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.” 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

1.1 – The Self Contained Emotional Statement

THE SELF CONTAINED EMOTIONAL STATEMENT

How do you start an improv scene? My answer was forged from the perspective of giants’ shoulders.

Mick Napier, of The Annoyance Theater, says we start with just one thing.

– Assume a posture.
– Grab an object.
– Start a motion.
– Engage your environment.
– Embody a character.
– Emote.

What do you do with that one thing? Expand, says Napier. Discover through “if this
than what” extrapolation. Build that one thing out, or draw a line to another point of the
scene.

The direction I believe you should expand to – the scene start structure most conducive to
good improvisation – is the Self-Contained Emotional Statement.

It can be as simple as:

– I love it here.
– I hate the arts.
– I’m uncomfortable.

The Self-Contained Emotional Statement aligns you with an emotional perspective. It’s a solid foundation on which to build the possibilities. Continue reading

1.2 – Collaboration

YES, GOOD IMPROVISATION REQUIRES A GROUP. AND, WE AGREE.

A great improvisational performance requires both a group and an audience.

It’s the collaborative building that makes improvisation exciting. The ability to riff is dependent on having something to riff off of. The definition of riffing demands that there be an “accompaniment” or “exchange.” Sure, a single improviser can riff off an audience like a stand-up comedian can. But rarely is there enough audience input to require that a performer relinquish control of the show. To my mind, performers who put up “one person improvised shows” are playing with themselves in front of a crowd – and the inappropriate connotation is intended.

Improv as improv does best requires a group. Two people. Three people. The over-flowing stage of a festival improv jam. You need people to play with. You need people to riff off of.

Creating something out of nothing with a group of people in front of a live audience is hard. There are more people on stage for the audience to watch and listen to. There are more opinions about what’s happening and what needs to happen. More things breed less focus.

The more people you’re playing with, the clearer you have to be. When initiating with the Self-Contained Emotional Statement, the individual serves the scene’s clarity by concentrating on specificity and brevity. When there’s more than the initiator on stage (and there should be), continuing to serve the scene’s clarity relies on Agreement.

Continue reading

1.5 – Help Desk Games

HELP DESK

Two players meet in the middle of the stage and focus on figuring out the scene together.

I want to return this vacuum.
What’s wrong with it?

Or…

I want to see a manager.
Ma’am, he’s on a break.

Or…

I bought this and it won’t work.
I’m going to need to see a receipt.

Or…

That’ll be five ninety-nine.
Okay, I have ten eighty-eight.

I don’t want to see improvisers question, oppose, negotiate with or engage in transactions with each other. Even written, honed, acted and edited these scenes can prove tedious. But we can salvage these boring scenes with our good friend, the pattern. Continue reading

1.6 – More Help Desk Games

HELP DESK HELP YOU

Through the progression of a Help Desk game’s dialogues, we heighten the participants’ personal games.

Two players swapping opinions on a piece of art can be a pretty funny scene. But, with Help Desk game mechanics, we can heighten personal games to make the characters’ emotional perspective more important than the premise Continue reading

1.7 – Hey Everybody Games

HEY EVERYBODY!

How do you focus a Ten Person game?

Step right up. Step right up.
I want to ride the roller coaster.
You’re too short to ride this ride.
See the two-headed boy for two dollars.
I’m afraid of clowns.
I ate too much cotton candy.
Where can I buy beer?
I’m on mushrooms.
Don’t miss Smash Mouth at the amphitheater.
Hey, baby, want me to win that whale for you?
I’m pregnant.

We have ten different perspectives. We didn’t build with collective agreement to focus ten players into a One, Two or Three Person scene.

We have ten different perspectives on ten different things. While we’ve expanded the environment of a carnival, we Continue reading

1.9 – Organic Games

ALL TOGETHER NOW

Using To The Ether mechanics we can build a pattern from a progression of personal games, establishing and heightening a scenic game in the pattern’s evolving repetition.

Using Help Desk mechanics, we can establish a pattern out of a scenic game, and repeat that pattern to heighten a personal game or theme.

Using Hey Everybody mechanics, we can develop a pattern from a scene’s disparate personal games, and then heighten all games through that pattern’s evolving repetition.

With these rubric game mechanics in our toolkit, we can confidently navigate any progression of moves. Continue reading