Find “Game” by Feel

Mmmm…what do these have in common?

When asked for a desired focus for a scheduled coaching session, a Duo sent me the following:

Mainly character stuff, fleshing them out versus building out more plot. Getting better at finding and sticking to the game of the scene.

What follows is some didactic and exercises that filled two hours.

DIDACTIC: How do You think about “Game” in improv?

Acknowledged ad nauseam here on Improv As Improv Does Best, the idea of “Game” gets thrown around a lot in improv.

At its most dumbed down, “Game” is “the funny thing, done more.” Though what the “funny thing” is is subjective.

At once both more sophisticated and more corny, “Game” can focus on the repetition of the cause and effect of actions. Short Form‘s blessing and curse is that its rhythms connect so quickly (helped by being made explicit) – the audience is rigged to react to anticipation but the rigging can be too tight and become stale.

Aiming for an universal answer this site’s materials are predicated on the definition of “Game” as “a sequence of actions related by cause in effect, heightening in a progression through repetition.” Holds true for baseball and Monopoly alike.

Regardless of definition, “Game” needs Emotion.  Continue reading

In-the-Moment games

I love Pattern Play. I love the way an ensemble, focused-outward on making each new move in the service of what they individually have seen come before, can make a group look like it has ESP.

Eminem meets IKEA

I love “the moment.” I love the way an authentic reaction to a moment -that in no way could have been preconceived – can connect with an audience for a big laugh.

And I LOVE when concentrated pattern play incorporates “the moment” to be something uniquely Improv As Improv Does Best, connecting the ensemble and the audience in a previously-unknowable, perfectly-found moment.

“An ensemble of players gets on stage without previously rehearsed lines or blocking and acts out, making up the show as they go along. 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.”

– Improv As Improv Does Best

I have three examples from my latest 301 Patterns & Games Showcase show.

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Help Desk Cartoons

Building a game out of heightening the pattern of an interaction isn’t just for improv.

It’s a creation tool. At least if you’re looking to create something coherent.

Both of these cartoons appeared in The Washington Post’s Sunday Cartoon section on September 30th. Read Jef Mallett’s Frazz and Tim Rickard’s Brewster Rockit below – but also just read them in general; they’re great.

Brewster Rocket Help Desk

Frazz Help Desk

How could they not remind me of our friend The Help Desk rubric group game?

In a Help Desk Game, the progression of the scenic games establishes the pattern, and that pattern’s evolving repetition serves to heighten a personal game or theme.

What’s just beautiful thinking about these comic strips as improv scenes using the Help Desk Dynamic, is how they get to call lights before they have to get to the punchline. By setting our expectations in the first interaction, WE – the reader or audience – laugh at following the second interaction in our own heads based on the first. Our Lizard Brain laughs at the recognition of the pattern – and that’s enough for your edit!

Patterns allow us to play confidently. Thanks for the illustrations, Jef and Tim!

 

 

Prioritizing Character Over Plot exercises

“I love opium.”

It’s a fine line between a character evoking a plot and a character reacting to their reality. A very fine line. But I believe that attention to that line can mean the difference between a scene where improvisers force a sequence of events dependent on an audience’s satisfaction with a resolution and a scene where characters are engaged in the moment of their reality with an audience reacting to – and investing in – a character’s consistency regardless of “sense.”

The following is a series of exercises geared toward prioritizing characters in-the-moment over improvisers setting-up-situations-to-be-negotiated. Continue reading

Be Dynamic: Sharpen Your Vectors

There’s more than one way to build intensity over time.

Keep Them Separated

Both scenes work in an improv context. No doubt. But I prefer the second iteration.

The second scene is more dynamic. Yes, both Bobs are altered by scene’s end and both scenes progress, but in the second scene Bob’s change is clearly delineated to establish a rhythm and to set expectations for heightening repetition with the audience.

It’s one of many improv lessons we can learn from The Clown.  Let’s learn more.
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From Conscious Incompetence to Unconscious Competence

If you’re on my site, you are interested in learning.  Bravo!  It is way too easy to coast in a hobby (and unless you’re one of the few that actually improvises for a living it’s a hobby for you).  But if we really care about this art of ours, and we care about the audience and the quality of shows we present, we must commit to continual improvement.

In the management consulting world, we talk about the path from Unconscious Incompetence to Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence to Unconscious Competence. Continue reading