A monologist shares a personal story. Ideally one recreating their emotions about a specific moment with rich details. Performers then replace the speaker on stage with a series of scenes inspired by the monologue. Ideally not just scenes reenacting the recollection but scenes that heighten the ideas of the monologue through new contexts. Maybe the monologist returns to relate another story; maybe not. If monologues separate the format into beats, ideally earlier scenes are referenced in later scenes.
That’s the Monologue-based Format.
The Armando Diaz Experience is a famous one. The Coalition Theater puts up a “Richmond Famous” wherein local public figures are invited to be the monologist.
LINC, the Legal Information Network for Cancer, puts up “Here’s Laughing At You, Cancer” annually as a fundraiser for their efforts to assist income-qualified individuals with legal and financial issues related to their cancer diagnoses (GREAT organization!).
And, yes, the show revolves around monologists sharing stories related to their cancer. Then the performers create scenes based on those monologists. Funny scenes.
And it works. Check it out.
The show’s monologists in order of appearance are: Jim Guy, Lulú de Panbehchi, Keisha Harris and Ann Hodges
The Coaliton performers are Katie Holcomb, Patrick Gantz, Matt Newman, Lauren Serpa and Jim Zarling.
Fantastic videography provided by Joey Tran and Double Take Productions.
Looking for a fun character-based Opening for your long-form improv format?
Try a Duologue or, like The Johnsons do, try several. Here are two examples –
I coach The Johnsons, so they’ve been steeped in a rich tea of group games. They know One Person Scenes. They know To The Ether Games. They know Help Desk Games. And they know Hey Everybody Games.
And that knowledge makes them masters of the Organic Game.
And that unfortunately means sometimes they perform games that are hard for me to pick apart in a post in order to showcase the learnings. But this sucker’s a joyful exception.
Check it out.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, “I love me some Johnsons.”
Check out this great example as Improv As Improv Does Best…in the face of “mistakes.”
Improv As Improv Does Best leverages in-the-moment collaborative discovery. And it’s extra special when the audience knows they’re “getting it” at the same time as the improvisers.
Take this example from The Johnsons.
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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The Johnsons hosted a BBQ and everyone came. But they spaced out their arrival to allow time to heighten the sequence between new entries. Check it out.
To clarify: That last line out of Jonathan is “I brought the hounds of hell.”
The Johnsons are: Scott Beckett, Shawn Hambright, Townsend Hart, John Hilowitz, Joe Mack, Jonathan Nelson, Jessi Schmale, Lauren Serpa and Alan Vollmer. Continue reading
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