Tag Archives: theatre warm-ups

Circle — A High School Theater Ritual

Main Piece: 

Before every show we always had this thing called Circle, and the purpose of Circle was to kind of like, get you hyped up and get your nerves out, and kind of keep you from being shy or feeling stage fright by doing silly, silly things, and seeing people do silly things. And the whole tradition of Circle is that you chant, “Oooh, I feel so good like! I knew I would! Oooh I feel so good!” And you would just continually chant that while clapping to a certain beat until someone went into the circle and would be like, “Like [something now]”  and everyone would just mimic them no matter what it was. It could’ve been something that had been done every year before them; that’s like a very simple one, like “Like a chair now!” And you do a squat [laughing] and, y’know, you do a squat and then you continue the chant. Or, you could make one up every single time. I remember [a classmate] once went in the circle and went like “Like a parabola!” and literally did a backwards handstand and bent over backwards. And it was crazy, and people started doing it all the time after that even if he wasn’t at [the high school] anymore at the time. That was a fun one that, like, caught on. 


My informant is one of my friends from high school, and was very involved in our school’s theater department. Circle was one of the most consistent rituals prior to every show, no matter if it was opening or closing night, and the chant from the piece was one of the most popular and well known. When I asked my informant what the tradition meant to him, he said it was about “being vulnerable and bonding with other people, especially if it’s your first show and you’re nervous.” Seeing people perform silly antics removed the fear of embarrassment and let everyone come together to prepare for a great performance while also feeling supported by those around you.


This came up when my informant and I were trying to remember traditions that happened in our theater department during high school. While I was involved in a few shows, my friend had more experience than I did and was able to remind me of a ritual that the department participated in before every single play or musical show. 


In this ritual, we can observe that the purpose is to create an energetic atmosphere where the cast and crew could get excited for the show; in a way, this ritual is meant to bring good luck to them and alleviate tension. We can also observe that there’s an expectation for what to do during the chant, but not only that, there’s a myriad of variations to the chant that have been made up by people from past generations of the theater department. I also liked that my informant gave the example of “Like a parabola now!” because it shows that Circles functions not only as a stress reliever before a show, but an opportunity for a theater kid to leave a legacy behind, as seen by the fact that our past classmate’s variation is still performed even if he no longer goes to the school. Additionally, we see the multiplicity and variation in the different chants that are performed at each Circle, and know that some will die out and be replaced with others depending on how popular the chant becomes. 

Riding the Pony

“One of them, our biggest one, was called ‘Riding the Pony’ and you might’ve, I might’ve told you about this before, or something, or you might… other people do it too. Yeah, it’s a bunch of people standing in a circle and then people will go in the middle, like 5 or 6 people will go in the middle, and then everyone goes: ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony.’ And under that, while that’s happening you’ll, the people in the middle, will run around the circle and then they’ll find someone, so it’ll go: ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony.’ You go ‘front, front, front’ and then you go, ‘side, side, side’ and ‘back, back, back’ on them and then you say, ‘This is how we do it.’ And you switch and then new people come in and do it so it’s just, like ‘C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. C’mon baby let’s ride that pony. Front, front, front. Side, side, side. Back, back, back.’ Switch. And you do it. And you just do it a million times, um, and it’s really fun ‘cuz when you’re doing the ‘front, front, front’ part, people are, like, grinding up on each other and stuff. And in the back you’re, like, hitting your butts on each other and just pushing each other out of the circle. So that’s a huge, like, energy thing for us that we would do.”

My informant was very involved in the theatre program at his high school, Dos Pueblos High School, in Santa Barbara, CA. This was a game that the casts of shows he performed in would play before a performance. It was a fun thing to do, but also a good warm-up to increase energy before a performance. My informant enjoyed telling this story and he laughed about it a lot.

Good Show Candle

My informant told me of a ritual that she used to do at her high school theatre.  Before a performance, everyone involved in the production would stand around a candle, a “good show candle” as she called it.  They would light the candle and all stand around it with their hands crossed right over left, and they would hold the hands of the people next to them.  Each person would take a turn to tell stories or say good things about their fellow actors and techies.  This would go on for about 10 or 15 minutes before the show starts.  At the end of this, one person would squeeze the hand of the person on your left, and then that person would squeeze the hand of the person on their left, and so on.  And once it had gotten back to the person who started it, everyone would throw their hands into the air and as they did they would all say “Goooooooooooooooooood showwwwwwwwwwwww!” and then twirl around and face the outside of the circle, and then everyone would be ready to go.

 According to my informant, this ritual is performed at other theatres as well.