Mirror, Action, Object’s Scenic add-on

Personal Games are the focus of the base Mirror, Action, Object warm-up exerciseMAO1 Engaged in either how they feel about themselves, how they feel about what they’re doing, or how they feel about a mimed object, players build progressions of emotional reaction triggered by active endowments. As examples: A player loves his outfit, and as he scans himself toe to head he grows more and more impressed with himself (Mirror). A player grows more insane with every monotonous saw stroke. A player becomes more and more vain with every bite of the apple.

This add-on expands the warm-up to practice Scenic Games as well.  Continue reading

Silent Games

Aaron Grant once took the stage across from me, making eye contact but planting his feet firmly just beyond the stage right wing. I mirrored him on stage left. He mimed the mimeclassic flirtatious fishing move. I played his fish but broke his line bashfully, the stage’s distance remaining between us. I danced as someone with a club; he played my seal. He loaded his heart into a gun and shot it at me. I loaded my heart into a mortar and launched it at him. He shot me with a bazooka of love. I put love in a centrifuge and then in a bomb that erupted in a mushroom cloud of hearts. He built and climbed into a B-52 bomber than rained love upon me. We both stood up from the rubble and traced out hearts to one another. Never a word was spoken.

How does one teach Silent Games? Read on! Continue reading

“Tonight…” a warm up

Getting synced with your teammates is why we warm up. Give this activity a try!

Everyone in a circle.  One by one, in no particular order, we enter the circle.

“Tonight I’m…”

First we share our current mindset with the group. For example, “Tonight I’m feeling tired. I stayed up too late and woke up too early.”

“So, tonight I’m gonna…”

Second, we commit to bringing to stage a different energy than we’re currently feeling AND we make that energy incarnate with a character, sound, action, emotion, line of dialogue, etc. For example, “So, tonight I’m gonna go ape,” and I act like a gorilla, howl and beat my chest.

And “We’re with you!”

Third, everyone around the circle says, “We’re with you!” and mirrors your character, sound, action, etc. For example, we’re all acting like gorillas.

Then the next person goes. Repeat.

Simple. Easy. Quick. And it gives us a moment to let our fellow players into our heads and aware of our intentions. AND it gives us all a chance to show our commitment to enthusiastic agreement and collaboration. 

Try it!

I Just Noticed You… exercise for active emotions

I sat with across from an executive. It was a benign conversation – a check-in meeting. Neither of us was all that engaged. rainbow folders

Looking down at his desk, I noticed he’d arrayed files on his desk in the order of a rainbow – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple (though Roy G. Biv forever, squad).

I didn’t say anything about it. But thinking about it led me to this exercise.

Looking to practice evoking emotions through engaging environment? The audience loves seeing improvisers “see” something on stage.  They love seeing us enthusiastically accept what our fellow players imagine.  And they love it when we invest emotionally in those imagined somethings.

Want an exercise that forces us to see something, say something and have that something matter to our scene partner?  Keep reading.  Continue reading

Showcasing Students

I’m wishy washy about improv class showcases.

On the one hand, if the point of going through classes is to learn to do performance-ready-level improv, then it seems sadistic to make 101 students “put it up on its feet.”

But on the other, nothing informs an improviser like improvising and all it entails – collaborating to build something out of nothing in-the-moment before a live audience. And so practice in front of a live audience should be part of each course.

So the in-between place becomes preparing each class for a performance that showcases – in grand improv style – all that they learned in class, on top of everything they’ve learned before, within bounds that keep them from stumbling into unknown territory. 

Here are examples of how to do it…from 101 to 401… Continue reading

Build Your Own World exercise

“World Building” is a noble pursuit in long form improvisation.  It can focus our creativity to try to link our scenes to a single location, time or conceit.  The Chicago-based People of Earth, for example, placed all of their scenes on the same train. Horse Apples set an entire long-form in a future where everyone had bionic limbs. The audience adores this organic world building.

It can therefore feel like a gift to receive a suggestion like “Star Wars” from the audience.  I mean, c’mon, what improv nerd isn’t itching to do their own Blue Harvest?

But it’s a trap.

While it can be tempting to recreate a well-known property on stage, doing so often has us focused on premises and gimmicks over emotion.  Think about the last time you saw an improviser bring a well-known character or actor to stage – Were they emotionally invested and vulnerable to the moment?  Too often we’re too focused on our impression to set up the patterns of emotional behavior triggered by active elements that are the core of Improv As Improv Does Best.

But we can expand from a suggestion like “Star Wars” to build a world wholly our own. Want to try it?  Continue reading

Organic Warm-ups

It’s all about the Set move.organic
Remember: Anything’s an Offer.

A group of improvisers gather pre-show. They take off excess clothes. They empty their pockets. They ask about each other’s day.
One guy tells a story about an out-of-the-blue run-in with an old friend that happened that day.
Another improviser tells her own story about an even more random out-of-the-blue run-in with an even older friend.
And an organic warm-up is off running.

An improviser notices two of his compatriots are bent down tying their shoes so he mirrors them. A fourth follows. A fifth.
And an organic warm-up is off running.

An awkward group of improvisers gravitates into a pre-show circle, wanting to find something organic, not wanting to force anything. One guy starts mirroring another’s nervous hand wringing. A girl coughs so someone else does. Someone laughs. They all laugh.
And an organic warm-up is off running. Continue reading