Some Improv Exercises I Loved In The Summer Intensive at iO West

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Aurora trying to convince Crobsy of something in the iO west grad showSorry, I feel like I’m jumping around a little when it comes to talking about the intensive. I’ll remember things and be like, “Oh yeah, that!”

Well, here’s my “Oh yeah, that!” for week 3.

Megan (our teacher) asked if there were things people wanted to work on.

I said I’d love to work on committing even when I think the idea that comes out of my mouth is dumb.

So, we did this super fun (sort of ridiculous, in a wonderful way) exercise, in which I kept getting scenarios that could be “dumb” but I had to just commit like crazy. For instance, in the first one, I played someone who ate poop and loved eating poop. (She was like, “It can hardly get more dumb than that!”)

And then I had to justify why I loved it. I made the mistake at first of backing off of my point of view and pretty easily being convinced I shouldn’t eat it. (I never want to get in an argument onstage and I think sometimes that leads me to abandoning a character’s point of view. So, I need to work on that.)

But then, as I was being convinced to stop eating poo, she was like, “Commit to your point of view! You love eating poop! Stick with that!”

I did, and the scene was better.

Then she asked for ridiculous suggestions from the audience. I got to have a serious scene using my best Marge Simpson voice. (So fun.)

My favorite thing was when I had to sneeze every time someone said a name, and I had a different sneeze for each person (eg a loving sneeze, a jealous sneeze, etc.).

I barely had to do anything in that scene! Listen and sneeze emotionally? That’s my freaking jam! And it got tons of laughs. If only life could always be so easy. I know not long ago I was saying how great long-form was, but I kind of adore these little games.

Also, flashing forward to week 5, another thing I really liked was this “cone of silence” exercise. One person sat onstage in a chair while an imaginary cone of silence was put around them as the class talked Classmates would give us random things about our character – where we were from, or what our job was, or any of that. We’d take on all these characteristics or adjectives or quirks.

Then the cone of silence was lifted. Our teacher would start interviewing us as our character. He opened it up to the whole class to ask questions. Once we felt we knew enough about the character we could go up and play scenes with the person (as her mom, dad, spouse, kid, etc. etc.  – whatever we wanted to be).

Yet again, the exercise went pretty freaking well. I think there’s something easier (for me) about being told “this is what you are” or “this is what you’re doing.” Like, okay. Everybody in the room knows these silly constraints put on my (Russian ballet dancer now living in the Midwest). I can go for this full out and people will laugh ’cause I’m giving what they asked for.

(I know this is counter-intuitive to my other complaints from week 4. (“I don’t want constraints! I want the world at my fingertips!”) But for some sense it makes sense in my head – like I want some fun game-y constraints, not random constraints tying me to real life – I want constraints that free me even more – by making me make choices even further from me than I ussually would… Yeah, I think that’s what I mean?

I don’t know. I’m an enigma just figuring out this crazy improv thing as it goes and writing about it because why not? 😛

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?