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Some Suggestions for Level One Class Etiquette


Without a good teacher monitoring, most improv exercises favor bold, aggressive students. Whoever either thinks faster or at least acts fastest tends to affect the scenes more and therefore have more chances for feeling validated that they are doing well. While there’s a place for boldness (and certain exercises explicitly focus on being more bold), any good improv team has a mixture of aggressive types with more patient and calm energies.

Believing that, here are five simple rules of conduct which I think help the less aggressive students find their footing in lower level improv classes. These are also just common sense policies for fair play. They’re not meant to leave out aggressive students. And I never state them as being “for the students who are bit more hesitant.” They’re just good etiquette for improv scenes which happen to also help the non-alphas find themselves in the scene.

Merely my opinion: Take ‘em or leave ‘em, fellow teachers!

Initiation Etiquette /  ”Be Comfortable With Silence”. Students should not interrupt  or finish someone else’s initiation: very commonly done by eager alpha bulldogs in lower levels. Teach that whoever moves first gets focus and a generous amount of time to make their move. The person who responds also gets a lot of time before they have to answer. Discourage the very common practice of talking until you are interrupted. “Be comfortable with silence” I will say a lot.

It’s Okay To Not Know Cultural References. After the first scene in class that happens to mention a movie/book/song/TV show — I point out that they’re not expected to know every movie, book or current event that gets brought up. They SHOULD try to fake it based on context or else admit in character that they don’t know it. And if they are the one who is bringing up a reference and their scene partner doesn’t know it, then it’s their job to help. This affects younger students’ confidence far more than I had appreciated — teach them how this works. (The other side of this coin is that after you’ve taught them how to handle references, no one is allowed to bail on a scene because they don’t know something.)

Protect Decisions To Play Against Type. Gently point out when someone misses their scene partner’s attempt to play against type (gender, age, etc). It’s bad listening and invariably happens to people already feeling left out. Correct whoever misheard as a casual note, not a lecture. “He’s being your mother, not your father.” Or “That’s a teenager talking, not a mom.” Be vigilant for this in the first few sessions especially.

Set Boundaries.  This is a class, not a team. Students see very physical and intrusive things on stage at shows. They need you to make clear and enforce that that’s not for class, where people don’t know each other well. Though everyone would assume this to be true, it helps to have the teacher explicitly say it.

You Are Allowed To Say No. You are always allowed to “say no” in a scene to ANYTHING that your character wouldn’t want to do. Like if someone starts a scene by asking if you want a lap dance or maybe wants to steal someone’s baby from a hospital nursery, and your character wouldn’t want to, you can say “no” and you’re not being a bad improviser, (best way is to add a simple truthful reason why, and then stay open to discussing it in character). Even if they immediately realize they are saying “no” to something out of nervousness and they wish they had said yes, it’s okay because it’s important to get practice saying “no” properly in a scene. The take-away here is that you need to play your characters to the top of their intelligence, not trapped by what you think you “should” do because of “yes-and.” They forget this a lot so you remind them.

Very good stuff from Will Hines.

Filed under Improv improvisation comedy Level 101 Level 1 beginning beginners class tips

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"Emotional Intelligence" Improv Workshop, Sunday 6/29 in NYC

Not only is today the birthday of one of the most wonderful people I know, but I also found out she’s running this incredible improv workshop in NYC during the Del Close Marathon.

Check it out!

Filed under improv improvisation DCM Del Close Marathon NYC

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When asked by newer improvisors “What forms are there?”, this is my answer


"The Harold, Montage, La Ronde, Deconstruction, Eventé, Eventé ala Roo Ro, Movie, Documentary, Monoscene, Microscene, Slacker, Kromf, Spokane, Onion, DThe Sleepover, Ladder, Flux Capacitor ie Tracers, Improvised Play, McManus, The Bat, French Harold, Harold Til Bored, Organic Harold, fwand-y Harold, Artificially Flavored Harold, Dearly Departed, The Fugue, The Wait, The Weight, The Way, Bookclub, Season Finale, Hot Tamale, The Burrito, Exploding Dinosaur Pillow Fight, The Chimichanga, Flautas, Whatever, Six Ferrets And A Can Of Worms, Knicker-Knock, and The Flibbity Fibbit.  Those are the basic ones.

Filed under improv improvisation comedy forms Harold evente