Zoom In On Help Desk

With its focus on characters interacting, Help Desk games are perhaps the rubric most conducive to Zoom.

As such, I found myself hewing much more closely to my typical Help Desk curriculum this class.

The biggest hurdle came in navigating Pivots and Split Screens. Appearing on a Zoom screen it’s certainly not easy to “tag out” another player. But as you’ll see, the class had fun figuring that out.

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Zoom In On Organic Games

Students were taught the 4 Key Lessons for building collaborative improv games on Day One. In subsequent weeks focused one of 4 rubric group games designed to explore the power of each of those key lessons.

At the end of the day – which really is the class showcase – the audience isn’t looking to see a perfectly executed To The Ether game. They don’t know what the hell that is. The rubrics are tools for teaching the players’ tools. All the audience cares about is watching players collaborate in-the-moment to build something together. Players need to follow the ensemble’s moves wherever they go; this is about an ensemble playing their games, not mine.

So now it’s time to put all that’s been learned together in service of Organic Group Games.

Any questions?

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Zoom In On Patterns & Games

I taught my first Patterns & Games class through Zoom.

I had been nervous going into it assuming I’d have to tweak my teaching materials significantly to work within this new world. But as I learned when approaching Silent Games, the mechanics of collaborative pattern play are applicable however Group Games are attempted.

Need proof? Check out the class’ showcase –

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Zoom In On 4 Key Lessons

When I teach Patterns & Games in-person the first class is always Kick The Duck, Red Rover. I love this game. When I say “Go,” the class is to align behind a gibberish group game.

It’s always a mess to start, and then I begin laying in the lessons and with each iteration the group gels that much more. It never fails; by the end the group has built something cohesive out-of-nothing together as an ensemble – and have enjoyed themselves along the way.

The Zoom environment is not conducive to Kick The Duck, Red Rover, but I felt it critical to still have this first class expose students to the 4 Key Lessons that form the backbone of group game work as improv does best.

  1. Seek Symmetries
  2. Empower Asymmetries
  3. Establish Rules of Cause and Effect
  4. Restart and Repeat

So this is what I did…

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Zoom In On One Person Scenes

Agreement is awesome. Don’t you think.

In class number two, we focus on that first of our 4 Key Lessons: Seek Symmetries.

Bringing characters into group games brings new opportunities for chaos. 

Simplifying character-based group scenes with balanced stage pictures and shared emotional perspectives can help a team confidently navigate the chaos. 

Here’s how we did that…

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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

Build Your Own World exercise

“World Building” is a noble pursuit in long form improvisation.  It can focus our creativity to try to link our scenes to a single location, time or conceit.  The Chicago-based People of Earth, for example, placed all of their scenes on the same train. Horse Apples set an entire long-form in a future where everyone had bionic limbs. The audience adores this organic world building.

It can therefore feel like a gift to receive a suggestion like “Star Wars” from the audience.  I mean, c’mon, what improv nerd isn’t itching to do their own Blue Harvest?

But it’s a trap.

While it can be tempting to recreate a well-known property on stage, doing so often has us focused on premises and gimmicks over emotion.  Think about the last time you saw an improviser bring a well-known character or actor to stage – Were they emotionally invested and vulnerable to the moment?  Too often we’re too focused on our impression to set up the patterns of emotional behavior triggered by active elements that are the core of Improv As Improv Does Best.

But we can expand from a suggestion like “Star Wars” to build a world wholly our own. Want to try it?  Continue reading