Return of the Pattern

It’s been a while since I posted. Got a new job. Got busy. Got so busy I had to miss Student Showcases, my most favorite of nights.

But I made it to the last Patterns & Games class showcase. Almost nothing in this world makes me happier than a good Patterns & Games class showcase.

And this one was good. And it was recorded.

And so… you get a new post! One with video examples and some thoughts on the lessons IAIDB’s rubric games teach. Enjoy!

The standard Patterns & Games class showcase has players first go through the rubrics: One Person, To the Ether, Help Desk, and Hey Everybody. Why?

It’s not (as some may think) to placate this guy’s ego – I swear.

For one, it sets up nice pacing and variance for a set. Everyone immediately on stage in united cacophony establishes quick energy. Then a progression built by a growing cast breeds concentration. Then a series of interactions shows off an ensemble’s character & relationship chops. Finally, everyone is on stage again with controlled chaos.

But most importantly, each of the rubrics involves a skill set that is valuable in the subsequent run of Organic Games. And exercising those muscles up front helps ensure they’re ready to be flexed as needed for the rest of the showcase.

The full show can be seen at the bottom of this post. Between here and there I pair each rubric scene with a subsequent Organic Game that could benefit from that rubric’s teachings.

The One Person Scene

Here is the first scene of the showcase. The key to the One Person Scene is immediate, enthusiastic Agreement. Someone shares a perspective and it becomes everyone’s perspective. The cast blows out the perspective with heightened Details and Emotion. Even better when that heightening gets in more abstract poignant territory – my board is my wingman, my board is my best friend. If someone changes the perspective, everyone gets on board with that new direction.

United, even a cast this size can accelerate quickly and turn on a dime. As an Opener, this type of One Person “scene” gets the audience on board for what’s to come – we aren’t trying to recreate a realistic moment in time, we are showing how individuals in an ensemble can accept and heighten ideas.

This Organic Game from later in the set could have benefited from even more Agreement up front. It’s near perfect in its One Person Approach – everyone is upset about the plan. But two things fight against players’ cohesion that wouldn’t have been issues had they been playing in the mindset of the One Person Scene, like they were in their Opener.

1) Because the Initiator is sitting while all subsequent players are walking, it becomes a Two Person Scene – him against the rest.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but because “the plan” itself is nebulous, and what we’re focusing on in this scene is players’ reactions to “the plan,” even though everyone seems to be in agreement that the plan was wrong, because there is an ONE v THEM dynamic in play, the contents of the plan demand more scrutiny.

2) When everyone’s in agreement, no one can be defensive and no one feels pressure to explain the scene. The moment the Two Person Scene – Seated against Walking – gets established, so then to did the importance of understanding what “the plan” was. We are in trouble as improvisers when we’re having to explain our plots as opposed to just living them consistently.

We started the scene with strong, united One Person perspective. Then we got tied into reacting to one another, instead of just heightening being upset, which brought more attention to the need for an explanation of “the plan.” Now, eventually a player comes on with a callback to explain the scene. He gets the laugh and the edit is earned.

BUT imagine this scene played more by One Person Scene teachings. Regardless of who’s sitting or standing, after the first Walker’s choice is made to Agree with the Initiator, then everyone jumps into “We’re all on the same page mode.” Regardless of stage position, just like in the Opener, everyone is essentially the same – everyone is upset with “the plan.” No one may have ever felt the need to explain the scene – in this instance a callback to taking the Lords’ Name In Vain – or force it to a close with the crucifixion. (These are callbacks if you watch the show from beginning to end.)

If EVERYONE is aligned in agreeing the plan is bad, then it’s the heightened Agreement – the progression of people bashing through the door – that heightens the scene, not the made-up “plan.”

Improvisers are quick to drop the imperative to agree. We react to each other’s contributions, making ourselves different, instead of just heightening those contributions. We create conflict. We feel the need to explain ourselves and our scenes. But there’s such power in Agreement, people! Do it even if you’re not in a One Person Scene when you feel you have to.

To the Ether

Here is the second scene of the showcase. In a To the Ether game, a progression is established through a progression of seemingly siloed players, and if necessary Restarts to explode that progression.

Here juicing progressively bigger fruits turns to juicing progressively bigger humans – kinda worthy of a split screen of 3 on 3, or a third tryptic of three juicers (juicing progressively bigger countries?). It needs the Restart and our Initiator brilliantly attempts to establish within his silo ideas that are ripe for heightening through the other siloed. But when the second player repeats verbatim the Initiator’s build it makes “sense” for the rest of the cast to stick that language. After all, Repetition Alone is Heightening. And when that repetition pattern is so well established then it totally works for Isabel at the end to flip the script and justify the human juicing with her last line. Totally works.

This Organic Game from later in the set could have benefited with more concentrated heightening of the progression.

Our Initiator from the earlier rubric, trying so hard in that game to set his fellow players up for success, goes a little rogue with what I think was an attempt to be too personally clever instead of serving the group.

We’d already seen one “free” contribution – maybe we got there too fast but we had arrived there. So instead of going with the perhaps-topical-but-pattern-jarring move of the free vaccine, to honor the pattern he could have moved into rebate territory (“Buy this and we’ll rebate your payment”). Then we could have a rebate plus a coupon, etcetera, etcetera. Instead the pattern stalls.

Now, the stick up move works because our central players choose to make it matter emotionally, flipping their reaction. The character-justified juxtaposition of being extremely grateful to be mugged is very funny.

But the concentrated progression has power, people! Don’t leave it behind in the showcase’s Rubric section.

Help Desk

Here is the third scene of the showcase. In a Help Desk game, power comes through the repetition and heightening of an interaction. First time it’s random – players are just playing and reacting. Second time it’s purposeful – and ideally, as in To the Ether, we’re setting up a progression. Third time it’s expected – and as long as we’re honoring our past with repeated Details and Heightening Progressions, the audience will reward any effort.

Here the lawnmower, to surgery, to comet-apocalypse progress clear stakes. While for sure certain dialogue gets dropped and slopped – as it does even with the best memories in play – enough is held onto and heightened that the audience’s applause is rapturous.

This Organic Game from later in the set could have benefited from honoring the sequence instead of beating the joke. We love walk-ons. When someone establishes a funny walk-on the desire to get in on it is palpable. Help Desk teaches us to be patient.

Sending in one walk-on directly on the heels of the one before it cheapens the moves power. The central players aren’t afforded the fun they’ve established with their dialogue.

Better for sure after a good walk-on to really let the pattern Reset. Then come on with your next walk-on when the preceding sequence of dialogue works up to it as it did the first time.

Honoring the full sequence of the interaction has power, people! Bam, bam, bam, can be funny. But Bam, wait for it, BAM, waaiit for it, BAM!!! will be funnier.

Hey Everybody

Here is the fourth scene of the showcase. Given the practiced structure of the showcase everyone knows, regardless of what happens at the beginning everyone is to get their ass on stage. They can do so confidently knowing, as Hey Everybody teaches, that we can all have different perspectives, but if we honor the Sequence of contributions then even the most disparate Silos are held together as one whole.

Here we are at a DMV. And while everyone honors the location, there are a wealth of roles and perspectives in play quickly. The joy in Hey Everybody comes out of the controlled chaos, players aren’t panicking, everyone has a role, and the audience settles in. With so much at play but with everyone honoring their place in the whole and their own individual role, there emerge myriad opportunities for a satisfying edit. Here it’s Isabel who alone has spent her time in the DMV reading the bible. The well-timed return to her well-established character earns that edit.

It also warrants a very funny almost-blackout later when her bible reader confers with her partner beneath a full size, and maybe sentient Jesus on the cross. (This is, of course, what inspires the other callback noted in the One Person scene stuff above.)

This Organic Game scene could have benefited from some control in its chaos.

In the end, it’s very funny and really succeeds on it’s To the Ether progression: Skate park today, roller rink yesterday, and hover board park tomorrow. But attention to the Sequence and Silos would have sharpened its impact.

If you think of the Cut To moves as part of the sequence (kinda Help Desk style) attention to the sequence of moves would help this chaotic scene with a killer button become more controlled and even more impactful.

With regard to the Silos, we have several characters that never get off the ground. Cassandra comes on but is defined by another player, complicating her own ability to assert a role that could have been used more fully in the Cut To moments. Hey Everybody teaches us the power of not trying to force “sense” on our fellow players and embracing their potential disparateness. It also encourages us to speak up – if you’re going to be in a scene contribute to it.

People, chaos is great! First time it’s random, second time it’s purposeful, third time it’s expected. When in chaos, trust the Sequence rather than your forced moves to bring “sense” to the situation. And don’t be afraid to create chaos – get out there and make choices.

I have no illusions that most improvisers when they think about group games would rather focus on those Tertiary Moves (walk-ons, cut-to, we see, etc.) versus Immediate Agreement, Concentrated Progressions, Repetition of the Interaction, and Sequencing Disparate Contributions.

But the key is that the two skill sets are not mutually exclusive. Our rubric games are here to help us identify and heighten patterns at play. Tertiary Moves are just moves that we too often employ without attention to the greater pattern at play.

One Person, To the Ether, Help Desk, and Hey Everybody aren’t discrete forms to master so much as they present mechanics that, if we’re mindful of, can help us do whatever it is we collectively dream up.

In other words: Don’t learn the rubrics to pass your “patterns & games” class; learn them to be a better Patterns and Games player.

The wonderful 301: Patterns & Games Players you watched are Austin Lee, Peter Haar, Isabel Cooke, Tyler O’Connell, Benjamin Albert, David Okusanya, Luke Rivenbark, Peter Callahan, Cassandra Groves, Britt Artis-Booker, Donald Hoover, Josef Jazvic, and Bobby Justice. They were coached by Jonathan Mostowy and Harrison Brooks.

Full Show –

Leave a Reply

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