I sat with across from an executive. It was a benign conversation – a check-in meeting. Neither of us was all that engaged.
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
Here’s an annoying song my baby likes: Herman The Worm
Here’s the thing… It makes for one fun group warm-up with echos of One Person, To The Ether, Help Desk and Hey Everybody game patterns. Give it a try! Continue reading
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
“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
It’s all about the Set move.
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
Looking for a fun improv warm-up with some character-building tools? Continue reading
Ask your troupe what they want to work on. A comment by Alan Volmer during a Johnsons rehearsal led to this move being added to the group’s bag of tricks.
THE BODY SNATCHER: A third player takes over either Player One’s or Player Two’s character. If Player Three chooses to take on Player Two’s character, for example, Player Two then exits.
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As a warm-up exercise or a short-form performance game, Four Corners is a fun way to explore two person scenes and subsequent beats.
Check out this wonderful example from The Coalition Theater‘s class showcase. I am particularly fond of the players’ choice to enthusiastically agree and trust in the power of emotion alone when met with the suggestion of “Trump rally.”
Performers are Sheldon King, Cindy Nester, David Pratt and Britne Walker
Mirroring/repeating language, details and rules heightens a group’s work while keeping it cohesive.
INVOCATION – Players stand in a half circle. On the count of three, a “god” appears before them that they will worship in three phases: First, they will describe it physically; “Oh, God, with your fowl beak.” Second, they will address its less tangible qualities; “Oh, God, who tastes like everything.” Third, they will ask it to do unto them; “Oh, God, henpeck my enemies.”
• Be clear about what “it” is – don’t be vague for artsy sake; the sooner everyone knows what “it” is the sooner everyone can dig deep into the details
• Unite behind an emotional perspective on “it” – “what we hate about Microsoft” will collaboratively heighten faster than “what we know about Microsoft”
• Simplify with mirrored language – switching between phases is clearest when there’s a defining cadence to phase one (“Oh, God”) and a new cadence to phase two (“Sweet, Jesus).
• Callback – What does a detail from phase one signify in phase two and can be used for in phase three?
• Establish rules of reaction – Y follows X: “…who is never afraid,” “You’re a chicken who’s not chicken;” “…who never stops going,” “You’re a chicken who’ll always win at chicken.” I’m the guy who: said, “Eyes as red as flames” so I’ll say, “Heart as black as coal.”
• There are no mistakes – seek to fold in everything; don’t drop things that seem out of place
Performers are Becki Heckman, Ian Johnson, Suzi Makarem, Robert Nickles and Jordan Walker Continue reading
“Welcome to Crappy Car Mountain.”
“The mountain’s top is held on with duct tape.”
“Cellophane bushes rustle in the wind.”
“This one side is a different color than all the rest of it.”
Looking for a fun warm-up to get your ensemble playfully building a world together? Here’s one! Continue reading