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Deceptively simple, this is great for honing listening skills, patience, and building group mind.

Everyone stands in a tight circle, eyes closed. Take a couple of deep breaths to relax, then being counting. The idea is to count to twenty, one person at a time. If two or more people say a number at the same time, the group starts over.

When players first do this exercise the tendency is to rush, saying the numbers as quickly as possible. In fact this just creates tension and works against the point of the exercise, which is to slow down, listen and speak when your gut tells you.

Occasionally you’ll get to twenty the first time, in which case you can high-five each other at your incredible connectedness.

It can also be done with the letters of the alphabet, or counting as high as you dare.

“What goes around, goes around, goes around, comes all the way back around.” – J.T.

La Ronde is an exercise developed at improv Olympic, which evolved into a longform format. It’s named after a play by Arthur Schnitzler, in which one character enters the scene and beds another. That character moves on and beds another, and so on, until the final character beds the first character from the first scene. The improv version doesn’t involve quite as much sex (at least during rehearsal).

It works like this:

A and B do a scene together.

A exits or is tagged out, and B and C do a scene together.

B exits or is tagged out, and C and D do a scene.

This continues until everyone has played the same character twice, when A returns to play with the last character.

The idea is to explore different facets of each character. For instance, if A and B are high-powered megalomaniac brokers, when we see B with C, maybe C is his wife and we find out that B is actually meek and low status at home.

Like any long format, we want to see characters at Work, Home, and Play. While we’ll only see two situations for each character, keep these environments in mind when you’re stepping in.

Even with eight team members, a La Ronde plays out faster than a normal longform set. If you want to use it as a stage format, treat the La Ronde like an opening and use it to establish your characters. Once you’ve played through the complete circuit, you can reintroduce the same characters in different groupings and situations.

This is a montage format, similar to La Ronde.

Every scene begins with the same word. A team member gets a suggestion, then uses that word to begin the first scene.

Edits are made by a team member taking focus, saying the same word to begin a new scene. Each time it’s used, the word is given a different emotion or inflection.

There’s no need for characters to come back, but you’ll probably find yourselves calling things back naturally.

Word.

If you threw up in your mouth just a little bit when Step Up was released, put down the Pepto because Freak Dance is here.

Freak Dance is a musical dance comedy starring Megan Heyn, Michael Cassady, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Tim Meadows and Horatio Sanz. Think Rize meets Rent, or maybe Dirty Dancing meets Really Filthy Dancing. 

The film also features real dancers from Quest Crew, and So You Think You Can Dance winner, Joshua Allen.

Written and co-directed by Matt Besser, Freak Dance begins rolling out in theatres in May.

Imagine a place where beer flows like water, fearlessness is a way of life, and shirtlessness is always an option.

Welcome to Mantown, an improvised frat party featuring Adam Cawley, Bob Banks, Jason DeRosse and Rob Norman.

What began as a side project has turned into one of Toronto’s longest-running comedy shows. They perform to packed houses the first Friday of each month at Comedy Bar, from 10:30 p.m. till the last person is wheeled out from an overdose of awesomeness.

We caught up with Bob, Adam and Rob to talk about improvising, childhood heroes, and vuvuzelas for the inaugural All In interview…

I love this game. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play. The multi-talented Todd Stashwick teaches it to heighten listening with your whole body and engage your primal brain.

To begin, players spread out around the room and close their eyes. Turn out the lights for added darkness.

The Director/Coach chooses a Scorpion by silently tapping him or her on the shoulder. Once a Scorpion has been chosen, everyone begins walking around with their eyes still closed.

When the Scorpion comes in contact with another player, he or she stings them by making a “Zzzzzz!” sound. Once you’ve been stung, open your eyes and stand against the wall. If you see players about to walk into walls or other obstacles, gently guide them back to the centre of the room.

When there are only two people left with their eyes closed, both have the power to sting. Whoever stings the other first, wins.

Photo © the e machine

 

Photo © The Dallas Comedy Festival

“Very often the improviser will move because they ‘feel like it.’ To their partner that movement might not make sense, because it might not have been motivated by something they’ve said.

When we’re aware of our movement (“Spatial Relationship” in Viewpoints-speak), we’re using our movement to help us make our point or emphasize our point.

Often I’ll move when I’m at a loss for what to say, then I’ll discover what I want to say once I’ve landed. It’s not stalling, it’s actually part of my character’s evolution.”

Way back before Mike Fly became co-creator of Sexy Nerd Girl and directed of some of Second City’s funniest videos, he created a little thing called The Improv Monologue Project.

The concept was brilliantly simple: get killer performers to improvise a scene for one minute, in one take, using some sort of prop to inspire them.

The results are as funny and offbeat as the people performing them: George Basil, Neil Casey, Lee White, Chris Craddock, Mark Meer, Tasman VanRassel, Kayla Lorette, Christian Capozzoli, Taylor White, Alex Tindal, and 65 others.

Image © Mike Fly

So what inspired Fly to create the series?

“I was inspired by being at improv festivals and meeting so many talented performers; it seemed wasteful that there was no record of the experience that brought all that talent together. So I shot some and they became the template for the repeatable form, and then I kept making them after that. And then it became about teaching myself to edit and shoot more professionally and consistently, trying to challenge myself within the form as much as the performer.”

And the props?

“I usually went to Value Village and said to myself, ‘What’s not too expensive, but could really inspire someone?’ I did the same with locations; I tried to find places that were interesting enough visually, and rich with potential to really make for a fun scene.

I learned right away that my camera work was as important as the performance, and that we had to shoot at least two monologues otherwise I would be stuck using something that made the performer look bad because I screwed up. I would always end up picking the monologue that showed them off the best.”

You can watch the complete archives here.

Cameron Algie is co-creator of People and Chairs. He’s a member of comedy phenom Standards & Practices, and musical improv group, Smash Hit. He coaches three (count ‘em: three) long-form teams, and still finds time for his copywriting day job. Sometimes.

A few years back I saw an improv show that changed the way I play. I forget the name of the team*, but there was a scene going on and Paloma Nuñez and Kevin Williams were watching from the sidelines. They were both inspired to move onto the stage at the same time. They stopped instantly on the edge of the stage and played rock, paper, scissors to see who got to make their move.

I sat in awe, my eyes wide open. They were both willing to fight for their idea. I watched from the audience and thought, if that had been me with either of them I would’ve said, “You go.” Are you kidding me? How could my idea even compete with one of those geniuses?

It’s taken me years to gain the confidence to know my ideas are just as good as anyone’s. Paloma won and went into the scene and it was awesome. What was her idea? I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. It was perfect for that moment. And she knew it. And Kevin’s idea would’ve been perfect too. And so would’ve little ole mine.

Photo © Kevin Patrick Robbins

*Editor’s note: Little American Bastards

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