Showcasing Students

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

Sustainable Set – The Johnsons Cover Coldplay

Learn rigidly. Play loose. Wall Turkey

The Johnsons are the most dyed-in-the-wool Improv As Improv Does Best group there is. Makes sense. I coach them.

They were taught the contents of this website. They learned the mechanics of spontaneous collaboration. But the desire has never been for them to conform to one style of improv as dictated by their lessons. Rather the goal is always providing tools unique improvisers can utilize to enhance their personal approach.

The Johnsons are at their best when they Continue reading

Monologue-based Format: Here’s Laughing At You, Cancer

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.

The Johnsons’ 100% Organic Family Band Solution

300px-drfunke_1996_arrested_developmentI 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.

Continue reading

Body Snatcher & Double Body Snatcher tertiary moves

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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BBQ Blowout an organic game

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