Our regular classes resume in mid-September, but we scheduled this extra one-time workshop as a way to "keep the band together" during our break. It was a great excuse for us to see each other and share stories about our summers (many of our actors have participated in different camp programs), while developing skills that will help us next semester when our actors will devise their own scenes and stories. A group of 6 actors and 4 teaching artists spent an afternoon at The Menomonee Club's Drucker Center learning all about the art of improv!
Like any class, we started with a Dance Party with some of the biggest hits of this year - Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance", Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off", and Bruno Mars/Marc Ronson "Uptown Funk." Dance Party always gets our bodies warm, so we followed that up with a short Warm Up focusing on breathing and getting our voices going. The we played a group focus game called Elephant to help us pay attention and work together.
For Check In, we talked about what it means to be a good actor. Good actors pay attention and listen. Lucy said good actors "communicate with your whole body", Quincy said good actors "talk to each other." Improv actors do all that, but what makes improv different is that there's no script. There's nothing written down telling you where to go and what to say next, you just have to make it up as you go. So, for the rest of class, we focused on learning the Rules of Improv and played a bunch of games and different activities to help learn them.
1) Say "YES" - respect what your scene partner creates and agree.
Yes, Let's: We start walking around the room, and anyone can shout out "I have an idea! Let's..." and then the rest of the group says "Yes, Let's!" and starts acting out that activity together. Some of our suggestions today were to go horseback riding, go snowboarding, dance, play volleyball, and we even played a big game of "Duck, Duck, Goose!"
Model & Clay: This is a 3 person game - one person in the Model, one is the Artist, and one is the Clay. The Model "strikes a pose" and then the Artist has to mold their Clay into the same pose. It's hard for a few reasons, Model has to pick one pose and commit to it and hold it, Artist has to agree that's the pose they want their clay to make, and Clay just has to be cool with being shaped and told what to do. Afterwards, we asked everyone what they liked to do/be the most. It was interesting almost everyone said they prefer to be models and come up with the poses or be clay and having someone mold them, but being the artist was everyone's least favorite job.
2) ADD on - after you say "yes" to what your partner creates, contribute something of your own.
Presents: This was one of our favorite new games for today. In this game you give your partner the best gift EVER and your partner accepts the gift and says what they're excited to do with it. Marissa gave Quincy a brand new phone and Quincy used it right away to call her friend Colleen. Lucy gave Fletcher a t-shirt of his favorite team, and Fletcher said he was excited to cut the sleeves off "So I can show off my guns!" Some other gifts were a puppy, concert tickets, and a Boyfriend!
3) Be BOLD - make statements, use your imagination, and think fast
World' Best/World's Worst: We each took turns pulling a profession out of a hat and got up onstage to be the BEST version of that character. Then we had to show the WORST version of that job. Samuel was a great firefighter and saved Peter from a burning building; but Lucy's "worst Firefighter" just walked away from from the building. Marissa's "Worst Superhero" flew towards us screaming "I can use my powers to kill you all!"
Press Conference: One person is giving a press conference, but they don't know who they are. The audience served as "journalists" and asked questions to help them guess their character. Quincy rocked this game. We asked her questions like "What's your favorite meal of the day?", "What's ingredients do you use?", "Do you like to grill?" and she figured out pretty fast she was a famous chef and told us all about her signature dish "pasta, broccoli, peas, chicken and pineapple, all put together in a wrap!"
4) Have FUN!
On the Spot: Peter gave us a location and we had to become something from that location. We went to The Circus, The Beach, and to School. We got up one at a time and then we put all of our characters together to make a scene. Lucy and Lawrence were a lion and lion tamer at the circus. Emily was a Pirate invading The Beach (which was most populated with animals like crabs, frogs, seagulls, and sharks). And we were all pretty quiet reading and typing at school.
Storytelling: In two groups we took turns pantomiming a story about a girl who goes to visit her friend in Paris, France. We had to work together to make all the different characters in the story but also objects like an airplane, The Eiffel Tower, a boat, art in a Museum, the Bells at Notre Dame, and a sidewalk cafe.
After some quiet Journal time, we finished with our traditional closing ritual "I Take From the Heavens" and went off to enjoy the rest of the weekend! But hopefully this group will remember the Rules of Improv to help them be better scene partners and more spontaneous, imaginative artists.