2 min read

Notes from Improv: Week Three

Tonight's improv was all about trust, non-verbal communication and being able to quickly take on a changing dynamic. In other words, a lot of the stuff that people associate with improv.

We started off with trust activities such as leading and being led around the room with our eyes closed. As the leading was done with words and there were a lot of people to bump into, this was pretty nerve-wracking for a lot of people, and also a good sign about how easy it was to get disorientated. We also had games about

One wonderful game we played was Scupltor, Model, Clay, where three people play the parts of yes, model, scupltor, and clay. The model stands behind the clay and assumes a random position, and the sculptor has to attempt to 'mould' the clay to perfectly mimick the model. It sounds easy and is fun in terms of the large movements, but can be fiendishly difficult when it comes to indicating things like finger positions (and positions that the clay can't see such as hands behind their head or mouth movements are particularly hard). One of the participants pointed out that it serves as a good analogy to improv where you might have a wonderful idea, but can't communicate it.

We played around with this more with the Beep Game (think about how you train a dolphin using beeps and you have it), and giving offers of physical poses and coming up with situations for them.

We finished up “classic” situation improv through the wonderfully named Morman Tabernacle Game (or so it's apparently called, I have found no references for such a name and weren't given any by out tutor. I think it's because it, like the Big Love Morman, picks up extra partners). You start off with one person and slowly add more through freezes where the new person bringing in a new situation based on the body poses.

This is the third session, and while anyone can come in at any times, they are staggered in terms of difficulty. This has been the first time we've done true improv (or nearly true: we've been told to not try and be funny), and here one's ability to give in to the moment and run with it comes through the most. In other words, I'm not very good. Yet.

After the session, I was chatting with one of my design colleagues who came along, and he pointed out that the concepts of improv — make the other person look good, be in the moment and able to change — are pretty much central to design, but something that we don't explictly address. It's true, while I get everything that's being told to me, putting it into practice is a whole other matter. (On that note, I came across a fantastic article about how improv can help your career, which is worth a read, and was pointed to the Applied Improv network which is free to join).