Solo Improvisation Workshop Notes
Really fun workshop this one, with a healthy mix of improvisers, stand ups and actors. Some really cool stuff came out of it.
The main tips that arose were when improvising with an audience were:
1. You are never really alone, the audience and room are always providing offers even when they are silent.
2. Commit. You are either improvising by yourself and the audience or you’re not, so you might as well go for it.
3. Play. Keep playing, all the time, even if you think it’s not going well just keep playing.
4. Have no expectations. Don’t expect anything, then you’ll be happy for any slight response.
5. The audience isn’t there to cheer you up and give you energy, you are there to cheer them up and give them energy. You are the idiot in the room.
A big topic that came up from the stand ups and I really enjoyed taking on was how to work with a silent crowd, as they said this was even worse than a booing/heckling crowd.
We first tried this out playing the game 185 – where the performer has to improvise jokes in the format 185 somethings walk into a bar…punchline.
After doing it to applause I got some of the performers to do it and then receive enforced silence from the audience. It was AWKWARD!!! So we played with the awkwardness. At first we tried having the performer have an over enthusiastic response to their joke, which was contagious and sort of worked. But some of them pointed out that that would be a bit fake to do all the time. So we went deeper and found that core to that was PLAY. It didn’t really matter what response the performer gave to the silence, as long as they were playing with it. Suddenly it was impossible for the audience to keep silent and cold, as the performers stayed cheerful and kept playing.
It’s not pushing, or prodding, or forcing, it’s playing. Playing can be physical (someone started doing a backward roll), verbal, intellectual, emotional, anything really.
Audiences have lots of minor moments of silence but if the performer accidentally treats one of these moments as permanent and stops playing then these moments spread and become and cold. By constant fluctuating play the performer remains alive and eventually so does the crowd. The performer has to be the life force in the room.
Some useful solo impro games:
185 – Improvise jokes in the format “185 somethings walk into a bar…punchline” Clap or boo them.
Big Mouth – Run out in front of the audience and talking as quickly as possible compliment as many of them as possible using poetry, metaphor, exageration.
All Characters – Improvise scenes where you play all characters. It’s useful if the characters touch each other, and make eye contact.
One Character – Improvise scene where you play one character and the other characters are invisible to audience. Helpful if they touch you.
Fact, Fact, It’s Like, I Feel, I Want, Do – Good semi-structure for getting content from an audience, even if they are silent and not responding at first. Good if it’s down with big mouth like compliments. Name a fact about the person that is undeniably true (don’t get trapped into opinion at first, save that for later, it’s good to ground in hard fact to draw people in), name the fact again, extrapolate some it’s likes/metaphors etc, say how that makes you feel, say what you want to do with that person, do it.
Example of this that came out of the workshop:
Wow you have really big muscles, you’ve got really big muscles, it’s like you’ve got the body I’ve always wanted, I’m really jealous, I want your body, (starts climbing into the audience member’s t-shirt) I’m going to get into your body, my hand is your hand etc.
It was very silly.