Silent Games

Aaron Grant once took the stage across from me, making eye contact but planting his feet firmly just beyond the stage right wing. I mirrored him on stage left. He mimed the mimeclassic flirtatious fishing move. I played his fish but broke his line bashfully, the stage’s distance remaining between us. I danced as someone with a club; he played my seal. He loaded his heart into a gun and shot it at me. I loaded my heart into a mortar and launched it at him. He shot me with a bazooka of love. I put love in a centrifuge and then in a bomb that erupted in a mushroom cloud of hearts. He built and climbed into a B-52 bomber than rained love upon me. We both stood up from the rubble and traced out hearts to one another. Never a word was spoken.

How does one teach Silent Games? Read on! Continue reading

Prioritizing Character Over Plot exercises

“I love opium.”

It’s a fine line between a character evoking a plot and a character reacting to their reality. A very fine line. But I believe that attention to that line can mean the difference between a scene where improvisers force a sequence of events dependent on an audience’s satisfaction with a resolution and a scene where characters are engaged in the moment of their reality with an audience reacting to – and investing in – a character’s consistency regardless of “sense.”

The following is a series of exercises geared toward prioritizing characters in-the-moment over improvisers setting-up-situations-to-be-negotiated. Continue reading

Jokestapositon, a warm-up

Everyone in a circle.dinge berry jersey

Starting Player starts with a Self Contained Emotional Statement through the filter of being a “crazy” character-type (a pirate, a monster, a nun.. see nonMECE list HERE.). For example, (proudly) “The full moon’s rising and with it my transformation.”

The Player to their right interacts through the lens of a “normal” character-type one affiliated with a “normal” location (a checkout gal at a supermarket, a bum in a bench, a trader in a Wall Street pit… see Life for MECE  list.). For example, (proudly) “We have a 24 hour concierge for whenever you need to stay or fetch.” Continue reading

World Hopping exercise

I love World Building in improvisation. With World Building in mind we can bring focus to our Organic Formats.

The first scene of a show starts in a train; the rest of the show exists in that same train.

The first scene of a show starts with Little League players. The next scene focuses on the parents in the stands. The next scene focuses on the players’ siblings hanging out in the parking lot.

The first scene of a show introduces a reality wherein people shield their improper thoughts from heaven with an umbrella.  The next scene shows angels using the same umbrellas to shield them from God’s view.  And later we see God himself hiding his own self-doubt under an umbrella.

In our efforts to build worlds though we mustn’t lose sight of Improv As Improv Does Best, which relies at its core on heightening established Personal and Scenic Games. So how’s about we build worlds around our patterns of emotional behavior?

Here is a series of exercises I ran to that purpose… 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

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

News Reel… endowment warm-up

newsreel_logo2

USSR 1730…

Vladimir Toma invents a heating device…

“Yah, so, this I call…vodka…”

The difference between one actor delivering all three of those lines and three improvisers delivering one of those lines apiece is huge in terms of audience reaction. When the audience sees that a player is accepting a choice given to them – as opposed to making their own choice in a vacuum – the audience will reward the attempt above the delivery. Forcing another improviser to own an endowment (aka pimping) can leverage improv as improv does best by emphasizing collaboration and minimizing the pressure on an individual to be clever. 

It’s wonderfully counter intuitive. If I “pimp” another player into reciting the poem they just wrote, that other player may feel a lot of pressure to provide a clever/funny response. But, with the audience knowing the situation has been forced on the player, whatever the player commits to will be accepted. Improvisers need to feel that being forced into a corner is  not confining, it’s freeing.

And, accepting a bizarre reality is more affecting than creating a bizarre reality.

This warm up exercise will make a team more comfortable forcing a situation on one another and more empowered being forced into an endowment.  Continue reading