Transformation Edits

In a long-form improvisational performance that is not a “mono-scene” there is a need to be able to communicate that one scene is ending and another is beginning.  An “Edit” is that move communicating a change in scenes.  At its core, a “successful” edit need only clearly communicate that transition, but beyond that there are myriad ways to execute an edit.  Continue reading

1.0 – The 3lements

Improvisation: Making it up as you go along.

A group of players gets on stage without previously rehearsed lines or blocking and acts out. The audience understands that this show is constructed from nothing before their eyes. In these aspects, improvisational performance differentiates itself from any other performance medium.

Improvisation then is at its best when it leverages its monopoly on spontaneous collaboration before a live audience. When a group of individuals creates something out of nothing together on stage before their eyes, the audience sees magic. When improv is as improv does best, it is magic. Magic. “How’d you all do that?” Continue reading

1.1 – The Self Contained Emotional Statement

THE SELF CONTAINED EMOTIONAL STATEMENT

How do you start an improv scene? My answer was forged from the perspective of giants’ shoulders.

Mick Napier, of The Annoyance Theater, says we start with just one thing.

– Assume a posture.
– Grab an object.
– Start a motion.
– Engage your environment.
– Embody a character.
– Emote.

What do you do with that one thing? Expand, says Napier. Discover through “if this
than what” extrapolation. Build that one thing out, or draw a line to another point of the
scene.

The direction I believe you should expand to – the scene start structure most conducive to
good improvisation – is the Self-Contained Emotional Statement.

It can be as simple as:

– I love it here.
– I hate the arts.
– I’m uncomfortable.

The Self-Contained Emotional Statement aligns you with an emotional perspective. It’s a solid foundation on which to build the possibilities. Continue reading

1.2 – Collaboration

YES, GOOD IMPROVISATION REQUIRES A GROUP. AND, WE AGREE.

A great improvisational performance requires both a group and an audience.

It’s the collaborative building that makes improvisation exciting. The ability to riff is dependent on having something to riff off of. The definition of riffing demands that there be an “accompaniment” or “exchange.” Sure, a single improviser can riff off an audience like a stand-up comedian can. But rarely is there enough audience input to require that a performer relinquish control of the show. To my mind, performers who put up “one person improvised shows” are playing with themselves in front of a crowd – and the inappropriate connotation is intended.

Improv as improv does best requires a group. Two people. Three people. The over-flowing stage of a festival improv jam. You need people to play with. You need people to riff off of.

Creating something out of nothing with a group of people in front of a live audience is hard. There are more people on stage for the audience to watch and listen to. There are more opinions about what’s happening and what needs to happen. More things breed less focus.

The more people you’re playing with, the clearer you have to be. When initiating with the Self-Contained Emotional Statement, the individual serves the scene’s clarity by concentrating on specificity and brevity. When there’s more than the initiator on stage (and there should be), continuing to serve the scene’s clarity relies on Agreement.

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1.3 – Game Mechanics

OFFER, SET, CEMENT: THAT’S GAME!

Some definitions:

Pattern – a sequence that can be repeated / a structure that can be reused

Game – a sequence of actions, related by rules of cause-and-effect, that heightens with repetition

A rocketship, A thumb and An aardvark. That’s a fine pattern. A rocketship, A thumb and An aardvark. A rocketship, A thumb and An aardvark. A rocketship, A thumb and An aardvark. A rocketship, A thumb and An aardvark. Repetition makes the sequence purposeful. And repetition alone is heightening – imagine a room filled with “A rocketship, A thumb and An aardvark” wallpaper.

But in aspiring to elevate pattern work into game play, we focus on two aspects. One, we want a relationship between the nodes of the sequence. And, two, we want a progression of subsequent relationships that heightens the sequence in a concentrated direction.

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1.4 – To The Ether Games

TO THE ETHER Games

I like Frisbee.
I like hacky sack.
I like hitting this one stick I wrapped in ribbons with these other two sticks I wrapped in different ribbons.
I like the Grateful Dead.
I like acoustic guitar around a beach bonfire.
I like blowing into this diggerydoo I crafted in the company of native Aborigines during the Australian leg of my Peace Corp stint.
I like tie dye.
I like white-girl dreadlocks.
I like the hemp clothing, ropes and cleansing products I handmake and sell in open air markets and on commune tours with all profits going to Amnesty United.
Man, I just like being stoned.

In a To The Ether game, the progression of personal games establishes the pattern, and the scenic game is heightened in that pattern’s evolving repetition.

For focus sake, the pattern is emphasized over any need to contextualize or justify where the players are or who they are to one another. Players can literally deliver their lines into empty spaces without expectation of a conversational response. Thus, “To The Ether” games. Continue reading

1.5 – Help Desk Games

HELP DESK

Two players meet in the middle of the stage and focus on figuring out the scene together.

I want to return this vacuum.
What’s wrong with it?

Or…

I want to see a manager.
Ma’am, he’s on a break.

Or…

I bought this and it won’t work.
I’m going to need to see a receipt.

Or…

That’ll be five ninety-nine.
Okay, I have ten eighty-eight.

I don’t want to see improvisers question, oppose, negotiate with or engage in transactions with each other. Even written, honed, acted and edited these scenes can prove tedious. But we can salvage these boring scenes with our good friend, the pattern. Continue reading