs this chant, there are also some bodily movements done as well, including beating ones chest like a gorilla during following the like “like a banana.”

My Analysis

Being involved in theatre myself, I immediately recognized this pre-show chant when my informant brought it up in our interview. Immediately, I could remember all of the vocal inflections done in the chant, and how it really did bring everyone’s energy levels up in order to create a great show for the audience. My informant and I grew up together, but now live in very different places, and I thought it was immensely neat that theatrical productions all across the United States are utilizing this pre-show chant as a means to hype everybody up.

Improv Warm-up Rituals

“So in improv, because usually there’d be a lot of improv people, within shows, we would get together and, um, the girls would do something where they would just, like, talk about being womanly and then would do– they just go, “fem, fem, fem-prov” and it was femprov. Um, and then the guys would get together and we’d huddle together and this was, like, a big secret thing that no one knew what we did, but we’d go in, like, a corner, like, far away from everybody else and we’d, uh, start slowly, really slowly chant, we’d start chanting the words: “Gay, penis, sodomy, gay.” (LAUGHS) And we start really quiet. You go, “Gay, penis, sodomy, gay.” And you get bigger and bigger and bigger. Do you remember the ‘rape, kill, pillage, and burn?’ That they do here? It’s like that. You just get bigger and bigger and bigger in your circle and you run round and round and round and round and you just finish going “GAY, PENIS, SODOMY, GAY” just like running around. It was really weird but just a lot of warm-upy– like feel connected…

We’d also get all the improv people together and play something called “Golden Ball of Light” where—this would take forever—but, um, you stand in a circle and, um, you say, ‘Imagine that there is a golden ball of light starting at your toes and it’s working your way up. And now it’s into your feet. And there’s a golden ball of light and it’s covering all of your feet and everything’s, from your ankles up now,’ and you’d just work your way up… and once your body’s covered, which takes such a long time. Cause like, ‘Oh, it’s in your hair, it’s coming out of your hair…” And then the golden ball of light is—and everyone’s supposed to have their eyes closed just focusing on this golden ball of light—it comes up and it connects you to all the actors in this room, and now it’s going up it’s connecting to all the audience members and all that And it’s connecting you to anyone who’s ever been in a show before. And then just all of humanity. And now it’s, the golden ball of light, it’s up in the universe and you just feel it, you feel everyone’s presence, you feel everyone. And then you take a deep breath. So its just… it’s one of those things, ya know.”

My informant remembered quite a few rituals that were done in theatre at his high school. He enjoyed remembering all the details about somethings he hasn’t done it quite awhile and said that discussing them made him very nostalgic. Theatre games and warm-ups are done almost always when performing. Not only is it beneficial for cast energy, it is also a way for the cast to bond together.

High School Pre-Show Ritual

Maddy Heyman

Los Angeles, California

April 24, 2012

Folklore Type: Ritual

Informant Bio: Maddy Heyman is one of my apartment mates and good friends. She is a twenty year old Sophomore and double major in Theatre and Narrative Studies at The University of Southern California. She is from St. Paul, Minnesota and has lived there her whole life. Maddy is a very active member of her theatre community back in St. Paul. She also has acted and directed shows at USC. Although she is thriving in college despite tearing her meniscus and finding out she has mild Crohn’s disease, she is very attached to her home, family, friends, and Theatre community in St. Paul.

Context: Maddy and I were in our dimly lit apartment late in the night around midnight when I asked her to share some theatre folklore knowing she is a Theatre major. She had just closed a show the previous weekend.



M: There is a super secret pre-show ritual at my high school that no one is allowed to talk about, but now that I’m graduated I can. So we would all gather in a choir room behind the stage in the hallway area. It would be fifteen minutes before the show. One thing we did was the bugaloo, and that was pretty normal (sings) let me see you bugaloo. There was traditionally a leader of the bugaloo. They would be the leader for the whole year. It was passed through, well we had these testaments in the paper at the end of the year, and the leader would be named that way. So we would do the bugaloo and people would do ridiculous ones like let me see you fry like bacon. Or we would do things that make fun of the show. The next one would be ride my pony which was pretty basic. You know, ride, ride my pony and then we would ride our ponies around the room. And then after that we would scope. We would get a bottle of Scope and some Dixie Cups. We would pour the Scope, and we had a phrase. We would say, “Scope that shit up, mothafucka what? Scope that shit up, mothafucka what?” continuously until all people have Scope. The order people got Scope and got to count down would be different every night, some nights would be seniors, or all the girls first, or all the chorus leads. When we Scoped we had to swish it in your mouth as long as everyone counted down from ten. And then right after you’d just go and do the show. Well except on the last night. We would get together early, turn off the lights, and light a bunch of candles on the piano ‘cause we were really safe. Then each senior gives a little speech about their experiences and advice for the uh, the whatever we call younger people in high school that I can’t remember anymore.

A: Underclassmen?

M: Yes (sweeping hand gesture) underclassmen. Then we’d do the bugaloo and everything. And that is the Central High School pre-show ritual. And if anyone knew I’d shared that with you,

A: You would be murdered?

M: An’ you’d be murdered. It’s cool to see each place’s pre-show rituals.


Informant’s Analysis: (The following interaction applied to her analysis and why the ritual was important to her)

A: Why is this one ritual in particular important to you?

M: Just ‘cause this was the most long-standing tradition I’ve experienced. They have always been a part of the ritual for as long as people can remember, and like no one knows how they started. We do it for every single show, every single year (hand chop down). Especially since at SC each pre-show ritual depends on the show so they’re different. I also just think the fact that all shows have pre-show rituals is interesting.


Analysis: Maddy has a serious attachment to her home and life in St. Paul as well as her childhood. She has a tattoo of Alice from Alice in Wonderland because of that attachment. This particular ritual is most likely important to Maddy because it connects a large part of her childhood home life to her passion and career choice. Remembering these experiences allows her to reminisce when she is having a hard time being away from home especially with all of the stressful physical issues she has had to face while adjusting to living away from St. Paul for the first time. This memory also keeps her spirit and passion going when the Theatre world is less than kind as it is known to be. The ritual itself like many things in the Theatre world was probably developed from personal experiences and inside jokes of various casts over time. Although Maddy claims the ritual has not changed over the years, it has probably been adapted slightly from cast to cast. The bugaloo is one version of several Theatre games actors use to warm up. It combines rhythm and improvisation. Ride my pony is also a Theatre game that is energizing and loosens nerves. The Scope ritual appears to be a combination of hazing and was probably an incident that turned into an inside joke for one of the casts that started this pre-show ritual. The seniors sharing their experiences by candlelight on the last evening of the show is a fairly common occurrence with most show casts. The cast of a show is a lot like a family because there are people that love each other and people that hate each other, but everyone has to interact and work together or the show will fail. Theatre people are also generally more flamboyant and in tune with feelings because they have to express them on stage in front of people, so a final sharing of knowledge and memories is a way to feel like a collective family for the last time before the mandatory time together are over. This is especially true for high school seniors because they are about to or have entered into a giant transition in their lives out of childhood and into an interim phase of college before true adulthood. This ritual is a way to create a collective memory and connection as well as relax before a performance.


Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012