Sunday November 10th filled me with pride. My 301 Patterns & Games class performed their showcase. And it was great.
Their energy was high. Their support, unwavering. And their commitment to building collaborative patterns using the rubrics’ guidance led to hilarious moments.
Those rubrics? The One Person Scene. To The Ether games. Help Desk games. Hey Everybody games. They’re narrowly focused on different ways for a group to build a pattern together. A group doesn’t need to be narrowly focused on them to be successful; as I hope this site makes abundantly clear, a “good” game is whatever a group builds together.
But, uh, oh man, when a group keeps it simple with a quick, clear progression, it’s easier to keep the mechanics tight and more likely the game will heighten to a satisfying punch.
Just watch. Continue reading
Watch this. Keep watching. Wait for it. Stay with it. There it is.
Following the simplest pattern saves the day. And gets a nice big laugh. Continue reading
Oh, man, this organic group game made me laugh.
It’s simple and fun. All Chapman has to do accept each addition with his character’s garbled, “That’s my thing…” The audience loves him for it! They know he’s getting put upon by his fellow players (literally by the end!) and they reward his acceptance and commitment with laughter.
The Johnsons‘ performances account for the majority of this site’s videos. Why? I’m their coach. That means A) I love them, B) their work often reflects Improv As Improv Does Best characteristics and C) theirs are the recordings that are the easiest for me to get.
But I have been a bad coach lately and have missed their recent shows.
BUT this past Saturday, 2/23/19, I saw The Johnsons perform with another Coalition house team, Detective. Detective’s coach is Scott Beckett, a Johnson.
And when they closed the show by all playing together, it was immediately clear they spoke the same language of Patterns & Games. Without hesitation they followed each other into organic group games, weaving in Tertiary Moves with varying entrances and exits. And the results were hilarious. Continue reading
Check out this fun, loose Hey Everybody game from The Coalition‘s Detective.
The team isn’t behold to the sequence of contributions – they allow their characters to react in-the-moment as inspired – but you can see the sequence is loosely maintained and it helps the overall flow. Improvisers clearly stick their character’s silos – Sarah’s corrections, Taylor’s obsession with killing Voldemort with a stick, etc. Improvisers play emotional characters – like Jesse’s gruff-voiced reactor. And the stage picture isn’t just a line or “bandshell of death.”
It’s a great example of a game that uses the tools of the Hey Everybody game but isn’t confined by them. Continue reading
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
In learning Tertiary Moves an improv student is taught that “the first move is trump” (a reference to card games not our shitty president). In practice this means that if the first tertiary move is a Walk-on then the next tertiary move should also be a Walk-on to heighten the game at play.
While there are no mistakes in improv if you do two different tertiary moves that just requires more additional moves to make sense of the larger pattern.
If Player Three does a Walk-on, Player Four does a “We see,” and Player Five does a “Cut to,” while “success” is “possible” you can watch an audience fold its arms and legs, showing they have no faith in what comes next.
But experienced/aware improvisers can mix tertiary moves if they own them and their Triggers. So it is in this clip Continue reading
Yes, when approaching Tag-Outs it can be helpful for the sake of focused heightening to only tag-out one side of the scene – keeping one character consistent and heightening his/her Personal Game. And yes, when choosing between two players to tag-out it is often advantageous if you replace the catalyst and keep the character reacting to that catalyst.
But there are no “rules” in improv, just tools and considerations.
Sometimes what feels “right” in the moment goes against a standard guideline. The game below is one of those times.
Building a game out of heightening the pattern of an interaction isn’t just for improv.
It’s a creation tool. At least if you’re looking to create something coherent.
Both of these cartoons appeared in The Washington Post’s Sunday Cartoon section on September 30th. Read Jef Mallett’s Frazz and Tim Rickard’s Brewster Rockit below – but also just read them in general; they’re great.
How could they not remind me of our friend The Help Desk rubric group game?
In a Help Desk Game, the progression of the scenic games establishes the pattern, and that pattern’s evolving repetition serves to heighten a personal game or theme.
What’s just beautiful thinking about these comic strips as improv scenes using the Help Desk Dynamic, is how they get to call lights before they have to get to the punchline. By setting our expectations in the first interaction, WE – the reader or audience – laugh at following the second interaction in our own heads based on the first. Our Lizard Brain laughs at the recognition of the pattern – and that’s enough for your edit!
Patterns allow us to play confidently. Thanks for the illustrations, Jef and Tim!
A quick, fun Help Desk game utilizing the Split Screen.
The escalating pattern is fun but the commitment to emotion helps the pattern hit.
Listen for the laugh Adrienne gets just by reacting without words.
Note the key to the end is that Ben actually feels bad for his allergy to murder. The connection he makes between his allergic reaction and the dead bodies’ bloat is icing on the cake.
Players are (in order of appearance): Adrienne Thompson, Paul Costen, Becky Coppa, Jonathan Mostowy, Brittany Andersen, and Ben Hay