Structure of an Ottawa Some Assembly Required Drop-In Workshop class:

Add items to this list, with hyperlink references to games if possible.

- mental warm-up for whole group (while people are arriving late)

  - many of these exercises can be passed randomly by pointing, instead of following the strict circle order
  - Two Truths, and a Lie (to introduce new people)
  - Word-at-a-time Story (doesn't work well if randomized!)
  - Gibberish Dictionary
  - Word Dis-Association
  - One Minute Expert
  - Yes, And...
  - Firing Line / Goalie (each person goes down the line responding to offers: word association, rhymes, first two lines in a scene, Yes And, C.R.O.W. etc.)

- physical, more energy warm-up for whole group

  - Fruit Basket (person in centre asks question with yes/no answer)
  - Yes! (stand in a circle, look for someone to say Yes! and go there)
  - Zoom (clap and zoom around the circle)
  - Clap-Freeze
  - Big Booty (Big Booty, Big Booty - O Yeah! repeating back numbers)
  - The Amazing Machine
  - What Are You Doing?
  - Walking and Stopping (one person stops walking and then everyone stops)

- review basic improv skills in circle

  - Yes, And... (Don't Block: pass a story around the circle using Yes, and...)
    - variation: the story may pass to any person (by pointing)
    - variation: you may call in other people in the circle to provide other characters (e.g. expert witness)
  - quickly establishing Character, Relationship, Objective and Where C.R.O.W.
  - Play It Big!  (really go with your character, idea, etc.)
    - big doesn't always mean loud; really commit to whatever you do
  - make each other Look Good (support your fellow improv actor)
    - really *listen* to what was said ("Yes") and build on it ("And...")
  - Stage Presence (face stage front, honour the focus, etc.)
  - Find Your Character right away and hold onto it
    - scenes play so much better if you know who you are!
    - allow for Status Switch as scene progresses - things may change
      - be flexible with status so that real change is possible
  - Jill Bernard's physical character building: V.A.P.(A.P.O.)
    - Voice, Attitude, Physical/Posture, (Animal, Prop, Obsession)
  - pay attention to your mime props and don't drop or walk through them

- application of the basic skills in scenes

  - Basic Scene
    - a scene using all the tools: C.R.O.W., Yes-and..., etc.
    - no tricky complications or games - keep it simple
  - Park Bench
  - two-lines of Goalie (pairs of people create instant C.R.O.W.)

- random improv games and fun

  - many of these games are fun for experienced actors; but, they may be too complex for teaching basic improv scene skills
  - Sentences (written on paper ahead of time, called out during scene)
  - Questions Only
  - Slide Show
  - He Said, She Said (pimping each other with stage directions)
  - Stunt Doubles (call in other actors to do the tricky stuff)
  - Environment Creation (each actor becomes an element in a location provided by the audience)
  - Sit, Stand, Lean (three-person scene)
  - Stop and Go (you can move *or* you can talk, not both)
  - Alphabet Scene
  - Scenes with words that don't use a particular letter
  - Scenes with sentences of a fixed number or words
  - Silent scenes; Serious Scenes
  - World's Worst
  - Entrances and Exits
  - Party Quirks
  - Murder chain endowment
  - Conducted Story; Emotional Symphony
  - Paper chase
  - One minute expert (or three headed expert)
  - Musical scene
  - Typewriter scene (interplay between author and characters)

- a rousing closing event to end the evening

  - Clap-Freeze

- Exit: collect $5 each for the room, write down who came, go home happy

Teaching Improv Class:

While theatre improv scenes are themselves unscripted and spontaneous, improv classes are not. An improv class needs structure to be effective. We suggest doing warm-ups, reminding ourselves of the basic skills, then doing scene work to practice those skills and getting feedback on how the scenes went. End the class with some random fun stuff. A prepared teacher makes good use of everyone's time.

Improv Games are advanced learning tools

Most theatre improv games are designed to place impediments in the way of experienced improv actors. The impediments provide entertainment as the actors struggle to overcome them and still make the scene work (e.g. alphabet scene, entrances/exits, rhyming scene, etc.). The games demand improv skill and they make doing good scenes difficult. That makes the games fun for the audience, when they work, and it makes most games unsuitable for learning basic improv skills.

To learn improv skills, don't make scenes hard to do; make them as easy as possible. Don't place impediments in the scene; just do the scene and attend to basic "Yes, and..." and C.R.O.W. skills. If you want structure, use something simple such as "Park Bench". Avoid theatre games where the actors spend so much time trying to work the game that they forget the basics of how to do a believable scene. Theatre games don't work if the scene gets lost to the game.

As the skill of the actors improves and the ability to do a scene becomes more and more reliable and automatic, improv game impediments can be introduced gradually.

Providing constructive feedback

Doing scenes improves our improv skills. Having feedback after each scene accelerates the learning. After each scene have everyone discuss how well the actors followed "Yes, and..." and C.R.O.W. Did the actors feel that they supported each other? Did each actor feel that the other actors were really listening to what they were saying, and picking up on the cues?

Be sensitive to the flow of a scene. Feedback is important; but, don't constantly interrupt new actors. Take notes and talk about the scene immediately afterward. Feel free to repeat parts of the scene that didn't work - look for ways to make things work.

Moving skills from circle to stage

Actors may be experts at "Yes, And..." in a practice circle and yet forget it entirely when they are on stage. Instructors may have to remind participants to follow "Yes, And..." during real scenes.

A scene built upon "Yes, And..." moves easily from actor to actor. An actor need only listen to what was said, and add something to it. Pick up on offers; work with them. This is so much easier than ignoring your fellow actors and trying to build a scene yourself.

How easy is it?

Introduce new skills and games without saying "this is simple" or "this is easy". Some people won't find it simple or easy; that's fine. As the actors become more experienced, ease will come.

(last edited 00:04 November 20, 2007)