“Silver.” “Eclipse.” “Model.”
Not a Word Association that would pass muster. How does the second move build on the first? How does the third Cement the pattern?
What’s the progression?
Word Association is – by name – defined by words. In learning how to collaboratively establish a thematic progression, practicing patterns with just words helps with focus; are we getting bigger, scarier, more pretentious, etc.?
But, as asserted and reasserted, in Improv As Improv Does Best we put more stock in our characters’ emotional reactions than in our words.
Here’s how “Silver,” “Eclipse” and “Model” connect through a pattern of emotional behavior –
In the first scene Alan looked though a jeweler’s loop at Silver with a marveled, “Oh, my.” In the second, Alan gazed through a telescope (a small telescope, mimed much like the loop) at an Eclipse with a ecstatic, “Oh, yes.” And in the third, he stared through a frame made of his forefingers and thumbs at a Model with a manic, “This is what I am taking about.”
I realize that the way I teach patterns can tie improvisers too tightly to their words which keeps them from discovering worlds.
Word Association is a wonderful tool in learning how to build collaborative patterns. The rubric games – To the Ether, Help Desk and Hey Everybody – all include a sensitivity to building patterns out of language. And frankly in a blog it’s easier to teach pattern work through language patterns.
But neither Offering, Setting, nor Cementing need words. At the root of all improv must be our commitment to FEELING about imagined stimuli in-the-moment.
And so opening our focus to allow for WORLD building, and trusting our word building to our lizard brains, we make bigger choices that still cling together.
Putting less focus on the Words gets empowers us to make bigger leaps in the Details – Silver, Eclipse, Model – and the “fun” becomes heightening characters’ emotional behavior – more ogling through different lens.
Similarly, a player joining with a Tertiary Move or Subsequent Beat should focus on thinking, “How can I trigger that player to react more” instead of “What Detail is needed for this word pattern.”
In sum –
- Word Association is awesome; feeling trapped with just one lever to pull sucks.
- Learn rigidly to play loosely.
- Remember that pattern work gives us tools not rules.
- Your emotional reactions are more important than anything you see through that lens.
- Explore the World of Details beyond Words.
- And remember that time Dumb Dumb looked directly at the eclipse?