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).

Continue reading

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

Detective Opening video

Detective, a house team at The Coalition Theater, created an Opening inspired by this scene from Black Dynamite where wild associative leaps serve to solve a crime.

The Opening generates a lot of Details for them to inspire future scenes. The big jumps showcase individual’s humor and building on one another showcases their ensemble. It’s high energy and frenetic with focus still being shared. Continue reading

“They call it like they see it!” a warm-up

Gretchen Glaeser introduced me to Zane Adickes‘ “Damn, they call it like they see it!” warm-up tonight. And, well, I see it as a damn fine warm-up.

Looking for an activity to practice individual silo-building through an emotional perspective as well as the pacing between individual contributions and group agreement? Try “They call it like they see it!” Continue reading

Space Jump – a warm-up for memory and transformations

One Person Scene. Two Person Scene. Three Person Scene. Four Person Scene. Five Person Scene. Six Person Scene. Five Person Scene. Four Person Scene. Three Person Scene. Two Person Scene. One Person Scene.

Or…

One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene. One Person Scene.

Or…

One Person Scene. Two Person Scene. Two Person Scene. One Person Scene. Two Person Scene. One Person Scene. Two Person Scene. One Person Scene. Two Person Scene. Two Person Scene. One Person Scene.

Space Jump is a crowd pleasing short-form improv game and a great tool for learning memory, focus, pacing and transformation edits

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

Genres – a warm-up for playing with expectations

Repetition of an interaction establishes expectations for the audience.  These expectations can be played to and against for fun effect.

As a precursor to Help Desk Games, the short-form improv game Genres can help us practice pacing in repetition of an interaction, and help us flex our memory muscles.

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

Foreign Dubbing – a warm-up for playing with expectations

Repetition of relationship mechanics (“This” then “That”) establishes expectations for the audience.  These expectations can be played to and against for fun effect.

Looking for a warm-up to practice playing with expectations? Try Foreign Dubbing!

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

New Choice – a pattern pacing warm-up

The rhythm with which a game’s mechanic is played helps pace the scene and build it toward an edit.

The relationship between “When this happens” “this happens” is useful not only to focus improvisers’ choices but it also connects with the audience. In Short Form, where the mechanics of the “game” are told to the audience before the scene starts, the audience starts reacting to the “cause” and the expectation of the effect instead of just to the effect itself.

Short form improv games help us practice our patterns and pacing for long-form improv’s more organic games. Looking for a warm-up to practice pattern pacing?  Try New Choice!

Performers are: David Adams, Guy Chapman, Patrice Deveaux, Micah Head, Alan Hopkinson, Nick Lawton, Megan Lemay, Jillian MacDougall, Tim Magier, Curtis Nunnally Continue reading

Here’s The Deal. Yes, And. I Know, Right? warm-up

We want to avoid conflict, debate and negotiation in our improv scenes. The audience knows we’re making it up – building something from nothing – they don’t want to see us arguing over imagined reality; they want to see us react to an accepted reality.

What’s the best way to avoid arguing? Acceptance! Agreeing to a conflict-laden declaration is the easiest way to ensure a scene’s forward momentum.

So want a warm-up that’ll engage those Acceptance muscles? Continue reading