The focus of 101 was an overall introduction and the laying of the groundwork of the three rules of Improv via game play.

  1. Yes and” - no matter what your partner(s) say, you have to take it as truth (yes) and also build upon it (and).
  2. Make your partner look good” - this really is about giving them something to work with. Don’t put them in a theoretical corner.
  3. Don’t ask questions” - asking your partner a question puts a limit on what they can say, in the moment. It isn’t giving them much to work with and can devolve into yes and no. I suppose this is a subset of #2. But I need to give this its own line item to help clarify it in my head. I ask too many questions in scene.

The games of short form Improv have a structure, focus on being in the moment of the scene, and have humor.

The focus of 201 is on the performance. We learned a handy device, the CROWE:

  • Character (naming people, accents, other idiosyncrasies help define the characters)
  • Relationship (Who/what are these Characters to each other)
  • Objective (What does each Character want?)
  • Where (What’s the setting (Time, and/or place))
  • Emotion (How are the Characters feeling?)

Remembering to do all this in the moment of the scene is difficult and challenging. It’s fun, but hard work.

It’s just day one, but I can relate the Relationship and Objective, and Emotion aspects of the CROWE to my previous work as an animator. Using the character’s poses, motion, position on screen, and other techniques can inform the audience of each characters status in relation to each other. Same is true for Improv, as far as I can tell.

Transferring status in scene is where the narrative really takes shape, both in Animation and Improv. I’m looking forward to getting better at that.

A suspicion I have about going deeper into the performance of scenes is something I’ve heard Improv actors call “finding the game” in a scene. This is, as far as I can tell, a callback to something that happened earlier in the scene. A hand gesture, a spoken line, an action, etc. Usually funniest if able to be done seamlessly and three times. I think the short games of 101 and Short form in general will add to this.

I’m just learning the 201 performance aspects, but can make the connection to the callbacks in standup and sketch comedy I’ve seen so often. Maybe all that is what 301 is all about. I’ll let you know when I get there.