Improv 101 class 2: Scenes, objects, and environments

It takes time to build an imaginary world that other people can see, and I’m looking forward to being able to do so.

In last Thursday’s Improv 101 class at Impatient Theatre, we learned more about improvising scenes, objects, and environments. We started off with a few warm-up games such as Zip-Zap-Zop and “Yes, And…”. After I relaxed and mentally reviewed the status-games tips from Keith Johnstone’s book “Impro”, I found it easier to build on whatever my partner threw at me. It’s interesting looking at conversations through the lens of status games…

Our teacher kicked it up a notch by challenging us to pair up and establish characters, relationships, location, and situation with just three lines of dialogue. My first partner and I made the other students laugh when I pretended to be a mom worried by her son’s grades… particularly the F in surfing. (Starting to play with surprise!) I saw that two of the other students were having a hard time with the exercise. I wanted to help build their confidence. I trusted that I’d be able to handle whatever they threw at me and make it look okay (and that it would be a good challenge!). so I joined each of them onstage, nudged them to take the lead, and accepted and built on whatever they gave me. It worked out well! The scenes flowed smoothly, and I hope that helped them have more fun. I had thought about taking the lead and giving them lots of detail to work with, but letting them take the lead meant there weren’t long pauses that might embarrass them. =) I’m looking forward to getting better at establishing scenes quickly.

Another game we played involved pretending to create objects out of infinite, invisible clay. I worked on remembering to mime the construction of the object instead of simply tracing the outline. I made a pretzel, which I think people missed. I also made a pepperoni pizza, which people saw clearly. The instructor laughed at my head-smacking moments – I’d started putting on the pepperoni, then I realized I hadn’t grated and sprinkled cheese, then I realized I hadn’t put on tomato sauce… =) Next, I’d like to get better at spontaneously coming up with ideas based on preceding items, instead of giving in to the temptation to plan a little bit ahead.

To warm us up for environment work, we played a game about seven things one might find in a given location. I had fun adding details during my turn, taking the first thing that popped into my head and embellishing it to make it more concrete for me.

The last big game we played involved working in imaginary environments. We improvised in groups of four, and our task was to hide an imaginary object in a location determined by our teacher and not shared with the audience. At the end, the audience was to guess what the object was and where it was hidden. Our group ended up hiding a magnifying glass in a locker room. The audience figured out the magnifying glass easily, but the location wasn’t clear. There were so many things I can learn how to do better! I tried to remember where the locker doors were, but I don’t think I oriented myself well enough when I was on stage. A moment’s inattention meant that I wasn’t sure if the locker door swung open to the right or to the left. And although we threw in a few more clues–a bench, a stinky gym bag–my team and I rushed through the environment-setting up. All the teams did, probably because we all felt nervous and conscious of the time.

Next time I work with environments, I can help my team members and the audience by taking the time to establish a really solid image. That means I’ll need to work on my spatial intelligence, and to pay attention to all the objects and steps involved in everyday things making a sandwich. It’ll be fun!

I’m looking forward to sharing these games with J-. I think she’ll enjoy helping me practice!

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