Improv Class 4 – 25 May 2010

Class 4 was about character – how they walk talk and feel. We made our way into the world of emotions by playing Emotion switch and Emotion box (passing a box around the circle, each player reacting with a larger emotion than the previous player). It was amazing how you pick up the emotions of others and really start to feel the different emotions. We also played some gibberish games (Emotion gibberish and Gibberish switch). Gibberish helps one to focus more on how a character talks than what they say. How a character talks is just as important if not more important than what the character says. Gibberish also helps you to get out of your head. The last exercise of the class was Character Walks. These game shows you how your body can think for you to make up a character by just changing something about the way you move. You can change any part of your body, the speed of your movement or how you fill the space around you. It is amazing how the way you carry your body influence your feelings. We ended the class with a gibberish performance game called Cluedo. In the end it is not about getting it right but about making a strong choice and sticking to it. I loved the idea of dragon slayer as an occupation. I think that’s what I want to be when I grow up.

Key concepts

Gibberish – A made up language of witch the meaning is conveyed by action, expressions, or tone of voice.

Let your body think for you – By just changing something in your body you can come up with a whoel character with feelings, wants and passions.

Make a strong choice and stick to it.– It is not always important what you choose but how you choose

If anyone can remember our one word proverb please write it in the comment section.

Improv class 3 – 18 May 2010

The third class was all about listening, awareness and being in the moment. We started off with a relaxing exercise to get everyone present and aware of their bodies. We then did a listening exercise where everyone got the opportunity to say “what I need to say to be fully present is…” and then you can say what every you would like to say to be fully present. Anyone else in the group then responds by mirroring the person’s exact words. The power of this exercise is that each person in the group gets the opportunity to be listened to fully. It is not so much saying what you need to say that makes you fully present but being listened to. When we listen to people fully without judgment, we acknowledge their existence and their right to be in the world. (This exercise I learned from Imago relationship therapy)

After the listening exercise we played a series of group awareness exercises. First we passed a move and a sound around in the circle. Then we copied each other’s way of walking. After that one person had to go in the middle and make a move and a sound, give the focus to another player, who had to copy the move and sound and then go to the middle and morph into a new move and sound. We played two other variations of this game. In the first everyone copied the person in the middle and at any point anyone could take the lead and change the move and sound into something else. In the second variation we didn’t stay in a circle and anyone could take the lead. These exercises feel weird when you do it the first time, but if you can let go and really pay attention to what others are doing and once again make them look good (in this case accept whatever they are doing and do it with them) it is a wonderful experience of connecting with others and being in the moment.

After the awareness exercises we played Monster talk (Speaking in unison) which is also a great exercise in active listening and give and take. We ended the class with 2 focus games. In the first we passed around imaginary balls and in the second we created 3 different patterns that we had to continue without dropping any pattern. It was great when we played this game walking around.

Key concepts:

Give and take – It’s all about giving up and taking control, and sharing and taking the focus. To do this well, you have to be aware and present so that you know whether the situation requires of you to take or give up `control/focus.

Listening and awareness: In Improv often referred to as being in the moment. It requires you to be present, pay attention to what is happening around you and to focus. To do this you need to let go, get out of your head and into your body.

Our one word proverb: “Mense het soms baie problem met perskes.” So ture!

Please share your thoughts.

Improv class 2 – 11 May 2010

The focus of the second improv class was accepting and building on offers. We started the class with a relaxing exercise to get everyone relaxed and into their bodies. We played Bang bang and a clap game to get everyone playful and focused. The clap game also illustrated the principle of keeping the energy going. The gifts game followed to illustrate accepting a blind offer. We played Yes but and Yes and to illustrate the difference between blocking and accepting. The questions game showed how asking questions can be a way of accepting without adding new information. In Improv this is called wimping. Then we played Blind offers to illustrate how physical movement can also be an offer. We ended the class with Yes and story and One word story.

Key concepts

Blocking – Not accepting another player’s offer.

Accepting – Embracing each offer made by other players to advance the scene (Yes and).

Wimping – accepting offers but refusing to do anything with them.
Examples are:

Asking open questions , thus leaving the action to be decided by the other player.

Waffling , babbling without accomplishing any action.

Keep the energy going – In improvisation it is important to keep the energy moving. We don’t stop to analyze, we just accept and move on. If a mistake happens we except it and find a way to use it. If you don’t know what to do, just do anything and trust the process and your fellow players to make you look good.

What struck me in the class was how our one word story improved when we just tried to be obvious and didn’t think too much about what the best word would be to use. When you let go, keep the energy going and realize it is not up to you and your one word to save the story, the group becomes a collective creative force.

Please share some of your thoughts.

Improv class 1 – 4 May 2010

Last night was the first class in a series of 8 Improv theatre classes. The objective of the class was to get everyone in a playful mood and to let everyone connect and get to know each other. I also introduced some key improv principles. We started the class with an introduction game. Then we played some name games (Name circle and Super Heroes). We played Circus bow (I failed) to get more comfortable with making mistakes. To get more playful we played Bodyguard and Yes lets . We played Mirror Mirror to illustrate the importance of give and take. I ended the class by illustrating the concepts of Accepting and Blocking by playing Yes and vs. Yes but.

Key concepts that came out of the class:

Play: To play you have to be present, focus on your fellow players and interact with your whole body not just your thoughts and words. Playing is about the process not the outcome.

Make your partner look good.

It is okay to make a mistake. It’s often our fear of failure that causes us to fail.

Everything is an offer even a mistake.

Blocking – Not accepting another player’s offer.

Accepting – Embracing each offer made by other players to advance the scene (Yes and).
When we yes and it builds ideas, energy and relationships.

What struck me about the class was how everyone really engaged and took part even though it was a first class. I would like to thank you all for that.

Please feel free to add your comments.

Peter Block Community Building Workshop offer

At the Community Building workshop Playing Mantis made a commitment to offer a free workshop to everyone who attended.

The offer includes:
• 1 half-day workshop per organisation
• 1 Hour consultation before the workshop to understand your story and specific needs
• Transport is not included.
• This offer is only valid for 2010.

If you are interested in our offer please contact us at connect@playingmantis.net

More about Playing Mantis

We use improvisation theatre for action learning, and story-making for metaphoric experiences to develop organisations, individuals and communities to play their roles more meaningfully in a changing world. F

Possible workshop topics:

Team innovation
Whose idea is it anyway?
Collaborative creativity skills to develop an innovative team climate

Change leadership
Think on your feet.
Skills to help you lead through change and uncertainty

Values based leadership
Follow your own flute
Making decisions based on your values and the values of your team

Conflict leadership
Taking the lead role
Choosing which role to play in a conflict so that you and your team can grow.

Transformational leadership
Designing journeys
Using story to design events and processes to ensure transformation of all involved

Customer interaction
Sell with soul
Communication skills to help build better customer relationships

Improv class 7 – 23 March 2010

Physicalization

Physicalization is the method used by improv players to create imaginary locations, objects, and events. For a warm-up we played a circle clap game. Then we played I’m going to the moon. Each player must say and show what object he/she will take to the moon as well as all the objects that the players before him picked. We then passed imaginary objects to each other. It was funny to see how the used tissue turned into a dead fish, the bowling ball turned into a granite block and the hot cup of coffee turned into a hamster. An important note that Mike made was that it is important to hold the object like you would hold it in real life. For the next exercise everyone had to reach under their chairs and pull out an object without thinking beforehand what it was going to be. They had to discover something and then explore it until they got an emotional reaction from it. It is difficult not to think ahead and just discover something. However when you allow yourself just to discover, your discovery is much more interesting and your emotional reaction much more authentic. I then took the class on a guided fantasy from the beach to a secondhand store, into a forest, into a castle with a table with all of their favorite food, into a garden with statues of the most significant moments in their lives. It is amazing to see how your imagination and your past experiences work together to create this dream like experience. The final exercise was an environment exercise. For this exercise a location is determined and then one by one each character must enter the location and use all the objects that all the previous players used and then add another object. It is important to remember where each object was placed.

Liezel made an important comment about following through when you use an object. Don’t just let an object disappear in mid air when you pick up another object first put down the one before you pick up another. A good way to practice your physicalization is to notice in everyday life how you hold different objects. Doing this will help you to be more present in your day to day actions. Something that Stef illustrated very beautiful is to use each object in character. This way you find a lot more interesting things to do with the object. Choosing a character and acting and reacting from that character are probably one of the most important improv practices. For me it is also one of the best applications of improv in everyday life. Who you are, is more important than what you do, because who you are determines what you do. Therefore it is more important to figure out who you are than what it is that you are suppose to do.

Comments?

Improvisation class 6 – 16 March 2010

Status

We started the class with some warm-ups (1 2 3 4, Do you like your neighbour?, What are you doing?). For the first status exercise I gave everyone a number between 1 and 10. The number represented each player’s status, 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest. I set the location on a pirate ship and told them to play their character according to their status in gibberish. Quickly it was very clear who was where in the hierarchy of the ship – Luci (1) was walking the plank, while Monica (10) and Cornelia (10) were fighting about who the captain was. For the next exercise I stuck a number on each person’s forehead representing their status and told them to play a gibberish scene in a palace. According to how others reacted towards them they had to figure out their own status and play their character accordingly. It was interesting to note how characters with low status tend to help each other, while high status characters often end up in a quarrel. High status characters place themselves higher in the physical space, while low status characters place themselves low, sometimes even crawling on the floor. For the last part of the class we played 2 person scenes in gibberish, silent or in 1 word sentences using different statuses. The silent, gibberish and one word scenes forces players to show and not tell. It also helps players to pay more attention to what the other player is doing and react more truthfully.

More thoughts on status:

In all human interaction there is some form of status interaction taking place. In everything you are saying or doing you are either higher or lowering your status, how subtle it might be. People usually have a natural preferred status that they play. Whether it is high or low it is usually a form of defence mechanism. People who prefer high status wants to keep others at a distance while those who play low status are people pleasers. High or low status isn’t inherently good or bad, but understanding how to use status in your interactions with people is a very useful social skill.

Please share some of your thoughts on status.

Improv Class 5 – 9 Feb 2010

Story was the focus of last night’s class. We warmed up by playing a name game called George. After that we played a Word association game. This game illustrated how our minds automatically make link s between random words. Then we played Automatic Story. In this game one player has to ask yes/no questions about the storyline of an unknown story that the other player has in mind. What the questioning player doesn’t know is that the person answering the questions is only saying yes to questions starting with a vowel and no to questions starting with a consonant. The person asking the questions is therefore making up the story without knowing it. This game illustrates how easy it is to make up our own stories. Cornelia commented how in life we also often think that someone else is in control of our stories, while we are actually the authors of our own life stories. The next game that we played was what happens next? This game took Monica on an adventure directed by the other players. She ended up making jam with massive peaches in a giant’s castle thanks to Mikes call back of the peaches mentioned at the start of the story. We then played yes and story and word at a time story. These games showed how important it is to listen to your fellow players and just ad to what other players contribute to the story. If you are willing to let go of your own idea of where the story should go you discover the story together. Luci introduced an interesting tilt in the story of Anny the ballerina when she said “encore”, breaking the tragic routine that was established by the platform of her broken toe.

Key concepts:

Reincorporation: Recycling or re-using ideas or situations from earlier in the story.

Platform: The who, what and where of a scene. Success of a scene often depends on a solid and clear platform.

Tilt: Interesting twist to advance a scene, or to cause status change.

Please share your thoughts.

Improv Class 4 – 23 Feb 2010

Class 4 was about character – how they walk talk and feel. We started the class with a relaxing exercise (see outline below). We made our way into the world of emotions by playing Emotion switch and Emotion box (passing a box around the circle, each player reacting with a larger emotion than the previous player). The game was ended after Luci threw the box out the window in a fit of rage..:-). We also played some gibberish games (Emotion gibberish and Gibberish switch). Gibberish helps one to focus more on how a character talks than what they say. How a character talks is just as important if not more important than what the character says. Gibberish also helps you to get out of your head. The last exercise of the class was Character Walks. These game shows you how your body can think for you to make up a character by just changing something about the way you move. You can change any part of your body, the speed of your movement or how you fill the space around you. It is amazing how the way you carry your body influence your feelings. We ended the class with a gibberish performance game called Cluedo. I loved how kryptonite turned into dirty socks and an airplane into an ostrich farm. In the end it is not about getting it right but about making a strong choice and sticking to it.

Key concepts

Gibberish – A made up language of witch the meaning is conveyed by action, expressions, or tone of voice.

Let your body think for you – By just changing something in your body you can come up with a whoel character with feelings, wants and passions.

Make a strong choice and stick to it – It is not always important what you choose but how you choose

The XYZ relax exercise

U – Unplug
V – Vent
X – Exhale
Y – Yield
Z – zzzzzz

Improvisation class 3 – 16 Feb 2010

The third class was all about give and take, listening and awareness. We started off with George and Zip Zap Zoom to warm up. Then we passed around imaginary balls that helped us to focus and pay attention to what others are doing. Wow… then we played the mirror game. I love the mirror game because it is so simple, but it really illustrates give and take very well (it gets you out of your head and into the “zone”). Then thinks started to get weirder and weirder. We passed a move and a sound around in the circle. Then one person had to go in the middle and make a move and a sound, give the focus to another player, who had to copy the move and sound and then go to the middle and morph into a new move and sound. We played two other variations of this game. In the first everyone copied the person in the middle and at any point anyone could take the lead and change the move and sound into something else. In the second variation we didn’t stay in a circle and anyone could take the lead. These exercises feel weird when you do it the first time, but if you can let go and really pay attention to what others are doing and once again make them look good (in this case accept whatever they are doing and do it with them) it is a wonderful experience of connecting with others and being in the moment. We ended the class with Monster talk (Speaking in unison) scenes which is also a great exercise in active listening and give and take.

Key concepts:

Give and take – It’s all about giving up and taking control, and sharing and taking the focus. To do this well, you have to be aware and present so that you know whether the situation requires of you to take or give up control/focus.

Listening and awareness – In Improv often referred to as being in the moment. It requires you to be present, pay attention to what is happening around you and to focus. To do this you need to let go, get out of your head and into your body.

Thanks again to everyone’s whole hearted participation. Please share some of your thoughts here.