Exercises: Who’s Unusual?

An exercise for deeper listening and for being aware that the audience is waiting for someone to be unusual.

Two people up. They get a suggestion and then they take a starting position, look at each other and wait. The starting positions don’t have to take into account the suggestion, and they should be small choices: sitting in a chair with a slight slump; standing up straight, or maybe hands on hips.

The teacher times out 30 seconds. The students do not start the scene. They must be able to see each other.  During that time the students just regard each other. Again, the scene does not being. No object work, no starting. Just this initial position, looking.

After 30 seconds, before starting the scene, the teacher asks the class to vote on “Who’s Unusual?”. There are four choices. 

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LAIIF Improv Talks

I am excited to be one of the speakers at the LAIIF Improv Talks, happening Saturday October 18th at The Downtown Independent.

These are like TED talks but about improv, by and for improv nerds. 

LAIIF stands for the Los Angeles Indie Improv Festival.

My topic is “Fighting In Improv.” I’ve got it all figured out!

Exercises: Words Slash Follow (Warmup)

A simple warmup I like to do has two parts.

Everyone up in a circle.

First part is “word association” — teacher picks someone to start. That person points at someone else in the circle and says any word or phrase (“traffic light”, “stone”, “acceptance”). That person then points at someone else and says whatever that term makes them think of. 

Specific (“suitable match”, “ferocious appearance”, “south of france”)  is better than general, but it’s more important to just keep it moving.

Second part is follow the follower. After like 20 seconds of the word association, someone in the group makes a big physical move — preferably in reaction to whatever was just said at that moment but it’s more important to just do it when it needs to be done. Once the person has made a physical move —- everyone switches into a non-verbal “follow the follower.” That means everyone just physically copies each other so the whole group is repeating a physical actions which is morphing.

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asker

jennysaint asked: As a new coach I find myself giving a lot of technical heady notes about things to keep in mind in a scene. It is inevitably getting people in their heads. How do I keep the fun alive and also work on some of the more technical aspects of improv?

Oof, yeah, I relate to this. Very often I’ll walk out of a practice I coached and think “Well, I just put those people in their heads for the rest of their lives.” To show that I never learn, I will now answer YOUR question with too much analysis and put YOU in YOUR head. Get ready!

The goal is to have more reps with shorter notes.

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Exercises: You Wanted To See Me?

I’ve been using this one to teach game.  It is a structured exercise, not a scene. (I’ve written about this one before, yes)

Start with one person in a chair. This person is in an office. A second person mimes entering, saying  “You wanted to see me, OCCUPATION?” where occupation is anything from the very general “farmer” to “head chef at the best restaurant in town.”

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Exercises: The Samurai

(This is an intended series on exercises I like to do. I say intended because who knows if I’ll do another one!)

An exercise: “The Samurai.” It’s a bit complicated but it’s fun. It’s where classmates reward each other for fulfilling specific improv goals.

4-6 people up on the back line. They are the “samurai.” They will be doing the scenes.

Another 4-6 people along the side walls. They are the “sensei.” (“Sensei” isn’t the historical accurate term, but I find it more palatable than “master” and also more cool to say.) The sensei will only be watching the improv, not doing it.

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williebhines:

Jake Curtis is a guy in London who took my 2-day harold intensive workshop and he drew up his notes into a neat page of his notebook. And it looked cool so I got a hi-res version from him which lives at my flickr page.
Featuring things I got from: Neil Casey (train to crazy town), Alex Fernie (What If?), Alex Berg (the hand thing) and a million UCB teachers/coaches.

I put this on my personal account but I think I maybe shoulda just put it here on the improv one.
Shannon O’Neill was teaching her “Suck My Dick” workshop next door, which is a fun crazy loud workshop so we would comment on that sometimes and that’s why it says “Suck My Dick Next Door” in these notes.

williebhines:

Jake Curtis is a guy in London who took my 2-day harold intensive workshop and he drew up his notes into a neat page of his notebook. And it looked cool so I got a hi-res version from him which lives at my flickr page.

Featuring things I got from: Neil Casey (train to crazy town), Alex Fernie (What If?), Alex Berg (the hand thing) and a million UCB teachers/coaches.

I put this on my personal account but I think I maybe shoulda just put it here on the improv one.

Shannon O’Neill was teaching her “Suck My Dick” workshop next door, which is a fun crazy loud workshop so we would comment on that sometimes and that’s why it says “Suck My Dick Next Door” in these notes.

Is It Coming From Fear?

There’s lots of rules that contradict each other. Play it real or don’t be coy? Play yourself or take the endowment? Edit now or give the scene more time?

A good way to resolve if you’re doing it right: is your decision coming from fear? If it is coming from fear, then try waiting. 

"My character wouldn’t dance so I’m not dancing" 

"I have to label this right now or the audience is going to turn on us" 

"I have to call out that mistake or else everyone is going to be focusing on it for the rest of the scene"

"I don’t know anything about that movie/doing that accent/miming that thing —- so I have to justify and not do it."

It’s scary doing improv, nonetheless: don’t be scared.

Harold Night Text Adventure Update

image

Look, we all have our vices. One of mine is working on my text adventure representation of the UCB Theatre in 2003. 

You can go here to play it. Click “Play in-browser” 

http://www.willhines.net/if/harold3/index.html

[You can also see the solution or look at the weird source code (game is written in the language Inform 7, a computer language which is grammatically correct!).]

This is a “text adventure” - a style of game first popular in the early 1980s when computers couldn’t support graphics. It is difficult and perhaps incredibly alienating to play! But I used to be a computer programmer and I like noodling with such things.

In this game, you must wander the rooms of the UCB Theatre in NYC, find improv teachers, and also find the items they wish to have. Give them the items in exchange for improv lessons. Once you have all the lessons, you go on stage and do an improv scene. Over the course of the game you meet all UCB4 as well as time-travel to Chicago and meet Del Close. The game has a target audience of about 200 people max.

This update does not fundamentally change that much BUT I DID ADD:

  • Neil Casey and Chad Carter working on a modem in the box office
  • an improv Superfan sitting on the bench by the stage giving advice
  • a few more rooms in the house just to make the world more complete
  • a more clear walkthrough if you just want to type in the commands needed to win
  • possible exits listed in the title of every room
  • an option to leave the theatre and have a normal life
  • everyone will do crazy 8s with you
  • you can “get people’s backs” throughout
  • a few more shows going on on the stage

Other releases which I have done in past months but did not announce:

  • boldfaced all important things, so you know what you need to focus on
  • better help screens
  • more dialogue that hints at what you should do next

I’ve probably introduced errors as well. But there are no mistakes in improv! So that’s good.

The included graphic is the map that is not available to the player. The room “Ar” is the stage (Ar stands for Arena — the word stage was being used elsewhere), the “BO” is the box office, the “GR” is the green room and “Cc” is couches.

oh god, this

Defensiveness

This is an essay about the natural defensiveness that rises up in improv and can hold us back. But to get there, I want to talk about a very common way to start a scene, and that’s the “explain this” method.

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