DI Tournament Photo Essay – Saturday, March 14th

Mateo was our official photographer for the day and here are the best of the virtual rolls he shot.  It’s a bit incomplete, but his rates were very reasonable.

 

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( Imagination Corporation in da House – Varsity and Jr. Varsity )

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( Miah’s Great Team Logo )

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( Jr. Varsity practicing Newscast Improv )

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( Dash and Miah prepping before the Improv )

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( Sabina and Emily Ventriloquist Improv or just BFFs )

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( The Pressure Unhinges Fe )

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 ( Experience gives Trey Confidence )

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( A Lull in the Battle )

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( He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Teammate )

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( Our Assesser Volunteer Pamela Faust’s Wicked Cool Hat )

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( Jr. Varsity Team Draws their Central Challenge Improv Elements )

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( Jr. Varsity Given the Wrong Central Challenge but Stiff Upper Lip It )

DI_2015_Awards_Adjusting_web

( Last Minute Grooming for the Awards Ceremony )

DI_2015_Awards_Hipsters_web

( Nervous Energy )

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( Partying Whoop Gambier-Style )

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( Attack of the Feral Pig and St. Pat’s Hat )

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( The Waiting is the Hardest Part )

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( Imagination Corporation in Formation )

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( Awards Ceremony Huddle )

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( Imagination Corporation Strong )

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Dewey Wins !!!

Harry Truman( Caught Counting our Unhatched Chickens at the DI Awards Ceremony )

The vote counting is in and the final scores from our Destination Imagination Regional Tournament in Reynoldsburg were just posted late tonight at the Central Ohio Region 4 Website.   As we anticipated, it was a razor thin margin between the top three teams.  Despite our personal best performances, our Varsity Imagination Corporation was narrowly edged out of 1st and 2nd place and therefore just fell short of advancing to the State Championship on April 11th at the Mount Vernon Middle School.

The good news was that our Varsity team was the only team among the 14 in their division to earn a perfect score in the Instant Challenge part (25% overall score).  Our Performance Instant Challenge is actually a far more accurate measure of Improv skills than the Central Challenge which can be prepared for with canned skit fragments.  It may be better for overall scoring to go in with well-rehearsed skit fragments, but in real life true Improv skills of quickly thinking on your feet and bending any situation into a funny story in real time will prove of far more lasting value.

Our Varsity team ended with an overall score of 380.7 for 3rd place.  Unfortunately, simply forgetting to incorporate one element in our last skit (Symphony location – 15 points) cost us 1st as we were only 4 points short of 1st (and 2 points or 0.5% shy of 2nd place).  Incidentally, 380.7 would’ve gotten us first place if the Varsity team was in the next older Middle School division, so I think we competed against quality teams in a particularly talented year.

DYSON  JONES( One Yard Short in Superbowl XXXIV – New Orleans 2000)

The junior varsity Imagination Corporation came in 6th overall with a score of 344.4  which was a great showing for a rookie team working together for the first time.  This team was evenly split between girls/boys, 3rd/4th graders and had kids from wildly differing backgrounds (from drama to a wrestling state champion).  Next year the varsity team graduates into the middle school division leaving the junior varsity team to compete in the elementary division alone.  This impressive rookie showing bodes well for the future.

Congrats again to our 2014-2015 Wiggin Street Elementary Destination Imagination Teams for a fun season, learning together and new personal bests:

Varsity Imagination Corporation

Westin Porter (5th grade) – Comic Genius

Beckett Pechon-Elkins (5th grade) – Supporting Teammember

Trey Stetler (5th grade) – Passion for Winning

Devin Beckett (5th grade) – Physical Comedy Award

Jon Stebbins (5th grade) – Most Improved

Junior Varsity Imagination Corporation

Dash Lepley (4th grade) – Energy and Enthusiasm Award

Miah Rodriguez-Hedeen (4th grade) – Creative Art Genius

Emily Springer (4th grade) – Drama Queen (in the good sense)

Mateo Pechon-Elkins (3rd grade) – Leadership Award

Sabina Hawks (3rd grade) – Outstanding Rookie

Felix Brooks-Quijada (3rd grade) – Bravery outside Comfort Zone

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I’ve gone over the game day tape and have reviewed a number of other winning videos which I’ll share with the teams on our Monday chalk talk and celebration lunch.  We’ve been relative purist in our improv training by eschewing canned scripts and point bookkeeping.  Instead, we’ve focused on traditional improv exercises and studying professional improv artists (all 4 of them) in YouTube clips like “Whose line is it anyway?” that are child safe (all 4 of them).  Without losing the real-world value and spirit of Improv, there is low-hanging fruit we can get next time by slightly adjusting our training to the distinctive point-based DI Improv system.

Finally, we should give a big thanks to our Wiggin Street Elementary academic adviser Ms. Waugh and Pamela Faust from the Provost’s Office at Kenyon College.  Without them volunteering as judges at our Regional Tournament yesterday, our two teams would not have been allowed to compete.  In addition, without Ms. Waugh’s weekly commitment to Destination Imagination and offer of her classroom, we would not have a place to meet throughout our season.

volunteers

Instant Challenge – Construction

IC-Logo-Square

Tomorrow, the Instant Challenge will account for 25% of our overall team score.  The team will be taking in a room and asked to complete one of 3 types of Instant Challenge:  Drama, Construction or Hybrid.  Typically, the team will be given 5 minutes to complete the assigned tasked and then are judged on how well they work together as well as the quality of their solution.

The Drama IC is where the team is asked to create a brief skit according to some guidelines.  The Construction IC is where they are asked to build something like a bridge or tower out of various objects like straws and pipe cleaners.  Finally, the Hybrid IC is where they construct some object and then incorporate it into a skit.

We’ve been focusing on our Improv Central Challenge most of the season, and only briefly covered Construction Instant Challenges.  Since our Central Challenge already involves rapidly constructing a skit with strong characters, narratives, etc – we’re pretty well set for Dramatic Instant Challenges.  What became apparent in yesterday’s practice is that we really need to focus on our Construction IC skills and here is the algorithm to best approach this using the easy to remember mnemonic (TCMOUBT):

0) Team Work

– Work together as a team, listen – don’t talk over each other, only positive comments and a lot of them

1) Time Management

– 50% planning (do not tape, tear or build anything yet – measure twice, cut once)

2) Classify All Materials

– Some materials may have several applications, some better than others (e.g. index card: container-best, extender if folded accordion style-good, connector if wrapped or torn in slit-poor)

a) Extenders

– Identify and Use best

STRONG:chopstick > WEAK:straw

LONG:pencil  > SHORT:popsicle stick

SIMPLE:1 long object > COMPLEX:many shorter objects

b) Connectors

– Identify and Use best

STRONG:sticky label > WEAK:folded paper

FLEXIBLE:pipe cleaner > INFLEXIBLE:clamp

SIMPLE:1 strong connector > COMPLEX:several weaker connectors

c) Containers

– Identify and Use best

STRONG:index card > WEAK:newspaper

SECURE:folded/taped index card > INSECURE

SIMPLE:1 piece construction > COMPLEX:several pieces held together

3)Think of Ways Materials Can be Modified

– If Instructions don’t prohibit it, it’s OK to do:

Fold & Bend – added rigidity or to join or shape

Twist – connector

Rip & Tear – create more pieces (eg stickers/paper), longer pieces, etc

4) Optimize Material Use

– Pick best tool for the Job (eg for load bearing extender Chopstick > straw)

5) Utilize All Materials if Possible

– Go back and see if there are any left over materials that can be intelligently used

5) Build, Test, Build

– Leave time to build, test, slightly redesign and repeat

ic_card_bridge

 

Here are how the Destination Imagination organization describes the purpose and scoring of Instant Challenges:

Goals
´ To put team’s creative problem solving abilities, creativity, and teamwork to the test in a short, time-driven Challenge.
´ Develop creative problem solving abilities
´ Develop performance techniques
´ Develop improvisational skills
´ Learn to analyze resources and use materials in new ways
´ Improve time management skills
´ Promote self-realization: Recognize and make the most of strengths
´ Promote team-realization: Recognize and make the most of a team’s diverse strengths
Methods
´ Teams will use provided materials to create a solution within the time limit and present the solution to Appraisers.
´ Teams will analyze the Challenge and any available materials and determine how best to use them in the solution.
´ Teams will use their collective and individual abilities and strengths to best advantage in solving the Challenge.
´ Teams will keep track of time during the solution and presentation phases of the Challenge.
Assessment
´ Each Instant Challenge includes a non-intrusive scoring system that is completed by Appraisers to give team feedback on their solution. Feedback can also be provided by Team Managers and other supporters during practice sessions.
´ These Challenges are similar to Challenges used in Destination ImagiNation Tournaments and can be used to provide teams with “Tournament-like” conditions. Teams may choose to have an outside party, such as a Team Manager, evaluate their solutions in the categories within the Challenge. Feedback can and should be provided to the team when practicing with these Challenges.

Tournament Improv Notes

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Each team is allowed to refer to notes during the 1 minute prep time for our 3 Improv skits.  Although we have only 1 minute to rough out our sketch, these should help us to focus on the key elements of the major theme (Improv Game) Improv element.

These are based upon the brainstorms we came up with this season to characterize the major characters that each possible theme introduces.  They will only be useful if you review them in advance, know exactly what they mean and can quickly refer to them to flesh out your skit.  There will be no time during the 60 seconds prep time to figure anything out – just flesh them out.  Ideally:

15 sec to identify every skit character:  Name, personality, voice, body language, mime style, goal

15 sec to identify basic narrative:  setting, main conflict, and resolution

15 sec to coordinate stage direction and speaking order (don’t step on each others line)

15 sec used as needed

——————————————————————————————————–

AWARD SHOW

One player is the host of an awards-style presentation/show. The rest of the players are
recipients of various awards and must give acceptance speeches.

Roles:  Announcer, Winner #1, Co-Winners #2 & #3, Winner #4

Characteristics:

Announcer:  flattering, sticky sweet voice, build suspense, bad joke/pun
Winners: over emotional, hugs, kisses, etc to everyone around
Winner Speech:  Honor, false humility/ego, thank everyone and special thanks

——————————————————————————————————–

DATING GAME

One player must select a date. Other players are designated as suitors. The suitors each have
unique characteristics that are not initially revealed to the audience. The dating contestant must ask the
suitors questions to reveal these characteristics in a creative way.

Roles:  Host, Date,  Suitor #1,  Suitor #2,  Suitor #3 & #4

Characteristics:

Host:  funny name and fake sing-song voice
Intro:  crowd repeats game show name and quick explaination of how game works
Suitors:  each give Brief Bio
Date:  Silly and funny questions, have #1 turn to #2 and pretend to be me
Host: announces wonderful trip, prize, etc then winner (Date tells why)

——————————————————————————————————–

INFOMERCIAL

One or more of the players are selling a product or activity, and the other players must act out
scenarios or ways that the product or activity can be used.

Roles:  Seller #1,  Seller #2,  Customer #1, Customer #2, Customer #3

Characteristics:

Product:  funny name that solves questionable problem and goofy jingle
Seller #1:  Loud Voice – the smart one who teaches – over the top demonstrations
Seller #2:  Asks dumb questions – and over the top flattery
Customers:  Always impressed and gushing
Sales Pitch:  Low Price, Freebies, Urgency, Fast talking disclaimers/warnings

——————————————————————————————————–

NEWSCAST

Players act as characters on a television newscast (such as head anchor, weather forecaster, sports
reporter, etc.).

Roles:  Studio Anchor #1, Studio Anchor #2, Field Reporter #1,  Witness #1,  Witness #2

Characteristics:

Studio Anchors:  breaking news and questions to Field Reporter
Field Reporter:  answers Anchors and questions witnesses
Witnesses:  Clueless, over the top, distracted, off topic, etc.

——————————————————————————————————–

QUIZ / GAME SHOW

One player is the host of a quiz or game show. The remaining players take on roles
related to the show (such as contestants, assistants to the host, etc.).

Roles:  Host, Assistant, Contestant #1, Contestant #2, Contestant #3

Characteristics:

Host:  Funny name, sing-song voice, catch phrase, quick description of game
Assistant:  human decoration and gift caresses
Contestants:  Personal Bio, over emotional

——————————————————————————————————–

SUPERHEROS

Players enter a scene one at a time, each with his or her own unusual “superhero” (or “supervillain”)
persona.

Roles:  Superhero, Sidekick, Villain, Henchman, Victim #1, Witness #1

Characteristics:

Superheros:  weird name, distinctive voice, superpower, origin story, extreme personality
Sidekick:  much lesser superhero
Villain:  weird name, distinctive voice,  not so superpower, origin story, quirk, GOAL
Henchman:  even lessor villain
Victim/Witness:  pick a funny character and get into that character

Saturday Tournament Details

DI_Tournament_trophies

This Saturday is our Destination Imagination Tournament at Reynoldsburg High School Summit Campus.  Here are the details for the day:  You can read more details at the Central Ohio Region 4 Tournament Website (click on the vertical menu along the left side of the webpage).

Location:  Reynoldsburgh HS Summit Campus, 8579 Summit Road, Reynoldsburg, OH 43068

Time:  8:30 A.M. (Both teams should arrive by 8:30 A.M. at the latest to register teams for the day and put on our team t-shirts (I’ll bring them to make sure no one forgets like last year).  We’ll then be ready to register again upstairs for our first event at 8:40 A.M. – the required 20min before our first performance at 9 A.M.

Parking:  $3 per car to park on school grounds for the entire day (to raise funds for the school)

Meetup:  We’ll meetup in the High School Main Lobby at 8:30 A.M. where all team registrations take place.  If anyone runs into problems, please call me on my cell at 415.531.4500 Jon Chun

Schedule:

Central Challenge (CC) time: 10:20 AM – Central Challenges are open to the public
Instant Challenge (IC) time 9:00 AM – Instant Challenges are closed to the public
Room C-128 Band Room
Team 135-16986
Central Challenge (CC) time: 12:20 PM
Instant Challenge (IC) time: 1:40 PM
Room C-128 Band Room
Team 135-17534
Food:
Food concessions will be available in the Commons Area and a Destination Imagination souvenir stand will be selling all types of merchandise.
You are welcome to bring your own food as well.
Downtime:
There will be a lot of downtime during the day.  We’ll try to use what time we have have to prepare for the next upcoming skits/instant challenges.  The morning team will finish early, and may want to wander around and sit in to watch other teams compete in Improv or other Central Challenges.
In years past, we would usually bring board or card games as well as food to fill in breaks.  If the schedule permits, some have even grabbed lunch off-site nearby.  We’ll finish well before the award ceremony at 6:15 so we may want to go offsite for an early dinner (depending on the parking situation).

Award Ceremony:  6:15 PM (probably 45-60mins)

If one of our teams places first in our competition level (1st among the 30 teams in the Improv Challenge), we may get an invitation to the state competition at Mt. Vernon Middle School and High School on April 11th.  Since Improv is unpredictable anything can happen.  The kids should really focus on having fun and doing their best.

If you kids have time between our last practice after school on Thursday and the tournament on Friday, they can review the YouTube videos and posts on our website:  wigginsstreetdi.wordpress.com.

Most of all, the kids should have fun.  If you have a funny hat or glasses or necklaces – by all means bring them.  The main thing is to relax, have fun and help the kids do their best.

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Improv Tips

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In our final attempts to hone our improv chops, I came across an unusually encyclopedic website called “How to Be a Better Improvisor” by Dan Goldstein.  It lists a number of very good tips that have come up repeatedly in our practices, some of which are worth calling out in this post.  Most of the information below is directly from Dan’s webpage, but sorted into categories to help kids process this information.

improv_rules_specific

A. PLANNING

(1) ROUGH OUT THE DRAMATIC MOUNTAIN:  SETTING/CHARACTERS, BASIC CONFLICT, ESCALATION AND RESOLUTION

Very quickly outline the most general features of the narrative arc of the skit – let actors each individually flesh out the details onstage in an improv manner.

(2) WHAT MAKES TODAY SPECIAL? IS A FINE QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF

Think about a scene as “a day unlike any other day.”  When it seems like something big or outrageous is going to happen (e.g. someone is about to confess their love, someone wants to rob a bank, wants to swim naked in the river, don’t just talk about it — do it.  In relationship scenes, think about saying the thing you’ve been waiting to say for 5 years (e.g. I love you, I love your twin, I ate your hamster …)

(3) “WHO WHAT WHO WHERE?” ARE GREAT THINGS FOR PEOPLE STARTING SCENES TO ASK THEMSELVES

A fine way to start a scene is to lay out who both people are, where they are, and what they are doing.  You may provide this information or do it for the other character.  Just be sure to accept all information the other character provides for you. Who? what? who? where? is nicely followed by raise the stakes — sort of an opening gambit for improv scenes.

(4) SKETCH OUT STAGE DIRECTIONS AND MARKS

Quickly talk through actors positioning, movement and stage entrances/exits.  Avoid congestion, confusion and chaos.  Try to keep the focus on only 2 speaking actors at a time.  Try to incorporate movement, mining and body language using the entire stage in interesting and creative ways.

 

B. ESTABLISHING SCENE

(1) BEGINNING SCENES

Basically, you want to cut to the interesting stuff as soon as possible. This is why we sometimes advise: start the scene with two people on, or start the scene with two people with common history.

Why have a scene that goes:

–Hi.

–Hello.

–What’s your name?

–Jim.  And what’s yours?

–Mike.

–What’s new?

–I’ve got one month to live.

When you can have a scene that goes:

–Jim, I’ve got one month to live.

–Let me get you a drink.

–No, my treat.

(2) COMMENCE WITH CHARACTERIZING ACTIONS

Characterizing actions are those which define a character’s occupation or role, such as a teacher erasing a blackboard, a janitor cleaning up, or a child playing with toys, are good for starting scenes because they provide your fellow actors something to build on. They say a lot about what is going on and thus help the scene get to the point faster. Note that the scene need not (and often should not) be about drinking a beer or chopping lettuce just because that’s what one of the characters is doing. Two people can start a scene engaged in an action together.  By putting status into this two-person action, a lot of information can be communicated very quickly.  For example, consider a scene which starts with one character hitting tennis balls, and the other chasing around after them.  The audience knows what the status is and where the characters are before the scene even starts.

(3) ADD HISTORY *

The swiftest way to add reality and depth to a scene is to have the characters call up specifics from their common history. A simple exchange such as:

–“Are you trying to get us arrested?”

–“Like the time we ran naked through the Yale-Princeton lacrosse game?”

though just a few words, provides a great deal of information. The audience and actors now can infer that the characters are college boys, they are troublemakers, they are educated, they are in New England, they drink to excess, they have police records, they are old friends, and much more. With one sentence, the amount of information the improvisers can now draw on has grown greatly.

 

C.  CREATE A RICH AND DETAILED SCENE WITH ACTIONS/WORDS/VOICE

(1) BE VERY SPECIFIC

If you’re going to say “nice car!”, why not make it “wow, a 1979 Volvo Station Wagon!” If we know the Volvo owner is a 21 year old woman, suddenly we can visualize her (well, maybe you can’t, but I can: she has dried blue and white oil paint on her fingers, wears an extra large men’s dress shirt as a smock, and has long, straight, chestnut-brown hair). A more vivid image opens up a rich, new world. Adjectives accelerate scene development.

(2) MIME BETTER, MUCH BETTER

50% of what the audience thinks of you as an improviser hinges on the quality of your mime and physicality. Don’t believe me, go out this week and watch the best improviser in your city. I’ll bet you they do incredible object work. Sadly, few improvisers ever do anything to improve their mime and few teachers have any worthwhile mime exercises. Use this fact to get ahead in life, kid.

(3) ENTER AND EXIT WITH PURPOSE

Entering, exiting and staying put should have a reason, be justified. This is the purpose of playing the game Entrances and Exits (go figure) in rehearsal.  Don’t just say “OK, bye” and walk out of a scene. Give a reason. Unjustified exits tend to be a problem novices have.

D. INTERPLAY

(1) GO LINE FOR LINE *

You can almost guarantee a good improvisation if each player: 1) Says just one line and 2) Bases his or her line on the last thing the other character said.

(2) ACCEPT INFORMATION: YES AND *

When you get a piece of information from another actor, first, accept it as fact and second, add a little bit more information to it.  If somebody tells you that you’re wearing a hula skirt, tell them yes you are, and that you made it right here at Club Med. Keep doing this long enough, and you’ll have a scene full of fascinating facts, objects and relationships.  Fail to do this and everyone will hate you, even your parents.

(3) DON’T DENY*

Denial is trashing what somebody else has set up or is trying to set up.  There are many forms:

Mime Denial: Somebody spends five minutes setting the dining room table, another character walks right through it. This will make the audience squirm and gasp and have a general sicky feeling.

Character Denial: Not letting the other person be what she wants to be.

–Hi, I’m your Dentist.

–No you’re not. You’re my gastroenterologist!

Location Denial: Contradicting setting information someone else established.

–Periscope down.

–What are you talking about? We’re in a helicopter!

The denying actor is not reacting to the presented information. Denial makes audience and cast uncomfortable. All denial can be rectified with Justification, but it’s a real skill.

People advanced in improv can tell the difference between bad denial and comedic denial.  In the latter, denial can make sense within in the logic of the scene: i.e., if Don Quixote were the helicopter pilot, he may say “periscope down” and need to be corrected by his straight-person assistant.  However, it requires a lot of respect (the opposite of denial) to get to the point where the audience understands that the captain is a Don Quixote.

Furthermore, experienced actors may appear to deny each other when playing games of one-upsmanship, but, upon closer inspection, they are accepting the information the other presents, then adding to it and raising the stakes. For example:

–Now you shall die by my sword, certified to be the sharpest in the land. Schiiing.

–Sharpest in the land! You mean you don’t import your swords? Scha-schiiing.

The response accepts what was stated, and one-ups it by finding a way to beat it without denying it.  A denying response would be, “Well, your certificate lies. Shluuung”.  Accept and justify the information that others provide.  It makes the scenes flow easier, and is simply less aggressive than denying what your fellow actors have created.

Two exercises can help people overcome the denying urge.  One is playing the denial game (i. e., playing out scenes where every line denies the other character’s previous line) to make one another conscious of the bad habit. Another rehearsal exercise, just for beginners helps to point out each others denials in scenes: simply respond to your fellow actor’s denials with “there’s no denying that!”.

(4) MAINTAIN YOUR CHARACTER’S POINT OF VIEW

If a character starts out adoring spider monkeys, but then decides she hates them 10 minutes later, it may confuse the audience and your fellow actors. Once you like spider monkeys, keep liking them until you have a reason to stop. Very often, you’ll keep liking them thoroughout the piece. If you’re consistent, then the other actors will best know how to support your character.

(5) PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT THE OTHER PERSON

Scene going nowhere?  Tell the other character something about him/her self.  The simple comment “Nice tuxedo”, can launch into a back-room panic session between a groom and his best man.  Getting specific makes scenes go somewhere fast.  Staying vague leads to scenes about two nondescript people standing in the middle of nondescriptland talking about tacos. Just kidding, tacos are descript.

(6) QUESTIONS SHOULD GIVE MORE THAN THEY TAKE

Why ask a question on stage?  Are you expecting your fellow-actor  to have a ready answer?  What if she doesn’t?  Doesn’t that put her on the spot? Don’t most questions slow the scene unnecessarily?  If it’s a yes-no question, are you prepared to react to both yes and no answers?If no, then aren’t you in trouble if the wrong answer comes back? If yes, then aren’t you writing?

Any question can be turned into a statement.  The nice thing about statements is that they provide information you and your fellow actor

can immediately start building upon.

Why go through:

–What time is it?

–Uh, 3:30?

–Are you ready?

–Yeah, are you ready?

–What are we doing?

–I don’t know.  What’s the capital of South Dakota?

–Uh, Fargo?

When you could have:

–It’s 3:30

–We’re right on schedule.

–Johnson should be handing the teller the note right now.

–It’s 3:31.  Ski masks on.

–Think I have time to run to the bathroom?

–Why don’t I ever get paired with Johnson?

Questions which don’t require answers are fine.  Questions which provide more information then they demand are fine, too, e.g. “Think I have time to run to the bathroom?” This question introduces information, raises the stakes, and doesn’t require the fellow actor to come up with a response. Rhetorical questions are fine, e.g., “Why don’t I ever get paired with Johnson?”

A drill to point out question-asking *in rehearsal only*, is to respond to each other’s questions with “that’s a good question …” or adopt the Yiddish practice of answering with the exact same question:

–What do you want?  [bad question, contributes nothing to scene]

–What do I want? [actor 2 points out that actor 1 is putting him on the

spot instead of contributing]

–Look, I’ll get you the money tomorrow [hurrah! actor 1 gets the message]

E. IF YOU GET STUCK

(1) BUY TIME

Silently and slowly mime a related (or even unrelated) action to buy time to think about a good response.  For example, mime pouring yourself a cup of coffee, slowly taking a long sip and letting out a hearty refreshing “aahhhh”.  Repeat if necessary for comic effect or play off this by pretending to spill it on your shirt, burning you, controlled hoping around, try to clean out the spot – all the while thinking of your next line.

(2) REDIRECT

If you’re absolutely stuck, ask your improv partner a open ended question back (e.g. Why is that? or I don’t recognize you – who did you say you were again?) or make a redirection to something unreleated (e.g. Did you just see that zoom by? or  What is that button on your shirt?).

This is not being a good improv partner and slows the flow, but it can be better than panic and long dead silence.

(3) GO AGAINST THE VOICE OF REASON

In our everyday lives, it often makes sense to follow the voice of reason.  In real life, if your friend says “I’m ugly”, you may tell them they aren’t, even if they are. Why? Perhaps because you feel it’s not important, you want them to feel better, you want to preserve your friendship, and so on. On stage, a different logic may apply. Audiences come to the theater to escape the mundane logical world, they sometimes want to see the barriers lifted. You may respond to “I’m ugly” with “you know, I’ve been meaning to say something…”. You may rob a bank because someone tells you to. You may play sycophant to your abuser. In short, you may do things onstage the real you wouldn’t do. Try going against the voice of reason, it’s liberating. You don’t have to justify your actions much, sometimes “I don’t know why I’m doing this, but …” is sufficient.

(4) PLAY THE OPPOSITE EMOTION

Something to try now and then in two person scenes.  For example, if one person is frustrated, come on at ease and relaxed.  A basic comedic structure which is the basis of many comedic movies, plays, and TV shows.

(5) RAISE THE STAKES

Scenes that are going nowhere can be much improved by putting more at risk, that is, introducing some large consequence of the wants of a character.

Why have:

–Hey, if you buy me that piece of candy, I’ll eat it.

When you can have:

–Hey, if you give that cop a wedgie, I’ll let streak down the street.

(5) ASK YOURSELF “IF THIS IS TRUE, THEN WHAT ELSE IS TRUE?”*

Often in improvisation, things deviate from the normal, the usual. (This happens for a number of reasons and it is usually not intentional. Improvisation is constrained communication so misunderstandings are bound to occur, and these misunderstandings, among other things, can lead to departures from normality.) When in situations that are fantastic, respond realistically, and heed this simple maxim to govern your action: ask “If this is true, then what else is true?” Each time you find the answer, you can play it out.

Example: Suppose, a character picks up the phone and calls Maureen. The improviser on the other end says “sorry, wrong number” and hangs up. The caller says “something must be wrong with me, I keep dialing wrong numbers these days”. The other improvisers ask themselves “if the protagonist can only dial wrong numbers, then what else would be true”. They come up with new scenes and initiate them. Someone initiates a fire in the scene and tells him to dial 911, inspiring someone else to pick up the call and say “411”. The misdialer tries to call his girlfriend and gets another woman on the line, who happens to recognize him from the last times he has dialed the same wrong number. She starts to flirt with him. The real girlfriend suspects something is up, uses reverse lookup, and confrontationally rings the doorbell of every woman whose phone number is 1 different from hers. The what-ifs continue, each person just asking themselves “if this guy only dials wrong numbers, then what else is true?”

improv_periodic_table