My Three Rules – a pattern warm-up

MY THREE RULES – Everyone in a circle.  Here are my three rules.

  • Rule #1: To pass to your right or left, you turn to that person and say their name.
  • Rule #2: To return the pass right back to the person who just spoke to you, say YOUR name.
  • Rule #3: To pass to any player other than the players on your direct left or right, you lock eyes with that person and – in a character voice – say their name.

Have a player start with one of the rules. Guaranteed, the first time they play, they’ll use “my rules” but will not be thinking at all about establishing any rules for when to deploy each move.

  • “What determined whether, when it got to you, you kept it going in the same direction, changed direction or passed it across the circle?” “I don’t know.”
  • “What happened to make someone decide to change the direction?” “I don’t know.”

They will also confuse the rules – trying to reverse the pass by saying the name of the person who passed to them.

  • There are no mistakes but that which we acknowledge as mistakes – what ever happened is the right thing to have happened; make it look good (and “right”) by making it happen again.

Have them play again, mindful now of tracking what happened so they can do it again.

  • First time it’s random
  • Second time it’s purposeful
  • Third time it’s expected

We establish “rules” in retrospect: If this happens then this happens. Rules help use react Pavlovian-ly through our games/scenes; making us compelled to do what’s next instead of having us think up something new to make happen next.

  • Triggers: When do you reverse the pass? Well, the first time Bob reversed it he did it “just because,” but we were paying attention and saw that the pass had gone to the right three times before Bob, so now, looking to make the rule purposeful, after three times to the right, we are triggered to reverse the pattern.
  • Caps: When do you stop passing in a character voice across the circle? Well, the first time we used character voices to pass across the circle it ended when we made “Gerald” into “Geraldine” in a cowboy voice, so to show the group we’re done passing it across the circle and ready to move onto another move we should use a cowboy voice and add “-ine” to whichever name.

Our rules are not confining – “tools” not rules.  Let them evolve. Understand everyone is playing by the rules in their own head but if we all commit to following and seeking to simplifying (with agreement) and clarify (with repetition) then the process of continuous following (like Kick the Duck Red Rover) will organically heighten.

It doesn’t have to be played that tight.  And it won’t possibly be the first few times through, and likely won’t ever. While you can end the warm-up without them doing this activity great, rather than make them feel like they failed, focus on:

  • It’s a concentration warm-up – It’s purposefully a tough activity to get us concentrating.
  • What’s important is that each person is trying to make each other’s moves matter – Everyone’s playing by rules in their own head, and if everyone’s concentrated on working to establish and clarify rules, then it’s possible for the group to be playing by similar (if not the same) rules and then suddenly the game is fun for all involved.

Variation –

Ronin (AKA – Dukes of Hazzard; but while I still have a soft spot for Bo, Luke and Daisy,..fuck the Confederate flag. Ronin is the first movie I noticed that didn’t play music of (some of) its car chases): Players stand in a circle and are given three Rules. Rule #1: To pass the focus to the left or right around the circle, a player waves his arms in the direction of an adjacent player and says, “Woosh.” Rule #2: To reverse the direction of the focus’ motion, a player receiving a “Woosh” can cross her arms and say, “Rrrrrt” (brake noise). Rule #3: To pass the focus to anyone other than an adjacent player, a player arches an arm and points at another player while making the sound of car hitting a ramp and landing, “Bum, bum.”
Have players just start playing with the three rules. Then stop them and ask something like, “When do you pass the focus across the circle?” They won’t have been playing by any rules.  They will have employed moves “When we felt like it.”  Have them start again fresh, this time focused on establishing rules of cause and effect that determine when to use moves.  The first time a move is used it might be random, but if players are paying attention to what happened before and after that random occurrence then they can seek to recreate that sequence and make the random purposeful, then expected.  As players seek to recreate sequences it will certainly evolve as individually conceived rules are clarified, and the whole set of sequences heightens through attempts at repetition.
“Woosh,” “Woosh,” “Woosh,” “Rrrrrt,” “Woosh,” “Woosh,” “Woosh,” “Rrrrrt,” “Woosh,” “Woosh,” “Rrrrrt,” “Woosh,” “Woosh,” “Rrrrrt,” “Woosh,” “Rrrrrt,” “Woosh,” “Rrrrrt,” “Bum-bum.”
It doesn’t have to be played that tight.  And it won’t possibly be the first few times through. But if everyone’s concentrated on working to establish and clarify rules, then it’s possible for the group to be playing by similar (if not the same) rules and then suddenly the game is fun for all involved.
•  Playing is following. As kids we made up silly games in-the-moment. We did that because we followed our friends impulses and our friends followed ours. We just focused outward on fun and weren’t in our heads judging. Your pre-puberty, non-judgmental selves are still accessible.  Follow the fun to find him or her.  Play with a “Me, too” mentality not a “Nuh, uh” mindset.
•  Fold it all in.  Just because you thought the game was to pass across the circle three times doesn’t mean you can give up trying to play along with the group the moment something didn’t work out as you expected.  Remember, there are no mistakes.  If everyone is committed to clarifying, then we will get on the same page.
•  Trust the pattern – don’t over-complicate. The sooner everyone is on the same page, the sooner we can heighten and evolve collaboratively.  Playing this game, a group starts to have fun with very simple mechanics simply because they know how to play and can just play.  We tend to over-complicate unnecessarily.  And then we end up in our heads trying to figure out how to navigate all our complications.  Keep it simple and have fun with it.

2 thoughts on “My Three Rules – a pattern warm-up

  1. Pingback: SWOT #13 – Crafting Beautiful Trajectories | Improv As Improv Does Best

  2. Pingback: SWOT #12 – Capping Patterns | Improv As Improv Does Best

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.