Group Mind class

Objective: The aim of group game work is to establish a pattern as a group and heighten in a unified direction.  For the group to be successful, individuals need to be focused outward on all that others are contributing and committed to serving the group’s progression with their own contributions.

1.0  Introduction: Introduce the class and yourself

Suggested Exercises:

CRAZY EIGHTS – Together (teacher included) everyone shakes out their limbs – right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg – in descending counts starting at 8 each and ending with 1 each.

NAME THUMPER – Going around the circle, each person (teacher included) associates their name with an action.  Go around once more so everyone knows everyone else’s name and action.  Then play progresses with an individual doing their name/action and then another person’s name/action; that person then does their name/action and then another person’s name/action; etc.


1.1  Concentration: A lot can get lost on a crowded improv stage.  We have to commit to ensuring we HEAR and ARE HEARD – listen and project. 

Suggested Exercises:

CIRCLE OF SEQUENCES – A player points at another and says any word.  That player points at another player and says another word inspired by the first.  This continues until every player says a word and points to another player, with the final player to contribute pointing back to the first player to contribute.  This is Sequence One; repeat it continuously until the group is comfortable with it.  Establish a Sequence Two the same way, and then a Sequence Three.  When players are comfortable with each Sequence individually, tell them that they now will be keeping them all going at once.  Start with Sequence One and then tap the player starting Sequence Two on the shoulder, then tap the player starting Sequence Three on the shoulder.
•  Focus outward – can’t be in your head freaking out; have to be ready and waiting for your turn
•  Be sure you’re heard – enunciate, make eye contact, and pointing helps
•  Each individual is 100% responsible for the success of the group – if a sequence is dropped, even if you didn’t drop it, pick it up
•  Names – Make Sequence One “Your Name” and Sequence Three “Their Name” to add to potential confusion so as to force increased concentration

1.2  Focus Outward: There is a ton of material for us to mine in our improv if we are committed to seeing it, hearing it and embracing it.  We don’t need to be in our heads worried about making something happen once we learn how we can follow what’s already happening to a collaborative end. 

Suggested Exercises:

ACTION PASS – In a circle, a player turns to his left and executes an action, any action.  The next player observes that action and attempts to recreate it EXACTLY in turning to the player to their left.
•  Do it once through.  Then immediately have them do it again focused on slowing down and really noticing all the nuances of a player’s action and working to repeat the action exactly.
•  Call out people that are in their head and not focused outward
•  Call attention to what makes them laugh – straight repetition, embracing something “accidental”
•  Call out when someone tries to force the evolution for a laugh – this will happen after they get comfortable with a few “successes” under their belts
•  See head to toe – take the time to really see all that players are giving you; Where are their toes pointed?  How are their shoulders’ squared?  What face are they making?
•  See more than you’re given – the things a player does subconsciously or accidently should be noticed and repeated; What did they do before and after the action?
•  There are no mistakes/There is no “right” – there is only “what has happened” and “what’s happening now.”
•  Repetition is heightening – we don’t need to create unrelated information when there is already material at play to mine.  Collaborative evolution is a fun enough; don’t force difference for difference’s sake.

1.3 Group Mind: Having Group Mind is about immediate, enthusiastic acceptance.  You need to show your fellow players that you respect and love their ideas, and trust that you can make a bold move and have your group respect and love it.  “I trust you – I’m going to follow your ideas whatever they are, wherever they go, and I’m going to launch into my ideas and trust that you’ll follow me.”  It is, however, not up to the group to earn this trust.  You must surrender to the group.  Give it your trust.  Only then will the group get anywhere.

Suggested Exercises:

I AM SUPERMAN – Everyone stands in a circle.  One at a time, each player will enter the circle, say “I am [NAME] and for the next 30 seconds, I am Superman” at which point the teacher will start a timer and the player does whatever they want until the time is up at which point everyone claps and the next player takes the circle.  Players around the circle are NOT to interact with the player in the center.  The player in the center should be encouraged to do something they’ve been told they need to do more of on stage.  Do mime.  Be emotional.  Stand still.  Doesn’t matter.
•  Surrender to your group – let go of ego, let your team know that you’re ready and willing to commit to being awkward in front of them.
•  You don’t need anyone – you can be on stage alone for 30 seconds or for five minutes.  Commit to yourself.  Don’t rely on meeting your scene partner center stage before the scene starts.  You can be alone.
•  It sucks to be alone – don’t let your fellow players suffer on stage alone.  Get out there and support each other.

MIRRORING INTO BUZBY BURKLEY – everyone must commit to following and looking idiotic together.  Get them to let go, trust each other and the teacher.  Start everyone in paired lines, facing off as if looking into a mirror at one another.  Have them start mirroring each other – head to toe, leading by following, heightening subconscious contributions, etc. – and have them keep going as you give more instructions.
•  Start with mirrored pairs
•  Allow people to move closer and farther apart
•  Allow people to move left and right, overlapping other mirrored pairs
•  Allow people to switch the player they’re mirroring, making and breaking different groups
•  Build to everyone moving around the room, switching mirroring, coming together, breaking apart – committing to following the crazy
•  If everyone is “doing it” then no one looks dumb “doing it” – but the moment it becomes apparent that someone in the group is not committed then the audience doubts the entire endeavor.
•  When you are “playing” others want to play with you – if you’re having fun and committing the audience will follow you no matter how silly you look
•  That is the weirdest thing I’ll ever have you do – thank them for just doing what you asked them to without judgment; encourage them to remain that trusting throughout class

1.5  Simplifying and Clarifying: The sooner everyone is on the same page, the sooner we can heighten and evolve collaboratively.  Our main tool of simplification is Agreement – the more players that mirror/agree, the less different stuff there is on stage to negotiate. 

The more people you’re playing with the clearer you have to be.  Our main tool of clarification is Repetition.  The first time something happens, it’s random; the second time is purposeful; the third time is expected. 

A group of people can take the stage and confidently navigate chaos by focusing outward, seeking symmetries, making differences matter and clarifying sequences of cause and effect through repetition. 

Suggested Exercises:

KICK THE DUCK, REDROVER – “On the count of three, everyone will be playing a game without words.  You will collaborate to establish focus and define the rules of your game.  One, two, three, go!”  This game starts with impossible chaos but becomes manageable and then successful as the teacher lays on instructions with each iteration and the group feels how to build collaboratively.
•  Someone will use gibberish to direct other players’ actions – Stop them and remind them to lead by following
•  Ask “How did the game start?”  They will tell you about the first move that was made.  Remind them that the game started when you said “go.”  Have them return to their positions and postures when you said “go.”  Ask them to focus outwardly on what is already there at that moment.
Seek Symmetries – Are you standing near someone?  Posed like someone?  If you seem like you could be aligned with someone, align yourself with them; do what they do.  This agreement fosters focus.
Empower Asymmetries – How do the different groupings relate?  Make the asymmetries that exist matter.  How does one group react to the other? What does one group do to another?
•  Have the group shake it off, walk around the room and then, when teacher says “go,” start a new game focused on Seeking Symmetries and Empowering Asymmetries.
•  Stop and ask them to walk you through what happened, with players explaining what they saw and what they did in response.  Tease out “When X happened, Y happened.”
•  “What rules were you playing by?”  We want players to observe cause-and-effect and seek to clarify the “rule” with repetition.  Make another X happen to make another Y happen.  If you see X happen again, make Y happen again.  Work to notice not only what is happening, but how what happens relates to what happened before.  And pay attention to what happens after.  Even if there is no inherent connection between the first set of moves, by working to repeat that sequence we begin to establish rules and clarify group direction.
Everyone is necessarily “playing by their own rules” – but if each individual is committed to simplifying and clarifying then a group direction will emerge.
•  If something is not clear, don’t ignore it or play it half-assed, make it clearer – by heightening it or otherwise clarifying the move.  If you’re lost, chances are the rest of the group is too.  Don’t wait for someone else to clarify what’s going on; take responsibility yourself.  The rest of the group will thank you.
•  “Can you go back and start this game over?”  When they’ve learned to seek symmetries, empower asymmetries, establish and repeat rules of cause and effect, it’s time to get them to Reset the Game Sequence.  Have them go back to their initial starting positions and try to do the same game again exactly.  It won’t be exact; it will evolve, but it will evolve organically because they are attempting to do it exactly.
If you’re ever lost, return to what was done before – engage a rule again.  Restart the sequence.  Going through a game again will build clarity and simplifies the amount of stuff in play.
•  After they have a great game, they are likely to have a game become super sloppy because they got too excited and stopped leading by following.
•  Trust the pattern – don’t overcomplicate. The sooner everyone is on the same page, the sooner we can heighten and evolve collaboratively.

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