Fun Times

Remember this Simpsons bit with Krusty about hemorrhoids and riding bikes?

That “I can ride a bike again!” idea jumps into my head a lot (more often than a person should really think about hemorrhoids…probably). I think about it in conjunction with that “It’s just like riding a bike” expression used to refer to an activity that, once learned, becomes so second nature that it can be engaged again without effort even if it’s been a long time since the last time you engaged the activity.

I’ve been improvising on stage since I was 12. Over the subsequent years I’ve learned a lot and logged a lot of hours on stage. You might think at this point – even if I were to step away from improv for a while – I could get on stage with anyone anywhere and it’d be “just like riding a bike.”

But then there are those damn hemorrhoids. Once you get decent at something you can get in your head about not wanting to fall back below that level of competence you’ve reached, and that fear actually undermines the effort. God forbid you start teaching so that every time you get on stage in front of students your mind goes to “putting your money where your mouth is” instead of putting your mind in the moment. And, heavens to Betsy, one day you’ll be on the old side of this young person’s hobby and you’ll feel that while you’re taking stage time those whippersnappers are thinking you should be put out to pasture. Hemorrhoids!

“I’m good at this…”

On top of that, you might be committing the worst sins of the old improviser: You and your team aren’t practicing and don’t have a coach. So you are feeling all the pressure in the world to succeed on stage and eschewing the thing that your ensemble needs to succeed.

Yes, “you” is “me.” These are my hemorrhoids, my sins. Riding a bike was hard.

But guess what? “I can ride a bike again!” And the fix? Preparation (H).

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A Terrific Tag-Out video example

Who do you tag out?” I’ve asked improvisers.

Keep the Crazy,” some reply. Have more fun with a fun character. It’s a fine thought.

Change the catalyst,” I say. The audience loves watching improvisers affected by imagined reality. When we heighten the reality we force the affected character into a heightened reaction. So when choosing who to heighten I think tagging out the catalyst is our best default.

But sometimes you change the Catalyst and keep the Crazy.

That’s what happened here:

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Super Satisfying Simple Patterns

Sunday November 10th filled me with pride. My 301 Patterns & Games class performed their showcase. And it was great.

Their energy was high. Their support, unwavering. And their commitment to building collaborative patterns using the rubrics’ guidance led to hilarious moments.

Those rubrics? The One Person Scene. To The Ether games. Help Desk games. Hey Everybody games. They’re narrowly focused on different ways for a group to build a pattern together. A group doesn’t need to be narrowly focused on them to be successful; as I hope this site makes abundantly clear, a “good” game is whatever a group builds together.

But, uh, oh man, when a group keeps it simple with a quick, clear progression, it’s easier to keep the mechanics tight and more likely the game will heighten to a satisfying punch.

Just watch. Continue reading

Playing From Emotion class w/ video

Make a choice the moment you enter stage. Choose to feel. Feel something about something –¬†an imagined object, mimed activity, and/or your scene partner. Allow both you and your scene partner to be dynamic.

Here’s the final scene from a class building out that progression and its value:

And here’s the class’ outline with video of me teaching it. 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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Objectives & Feedback: a teachers’ training

Watch an improv teacher adroitly introduce an objective to students, explain an exercise they’ll do in service of that objective, provide side-coaching, and wrap it all up in the end.

Kathryn Schmidt’s Topnotch Teaching

The clip comes from a Teacher & Coach Training Session at The Coalition Theater. Want to learn what they learned? Want to lead a similar session of your own?

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My 3 Rules & The Iterative Process

I recorded the session of my Patterns & Games class at The Coalition Theater in which we tackled the My 3 Rules game I’ve previously presented as a warm-up.

One, the camera’s distance makes it hard for the viewer to really track the game in play.

Two, oh, man, looking for a drinking game? Watch me teach and drink every time I say, “Right.”

Three, My 3 Rules – like Kick The Duck, Red Rover – is a game played through iterations. With each iteration, students “get it” more and by the end are fully engaged in the mechanics¬†and they’re laughing.¬†

In the following post, I’m going to share some clips from that night’s video showing the iterative learning process. My hope is that it’ll serve as a teaching lesson, both through how I provide instruction between iterations and how students loosen up and learn as a result of the iterations. Continue reading