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.”
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.
Do you want to see some Harold‘s performed?
Here are two performed by The Coalition Theater’s Fall 2015 Long Form Performance class conducted back to back nights.
Player are: Shahenn Ali, Teddy Armstrong, Amber Hendrix, Jesse Hill, Meredith Hughes, Laura Kelly and Christopher May
There are no mistakes in patterns. If a progression builds A, B, C and Z, “Z” is not a mistake, it’s just something to be acknowledged and made part of the pattern. If A, B, C, and Z, then D, E, F and Y.
There are no mistakes in patterns. The clearer and cleaner a pattern builds, the faster it will heighten and the harder it’ll hit for the purpose of editing.
There are no mistakes in patterns. Whatever happens, don’t give up on the pattern. Follow whatever happens.
Watch the Organic Game from the Johnsons below. See how the pattern doesn’t build cleanly in a progression to a crescendo within the addition of the first four players on stage. Watch as Player Five enters stage with the proceeding pattern in mind and, rather than abandoning what’s happened, follows his predecessors with a move that secures a solid edit with the audience.
“Do we have to stick the sequence in Hey Everybody games?” students ask. No. Of course not. Play organically. Follow the game where it goes. Don’t ever feel constrained by the pattern.
But. There’s power in the pattern.
Watch the following Hey Everybody game from a Johnsons’ show. It ain’t pretty, but it’s illustrative. Watch as the gang falls away from the sequence of contributions. See what happens. Hang in there until the end where you can see that one Player’s faith in the pattern is all that’s needed to secure a satisfying edit with the audience.
In a long-form improvisational performance that is not a “mono-scene” there is a need to be able to communicate that one scene is ending and another is beginning. An “Edit” is that move communicating a change in scenes. At its core, a “successful” edit need only clearly communicate that transition, but beyond that there are myriad ways to execute an edit. Continue reading
Pop quiz, hotshot. When do you add on to a two person scene in progress?
A. When you have a funny idea
B. When the scene needs to be saved
C. When there are holes in the information on stage
D. When you want to get in on the fun
E. When you can heighten the game in play
Think about it. Now realize the question is flawed because its answers are not mutually exclusive.
Here is the proper pop quiz: When do you add on to a two person scene in progress?
A. To serve yourself
B. To serve the show
Hopefully now the answer is more obvious.
Entering a two person scene in progress, you are a tertiary player. The scene’s not about you and you shouldn’t make it about you. Continue reading
The fun of collaborative creation is confidently following wherever it goes. A commitment to making moves in the context of all that precedes them can help a group shape that creation without controlling it, focusing the group’s progression for maximum heightening and impact.
To The Ether games are the simplest in terms of pattern components but are the most varied in terms of their final form. Drilling To The Ether games with post-game analysis of the progression of moves will help students build pattern muscle memory.
TO THE ETHER GAMES – Have Player One take stage and make a Self Contained Emotional Statement. Have Player Two come out and change one thing about Player One’s SCES. Have Player Three give a Self Contained Emotional Statement that, in relating to the 2nd Self Contained Emotional Statement, heightens the progression between the first two Self Contained Emotional Statements.
Evolution of the pattern –
• 1st move = Offer (anything is an offer)
• 2nd move = Sets the pattern (of the myriad directions available after the offer the set move begins to define a single trajectory)
• 3rd move = Cements the pattern (clarifies the pattern in a direction that can be repeated and heightened.
E.g. Orange (1); Apple (2); Kiwi (3)
E.g. Orange, Peel (1); Melon, Rind (2); Apple, Skin (3)
• The Offer is anything. The Set move seeks to establish a relationship with the Offer move. The Cement move seeks to heighten the relationship between the Set and Offer moves through its own relationship with the Set move. The progression of Offer, Set and Cement moves define the rules to the relationship between nodes in the sequence.
• Trust simplicity – stick the same language; don’t allow personally-clever A-to-E connections ground the group in confusion
• Serve the group – you don’t have to be funny for the group to be hilarious; be willing to set the pattern for another to spike; the 2nd move will never be as funny as the 1st or 3rd but it is necessary to facilitate the big payoff.
• The sooner a pattern is cemented, the sooner everyone can play – when players feel compelled to continue a pattern you know it has been established with a clear progression.
• Don’t forget emotion – if nothing else heighten emotion/character; that can earn you an edit even if all else fails to cohere.
• Categories – related contributions that do not heighten/progress; can be reordered without consequence (“Coke/Kleenex/Band-aid” vs. “Kleenex/Band-aid/Coke”). A run of categories typically necessitates a “resetting” pattern pass
• Poles – when two extremes are juxtaposed (hot/cold; love/hate) it can be difficult to find a contribution to continue the progression; upon hearing “poles” players should seek to set up another poled pair to establish a progression across pairs
• Resetting – when a pattern’s trajectory has reached an apex, players should think to start a second related pattern so that the game is heightening iterations of patterns. Example 1 – Womb/World/Heaven; Testies/Sweat sock/Hell. Example 2 – “I hate school”…“I hate prison”; “My teachers…”…“My guards…”
• Rule of 3s is not mandatory – while the rule of 3’s does facilitate funny, you don’t need factors of three; patterns don’t have to be played all the way down the line before they are edited
• Pattern Ending Edits – ideally a pattern heightens to a beautiful point and earns an edit; not-ideally a player makes a move at the expense of the pattern and fails to earn an edit leaving a dead scene; but there are moves that can successfully earn an edit while disrupting the progression –
VIDEO EXAMPLES OF “TO THE ETHER” GAMES –
Johnsons’ Opening – Date for the Dance
Johnsons’ Opening – Giraffe
IAIDB – I Wish
IAIDB – Everything Sucks