Why Don’t You – a look at improv “no-nos”

Beginning Improvisers are given a lot of rules about what not to do.

Don’t say “no.” Don’t ask questions. Don’t negate or negotiate imagined reality. Don’t do teaching or transaction scenes.

Why not?

Here’s a quick look at why improvisers are told to avoid these moves and how you can absolutely successfully do those moves.

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Post-Pandemic Pack – Worth The Wait?

“Pack” is Back, baby!

Nick Leveski (the “ck” to my “Pa”) and I had our first in-person show in over a year on July 23rd of 2021. We had a great crowd, eager to get out of the house and to laugh. We had a whole lot of fun.

But was it any good?

I run the classes program, to include writing the improv curriculum, at The Coalition Theater. Oh, and I have a website dedicated to dissecting Improv As Improv Does Best. Clearly I have thoughts about what constitutes “good” improv.

But while I believe in “my way,” it’s my way. In learning improv it’s important to have direction and goals and I believe my approach is useful to improvisers looking to learn. At the end of the day, though, to be worth a damn, an improviser needs to figure out their way of improvising.

The brilliantly funny, Rachel Marsh, told me post-show, “You all did all the things we’re told not to do – negating, transactions, teaching scenes – but damned if you didn’t make it all work.” Again, in learning improv it’s extremely useful to receive guidance that leads us toward choices that are fun for us and the audience and, conversely, away from choices that often lead to real slogs of scenes.

But of course, to really know what you’re doing you need to understand why certain choices are labeled improv “no-nos.” Then one plays within a world of possibilities, not limitations.

So…

What follows is a dissection of the five scenes that made up Pack’s 6/23/21 Show to answer the question: “Was this a ‘good’ show?”

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#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

Invocation exercise

Mirroring/repeating language, details and rules heightens a group’s work while keeping it cohesive.

INVOCATION – Players stand in a half circle. On the count of three, a “god” appears before them that they will worship in three phases: First, they will describe it physically; “Oh, God, with your fowl beak.” Second, they will address its less tangible qualities; “Oh, God, who tastes like everything.” Third, they will ask it to do unto them; “Oh, God, henpeck my enemies.”
Lessons:
• Be clear about what “it” is – don’t be vague for artsy sake; the sooner everyone knows what “it” is the sooner everyone can dig deep into the details
Unite behind an emotional perspective on “it” – “what we hate about Microsoft” will collaboratively heighten faster than “what we know about Microsoft”
Simplify with mirrored language – switching between phases is clearest when there’s a defining cadence to phase one (“Oh, God”) and a new cadence to phase two (“Sweet, Jesus).
Callback – What does a detail from phase one signify in phase two and can be used for in phase three?
Establish rules of reaction – Y follows X: “…who is never afraid,” “You’re a chicken who’s not chicken;” “…who never stops going,” “You’re a chicken who’ll always win at chicken.”
Establish Siloes – What can be the filter through which your contributions come? I’m the guy who: said, “Eyes as red as flames” so I’ll say, “Heart as black as coal.”
• There are no mistakes – seek to fold in everything; don’t drop things that seem out of place

Performers are Becki Heckman, Ian Johnson, Suzi Makarem, Robert Nickles and Jordan Walker Continue reading