Remember this Simpsons bit with Krusty about hemorrhoids and riding bikes?
That “I can ride a bike again!” idea jumps into my head a lot (more often than a person should really think about hemorrhoids…probably). I think about it in conjunction with that “It’s just like riding a bike” expression used to refer to an activity that, once learned, becomes so second nature that it can be engaged again without effort even if it’s been a long time since the last time you engaged the activity.
I’ve been improvising on stage since I was 12. Over the subsequent years I’ve learned a lot and logged a lot of hours on stage. You might think at this point – even if I were to step away from improv for a while – I could get on stage with anyone anywhere and it’d be “just like riding a bike.”
But then there are those damn hemorrhoids. Once you get decent at something you can get in your head about not wanting to fall back below that level of competence you’ve reached, and that fear actually undermines the effort. God forbid you start teaching so that every time you get on stage in front of students your mind goes to “putting your money where your mouth is” instead of putting your mind in the moment. And, heavens to Betsy, one day you’ll be on the old side of this young person’s hobby and you’ll feel that while you’re taking stage time those whippersnappers are thinking you should be put out to pasture. Hemorrhoids!
On top of that, you might be committing the worst sins of the old improviser: You and your team aren’t practicing and don’t have a coach. So you are feeling all the pressure in the world to succeed on stage and eschewing the thing that your ensemble needs to succeed.
Yes, “you” is “me.” These are my hemorrhoids, my sins. Riding a bike was hard.
But guess what? “I can ride a bike again!” And the fix? Preparation (H).
The Opening generates a lot of Details for them to inspire future scenes. The big jumps showcase individual’s humor and building on one another showcases their ensemble. It’s high energy and frenetic with focus still being shared.Continue reading →
We want to avoid conflict, debate and negotiation in our improv scenes. The audience knows we’re making it up – building something from nothing – they don’t want to see us arguing over imagined reality; they want to see us react to an accepted reality.
What’s the best way to avoid arguing? Acceptance! Agreeing to a conflict-laden declaration is the easiest way to ensure a scene’s forward momentum.
Getting synced with your teammates is why we warm up. Give this activity a try!
Everyone in a circle. One by one, in no particular order, we enter the circle.
First we share our current mindset with the group. For example, “Tonight I’m feeling tired. I stayed up too late and woke up too early.”
“So, tonight I’m gonna…”
Second, we commit to bringing to stage a different energy than we’re currently feeling AND we make that energy incarnate with a character, sound, action, emotion, line of dialogue, etc. For example, “So, tonight I’m gonna go ape,” and I act like a gorilla, howl and beat my chest.
And “We’re with you!”
Third, everyone around the circle says, “We’re with you!” and mirrors your character, sound, action, etc. For example, we’re all acting like gorillas.
Then the next person goes. Repeat.
Simple. Easy. Quick. And it gives us a moment to let our fellow players into our heads and aware of our intentions. AND it gives us all a chance to show our commitment to enthusiastic agreement and collaboration.
A group of improvisers gather pre-show. They take off excess clothes. They empty their pockets. They ask about each other’s day.
One guy tells a story about an out-of-the-blue run-in with an old friend that happened that day.
Another improviser tells her own story about an even more random out-of-the-blue run-in with an even older friend. And an organic warm-up is off running.
An improviser notices two of his compatriots are bent down tying their shoes so he mirrors them. A fourth follows. A fifth. And an organic warm-up is off running.
An awkward group of improvisers gravitates into a pre-show circle, wanting to find something organic, not wanting to force anything. One guy starts mirroring another’s nervous hand wringing. A girl coughs so someone else does. Someone laughs. They all laugh. And an organic warm-up is off running.Continue reading →