Awkward Allergies – a split screen Help Desk

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 CoppaJonathan Mostowy, Brittany Andersen, and Ben Hay

Mirror, Action, Object’s Scenic add-on

Personal Games are the focus of the base Mirror, Action, Object warm-up exerciseMAO1 Engaged in either how they feel about themselves, how they feel about what they’re doing, or how they feel about a mimed object, players build progressions of emotional reaction triggered by active endowments. As examples: A player loves his outfit, and as he scans himself toe to head he grows more and more impressed with himself (Mirror). A player grows more insane with every monotonous saw stroke. A player becomes more and more vain with every bite of the apple.

This add-on expands the warm-up to practice Scenic Games as well.  Continue reading

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

Keep It Simple: Feel & React

A Coalition show called Strange Bedfellows pairs an actor with one half of a script with an improviser who ad libs their half.  I had the honor of performing one night in the improviser’s role.

And I have never been more terrified pre-show.

In a typical show, I have at least one improv partner. I can relax in the uncertainty of improvisation knowing that, whatever happens, my partner(s) will support my choices, I’ll support theirs and any direction we go together will be successful.  In this show, I can’t trust my scene partner to support my choices; they’re tied to their lines. They could be directly working against me.

Other improvisers who had done the show encouraged me to “just make a choice.” But “a choice” can be anything: a limp, a pirate accent, a yo-yo. My anxiety wasn’t calmed my the advice.

My calm came from realizing that I didn’t need to treat this any different than any other scene.  And to succeed in any scene all I had to do was Feel and React.

EmotionReaction

Two Sides of the Same Two Person Scene Coin

“More of this makes me feel more.”

 

Continue reading

Blackout video example

A “Blackout” is a short scene with one big punchline.  In sketch, or in improv with a tuned-in booth operator, the lights would go out on stage after the punchline, designating the end of the scene and earning the name “blackout.”

Blackouts are fun.  They can help vary the pacing of a long-form show.  They can be great when it’s clear there’s not going to be a bigger laugh beyond the first big punchline, but even if there is life beyond the punchline it can be enjoyable to cut the scene “early” so you can bring it back later.  Will Hines and I had a scene where, in crossing stage, he asked if I had “a roll of quarters in my pants.”  I did, I removed it and that was the end of the scene.  Later in the show he asked if I was smuggling a zucchini in my pants; again, I was.  Repeat.

I really love this Blackout from Horse Apples’ District Indie Improv Fest Show.  Joey Tran kills it by being authentic.  Truth is he doesn’t believe he can whistle; that’s honest frustration in his “no” to my question.  And the audience believes him. So when he tries – and he legitimately tries because, again, he doesn’t think he can – and, lo and behold, he succeeds!, the surprise is also genuine.  Honest, in-the-moment, shared with an engaged audience, emotionally reactive… that’s improv as improv does best, folks.

An improv stage can be anywhere. On it we can do anything.
You could be in a submarine on Mars raising talking chickens.
Often improvisers are good at labeling the moment.
But you need more than words; you have to be in the world.
This exercise focuses on attaching emotions to the scene’s active elements – what can be felt, seen or otherwise experienced on the stage – to foster reactions.

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