I’m wishy washy about improv class showcases.
On the one hand, if the point of going through classes is to learn to do performance-ready-level improv, then it seems sadistic to make 101 students “put it up on its feet.”
But on the other, nothing informs an improviser like improvising and all it entails – collaborating to build something out of nothing in-the-moment before a live audience. And so practice in front of a live audience should be part of each course.
So the in-between place becomes preparing each class for a performance that showcases – in grand improv style – all that they learned in class, on top of everything they’ve learned before, within bounds that keep them from stumbling into unknown territory.
Here are examples of how to do it…from 101 to 401… Continue reading
Learn rigidly. Play loose.
The Johnsons are the most dyed-in-the-wool Improv As Improv Does Best group there is. Makes sense. I coach them.
They were taught the contents of this website. They learned the mechanics of spontaneous collaboration. But the desire has never been for them to conform to one style of improv as dictated by their lessons. Rather the goal is always providing tools unique improvisers can utilize to enhance their personal approach.
The Johnsons are at their best when they Continue reading
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 by 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.
Two Sides of the Same Two Person Scene Coin
“More of this makes me feel more.”
As a warm-up exercise or a short-form performance game, Four Corners is a fun way to explore two person scenes and subsequent beats.
Check out this wonderful example from The Coalition Theater‘s class showcase. I am particularly fond of the players’ choice to enthusiastically agree and trust in the power of emotion alone when met with the suggestion of “Trump rally.”
Performers are Sheldon King, Cindy Nester, David Pratt and Britne Walker
Jive Turkey is Chris Ulrich and Joe Randazzo. They’ve been working on a two-man format where all the worlds connect.
There’s certainly a through-line of a plot here – finding one character’s spouse, trying to have a threesome with said spouses, etc. – but what I like here is that the worlds are more connected by emotional characters and their words than by the plot.
“Buh-duh, buh, buh, buh,…”…enjoy it!
The Johnsons’ suggestion was “Cat Food.” Thus, Cat Videos.
The whole show is worth watching and is included at the bottom of this post. But first: Mr. Mittens.
Watch as the Johnsons’ pattern recognition skills bring down the house and the lights.
“Do we have to stick the sequence in Hey Everybody games?” students ask. No. Of course not. Play organically. Follow the game where it goes. Don’t ever feel constrained by the pattern.
But. There’s power in the pattern.
Watch the following Hey Everybody game from a Johnsons’ show. It ain’t pretty, but it’s illustrative. Watch as the gang falls away from the sequence of contributions. See what happens. Hang in there until the end where you can see that one Player’s faith in the pattern is all that’s needed to secure a satisfying edit with the audience.
Don’t be the improver who initiates a scene by running to center stage and delivering a premise.
Don’t be an improviser in a scene where two players stand shoulder-to-shoulder, cheating-out, and talking about something not in-the-moment.
Don’t be a point in the arch of a group game where improvisers stand in a semi-circle and discuss a topic.
See your environment. Endow. And have an emotional stake in the details.
That’s the core of Improv As Improv Does Best.