I taught my first Patterns & Games class through Zoom.
I had been nervous going into it assuming I’d have to tweak my teaching materials significantly to work within this new world. But as I learned when approaching Silent Games, the mechanics of collaborative pattern play are applicable however Group Games are attempted.
Need proof? Check out the class’ showcase –
Everything you’d hope to see in an in-person 301: Patterns & Games class showcase was there. “One Person” Agreement. To The Ether Progressions. Help Desk Pivots & Split Screens. Hey Everybody variations. And of course good old Organic Play.
Yes, staging is confined by players being seen and heard through their cameras – though how fun was the run through the jungle, the fall into quicksand and the ants appearing beneath the peons.
Yes, mime work for the most part gets tossed as it’s harder to extend belief in imagined objects when you’re looking into players’ living spaces – though pretending to exchange goods Breaking-the-Plane style works.
Yes, entrances, exits and edits all get messier. The showcase above was edited together from the class’ final sessions. None of the content was edited – it’s all improvised – but I did clean up the edges. BUT in the third scene it’s a joy to see the group embrace a superfluous entry, build a pattern out of it and connect it to Molly’s “point of order” game. AND the messiness at the end during the Store, Judge, God run of “Attention, Attention” scenes IS PART of the fun. Next time I’ll trust the group to perform a live showcase.
And next time I won’t worry so much about ensuring students’ virtual learning experience is not second-rate when compared to in-person learning. I spent too much time in early classes with PowerPoint slides up when students could have been playing.
The play is the same; and that’s what matters.
And it’s important to foster that sense of “play.” This is heady material for a lot of folks. A Zoom environment makes it too easy to hide on the wings. The ensemble needs its individuals to be willing to get out and try in order to learn. With practice our lizard brains wake up and we start following patterns without conscience thought, being able to focus our creativity on the content fulfilling the pattern’s promise.
As such, I strove to focus on positive encouragement over too much critique. Though I still talked too much, I wanted to ensure players had more time to learn from doing than through my lectures. Better to applaud a “failed” effort as an attempt than to over-talk how they might’ve preferably oriented a scene they’ll never do again.
If you’re going to Side Coach, be sure whatever you said is “Do” statement – not a “don’t” statement – ideally one that clearly dictates a course of action – so the coached player can move forward with a choice without much if any deliberation.
In giving notes after a game or run, focus on instructions that will make their next scene better. Root coached players on how a moment from example scene made them feel – suboptimal or optimal – to help them internalize the inclination toward more optimal outcomes. All notes are positively focused on the potential for the next attempt. That lizard brain – the basis for how babies and dogs learn – if you encourage it, you inform the “right” path forward; smack down a choice as “wrong” and you’ve only told them where not to go, paralyzing them to make a subsequent choice out of fear of the “wrong.”
The teacher needs to be the class’ positive energy source.
Below are links highlighting work from class. Warm-ups to prepare. Didactic to explain. With side coaching and post-game notes sprinkled throughout. Interested? Follow the links below to key lessons.
- The 4 Key Lessons
- One Person Scenes
- To The Ether
- Help Desk
- Hey Everybody
- Organic Games
- The Class Showcase (this one)
I think I’ll continue to offer classes through Zoom even when it’s safe for us to play in the same space together. This past session I had students from Richmond, DC, Maryland, Colorado, California and even a student who attended at 5am local time in India to play with us!
Next session of virtual classes starts the week of January 17th, 2021. They’ll be posted to rvacomedy.com the week of December 14th, 2020. You can give someone else the gift of improv or take a class yourself as a New Years’ Resolution. Sign up for The Coalition Newsletter to be the first to know when classes are posted.