Organic Warm-ups

It’s all about the Set move.organic
Remember: Anything’s an Offer.

A group of improvisers gather pre-show. They take off excess clothes. They empty their pockets. They ask about each other’s day.
One guy tells a story about an out-of-the-blue run-in with an old friend that happened that day.
Another improviser tells her own story about an even more random out-of-the-blue run-in with an even older friend.
And an organic warm-up is off running.

An improviser notices two of his compatriots are bent down tying their shoes so he mirrors them. A fourth follows. A fifth.
And an organic warm-up is off running.

An awkward group of improvisers gravitates into a pre-show circle, wanting to find something organic, not wanting to force anything. One guy starts mirroring another’s nervous hand wringing. A girl coughs so someone else does. Someone laughs. They all laugh.
And an organic warm-up is off running. 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

Invocation exercise

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.”
Lessons:
• 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.”
Establish Siloes – What can be the filter through which your contributions come? 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

Editing Thematically – The Johnsons 1.16.16

The Johnsons have been working on building a more collective world in their long form performances.

One tool they’ve practiced is using their scene edits to establish and heighten an organic pattern progression.

And on January 16th, 2016 they did it on stage for the first time.  Watch.  Enjoy.

First time is random. Second time is purposeful. Third time is expected.
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Call & Response Hey Everybody group game

Hey Everybody game mechanics allow a group to build a focused direction out of disparate parts. They are so named because, though they have wider applications, they are useful to a player in navigating a scene initiated with a rush of players to the stage.

When Townsend Hart starts The Johnsons‘ group game with “Emergency meeting,” we get a rush of players to the stage.  Now, instead of quickly establishing a sequence in which every player gets to contribute in the scene’s early goings, this particular Hey Everybody game starts off in the call and response category of initiator as facilitator that I caution against – Townsend speaks, then Scott speaks, then Townsend again.  The danger here is that with the initiator interjecting between each other player’s comments, it can take a long time to get through players, which can seem stilted.  And an audience’s eyes start to drift to s/he who hasn’t contributed yet, which can both be distracting.

How do The Johnsons surmount this potential obstacle?  Watch.

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10 Player Two Person Blackout

I adore this scene.

In just over a minute 10 players flood the scene.  They evolve by following and reacting.  Even though a central player emerges, there is no leader.

Listen to the audience’s reaction.  Yes, it comes at a great place in the pacing of a pattern-heavy show.  Yes, the final line is a reference to an emergent theme.

But what the audience loves is the confident collaborative creation of something out of nothing. It almost doesn’t matter what Hannah says, the audience is going to love that she made a strong emotional choice to define the swell around her. They’ve been rapt the entire time – never doubting that the group was building toward something because the group never appeared in doubt. The audience is having fun because the players are clearly having fun.

And then of course after Hannah drops her line the group has the good sense to edit the scene, rendering it a Blackout, which plays beautifully into the pacing of the larger show.

I adore this scene.

Players are: Gerard Antoine, Sarah Berday-Sacks, Kevin Clatterbuck, Michael Farmer, Patrick Gaskill, Zachary Mann, Hannah Rumsey, Geoff Stone, Vince Sunga, Carter Tait and Elliot Wegman
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Macaroni Lovers Anonymous Hey Everybody group game

Don’t solve problems in improv. If there’s a fire on stage we want to throw gas on it, not water.

A lot of group games start with problem statements. “We need to…” “Let’s figure out…” “Brainstorm time!” The problem with problems is that when we’re focused on working up a solution we too often deprioritize emotional in-the-moment reactions which in improv are always more powerful that clever dialogue.

Hey Everybody mechanics keep us focused on heightening patterns of emotional behavior, helping us to exacerbate problems instead of alleviating them. 

Want proof? Watch this.


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