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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Call & Response Connections

Dang, it’s been along time since I posted. There is a site re-design in the works and I have been working through teaching online. So lots of good things ahead for improvdoesbest.com.

But here it is Halloween night 2020. I’m feeling a little hopeful (knock on wood). And an interaction just inspired me to knock out this little post.

My daughter is digging into her bag of treats and said, “These gummies are delicious.”

“As a matter they are, she said,” I said.

My wife laughed.

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Location, Location, Location: An exercise about Connecting through Characters and Relationships

GUS, the delightful and talented team from The Baltimore Improv Group, opens its sets these days by asking the audience for “Three non-geographic locations.” Asked to come up and lead a practice, I brought this exercise with me. We had a lot of fun with it. You will, too.

Have you ever been in The White House? Ever gone into space? Ever visited an old West saloon? No? Well have you ever seen a television show or movie about one of those locations that you felt was “relate-able”?

The audience relates to Characters and Relationships even in “unrelatable” circumstances. As improvisers, we can go to wackier and wackier places as long as we center our scenes in knowable characters and relationships. And, remember, we know our characters and relationships through their patterns of emotional behavior.

As an improviser, have you ever been suggested a location or activity you’re not personally familiar with and as a result you end up playing a character who is “new” to the location/activity or just openly inept?

When the audience is engaged with Characters and Relationships they care way less about the authenticity of your mime and/or details. It’s the old Back To The Future Versus The Matrix dynamic: Because we were invested in Doc and Marty as people, knowing that once 85 MPH was achieved the Flux Capacitor sent you back in time was all that we needed. Conversely, because The Matrix was mostly filled with unemotional characters, nerds ruthlessly attacked the world’s nitty gritty.

Bottom line: This exercise will allow your group to more confidently explore far off worlds by finding a connection in Character and Relationships.

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Find “Game” by Feel

Mmmm…what do these have in common?

When asked for a desired focus for a scheduled coaching session, a Duo sent me the following:

Mainly character stuff, fleshing them out versus building out more plot. Getting better at finding and sticking to the game of the scene.

What follows is some didactic and exercises that filled two hours.

DIDACTIC: How do You think about “Game” in improv?

Acknowledged ad nauseam here on Improv As Improv Does Best, the idea of “Game” gets thrown around a lot in improv.

At its most dumbed down, “Game” is “the funny thing, done more.” Though what the “funny thing” is is subjective.

At once both more sophisticated and more corny, “Game” can focus on the repetition of the cause and effect of actions. Short Form‘s blessing and curse is that its rhythms connect so quickly (helped by being made explicit) – the audience is rigged to react to anticipation but the rigging can be too tight and become stale.

Aiming for an universal answer this site’s materials are predicated on the definition of “Game” as “a sequence of actions related by cause in effect, heightening in a progression through repetition.” Holds true for baseball and Monopoly alike.

Regardless of definition, “Game” needs Emotion.  Continue reading

#ToTheEtherTuesday 6.4.19

I started my Twitter account to drive folks to my site. David Pijor told me what I needed to do on Twitter was get “conversation going.” So #ToTheEtherTuesday and #WordAssociationWednesday were born as conversation starters.

And I like them as improv pattern practice.

Obviously they rely on more on text than emotion and are near-devoid of physicality. And obviously contributors have time to craft their response, as opposed to having to follow in-the-moment in improv.

But – learn rigidly to play loosely! Text-concentrated patterns can get heady; through Twitter we can focus on our head so as to make it a better partner to heart and body when on stage. The extra time for thoughtfulness when playing Twitter games hones in-the-moment thoughtful reactions. Continue reading

In-the-Moment games

I love Pattern Play. I love the way an ensemble, focused-outward on making each new move in the service of what they individually have seen come before, can make a group look like it has ESP.

Eminem meets IKEA

I love “the moment.” I love the way an authentic reaction to a moment -that in no way could have been preconceived – can connect with an audience for a big laugh.

And I LOVE when concentrated pattern play incorporates “the moment” to be something uniquely Improv As Improv Does Best, connecting the ensemble and the audience in a previously-unknowable, perfectly-found moment.

“An ensemble of players gets on stage without previously rehearsed lines or blocking and acts out, making up the show as they go along. The audience understands that this show is constructed from nothing before their eyes. In these aspects, improvisational performance differentiates itself from any other performance medium.”

– Improv As Improv Does Best

I have three examples from my latest 301 Patterns & Games Showcase show.

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My 3 Rules & The Iterative Process

I recorded the session of my Patterns & Games class at The Coalition Theater in which we tackled the My 3 Rules game I’ve previously presented as a warm-up.

One, the camera’s distance makes it hard for the viewer to really track the game in play.

Two, oh, man, looking for a drinking game? Watch me teach and drink every time I say, “Right.”

Three, My 3 Rules – like Kick The Duck, Red Rover – is a game played through iterations. With each iteration, students “get it” more and by the end are fully engaged in the mechanics and they’re laughing

In the following post, I’m going to share some clips from that night’s video showing the iterative learning process. My hope is that it’ll serve as a teaching lesson, both through how I provide instruction between iterations and how students loosen up and learn as a result of the iterations. Continue reading