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Author Topic: Tips on doing improv  (Read 2498 times)

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Offline Becky10

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Tips on doing improv
« on: March 05, 2010, 07:36:09 PM »
  Hello all!
 So in about a month I was planning on auditioning for a production of Reduced Shakespeare Company: The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare.
Its a really great comedy show that presents all of Shakespeare's works, it uses three people (in this case a group of three boys and a group of three girls performing on different days). The show is mostly scripted but improv is added into the show along with interactions with the audience.

   I have never done anything like this before (but it being an amateur show I most likely wont be the only one) but I was wondering if anyone had any tips or pointers when doing improv and comedy that might be helpful for a complete greenhorn!   


Here's a link to wikipedia explaining the show if that will help http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_William_Shakespeare_(Abridged)


I wasn't too sure where to put this so if it is in the wrong place I apologize.
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Offline lys1022

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2010, 12:32:13 AM »
If I had to choose one tip in particular, I think I would say, "DON'T go for the joke!"  Good, entertaining improv isn't a series of obvious jokes.  Sure, that gets the short-term laugh most of the time, but what sticks with people and entertains them is improv that tells or enhances a story.  Besides, if you always go for the joke, you leave your fellow performers high and dry, not giving them anything to work with.  Anyone will tell you that it's easier to use the momentum that's already there, it's tiring to have to start things up from a dead stop over and over again.

Other than that, the major thing is to relax.  Everything that you do or say will not get the reaction that you hope for.  It's no big deal.  Remember what works so that you can use it again in other ways, remember what doesn't work so that you can either modify it or junk it.  Just don't let a momentary missed mark throw you totally off.  Keep going and you'll be fine.  In thirty seconds they won't even remember the oops. :)
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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2010, 10:49:30 AM »
YES, AND... : Accept everything - try to never ask a question and never say "no". If someone says "You have a purple monkey on your shoulder", don't say "No, I don't." becase that ends the interaction. Say "Yes, and he's better than a hairbrush" or anything to let the other person be able to respond. Try not to say "Do you know why he's there?" because that puts the pressure back on your scene partner. You already know exactly why you have a purple monkey on your shoulder, so just say it.

And, don't overthink things or go into a scene with preconceived ideas of what you are going to say or do. That's my biggest problem. Instead of forcing a scene to go the way you want it to because you already thought of something to say and you'll stuck if it doesn't go that way, just stay in the moment and go wherever the scene takes you.

Offline jcbanner

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2010, 10:48:56 PM »
The cast of the St Louis Renfaire will play all sorts of improv games during rehearsals to practice quick thinking.  even though many of the games will never really have much to do with the show it is great practice.
some of the games we'll play are:
Yes and... one person makes a statment, and the next person agrees and adds to it. the same as Colleen mentioned, but we also play it as a game.

questions:  going back and forth, or around a group, one person to the next. ask a question, and the response is given as another question, that is responded to by another question. and it keeps going until someone trips up the question or gives a statment back as a reply.

there are a thousand other improv games you can try. I recommend to watch "Who's line is it anyways" for some game ideas

Offline Becky10

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2010, 11:16:52 PM »
Thanks for the tips guys!
I think not overthinking and relaxing are going to be some of my hardest problems to overcome.

The "yes, and..." tip is great! I have been watching Friday improv at our theatre ever chance I get, and Who's line is it anyways is one of my favorite shows! I think I am going to find some others who are auditioning and start playing some of these games.

Any extra tips on audience interactions? There's a few bits like purse rummaging and pretend vomiting on audience members( :o ) and I was wondering if performers pick out audience members specifically or just go for who ever is there.
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Offline Captain Cornelius Howard Duckman

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2010, 01:21:35 PM »
Body Language reading. Find a book, or a good website, on how to read body language, so you can tell which people want to interact, and which people would only bring you down.

Offline Merlin

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2010, 02:08:08 PM »
Contact these guys Motley Players III and get some tips from them...they are awesome at this.


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Offline Becky10

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2010, 02:23:30 PM »
Oh great! Thank you Merlin for the contact link it would be great to get some tips from these guys seeing that they have preformed it multiple times and are always hilarious!
The man who smiles when things go wrong has thought of someone to blame it on

Offline Skraus

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2010, 04:06:03 PM »
YES, AND... : Accept everything - try to never ask a question and never say "no". If someone says "You have a purple monkey on your shoulder", don't say "No, I don't." becase that ends the interaction. Say "Yes, and he's better than a hairbrush" or anything to let the other person be able to respond. Try not to say "Do you know why he's there?" because that puts the pressure back on your scene partner. You already know exactly why you have a purple monkey on your shoulder, so just say it.

And, don't overthink things or go into a scene with preconceived ideas of what you are going to say or do. That's my biggest problem. Instead of forcing a scene to go the way you want it to because you already thought of something to say and you'll stuck if it doesn't go that way, just stay in the moment and go wherever the scene takes you.

Bingo.  'nuff said.

A quick summary of these concepts I use to remind my actors of this is "Get out of your head!"  A pre-conceived notion is nothing more than a safety for us.  After all, if it goes as we plan it, we're safe.  Instead, the trust in one's partner is the player's safety net and after some time of doing it you quickly learn that you can quickly adapt to just about anything.

Something I use with my students that works as proof that our brains prefer improv is a beautiful game I learned a while ago that you can play with anyone.  No experience necessary.  It's ye olde word association game with two small twists: try not to associate your word with the one just said and go as fast as possible.  There should be a definite tempo to it, clapping your palms against your thighs in a steady beat might assist.  One clap every half second or so.

At first, your brain scrambles to think of words to say and you're not on beat.  That's perfectly acceptable, expected and normal!  Just keep doing it and after a little time your brain learns that keeping the tempo is more important than saying something "correct".  And that's when the magic happens: you discover that despite all else, your brain is more than capable of thinking in patterns and automatically associates words with what was said.  So if I say "house", you say ____________.  If I say "pudding", you say ______________, etc.  If you said anything related to house and pudding, you just proved to yourself that rapid pattern association and improv is as natural as breathing.

This is a very simple exercise but it demonstrates a very fundamental concept that with continued use, retrains your brain to not think. :)  Your brain knows what to do.  We just need to let it do its job.  Trust your brain.  Brain = good.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2010, 04:07:17 PM by Skraus »
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Offline L Dale Walter

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2010, 04:43:19 PM »
Read Gary Izzo's The Art of Play.  He is kind of the athority on the subject.

Offline Baron Dacre

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Re: Tips on doing improv
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2010, 06:14:25 PM »
I agree. Unfortunately both of his books are out of print and last I looked were selling for $75 on up :-(...

I'm on my second set, and I don't let the current out of my sight...
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