Santa Maria’s Mission Improvable

I was just directed to a Santa Maria improv group named Mission Improvable by someone from work (thanks Rick). I recognize some of the players in the group from John Kinde’s days running the Theatresports franchise up there, including Jeanne Sparks who was always a political oasis for me. Several of us from the Santa Barbara Improv Workshop used to travel up and perform with John’s group. They always had large and enthusiastic crowds, and we had a good time performing with their players.

Michael Passarelli is the director of this group, and according to an article in the Santa Maria Times, he’s also the director of a San Luis Obispo based improv group. I’ll try and get more info on that for another post.

In the meantime, Mission Improvable is performing regularly on the 2nd Friday of each month, with shows posted for the following dates: October 13, November 10, and December 8. They perform at the Accoustic Lounge, which is located upstairs in the Santa Maria Town Center East. That’s the S.E. corner of Broadway and Main Street (Google Map).

They also teach a class on Monday nights from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at the same location.

Experiences Finding a Game in a Scene

I want to direct you to series of posts by Ben Whitehouse in his blog Improvoker (which is a great name). He’s going through a UCB (Upright Citizen Brigade) class in New York: Improv 201. At this point, there are only two entries, but the class is focusing on long form work and “finding the game”.

His first entry was from the 4th class in the session when he had an interesting insight into the concept of “finding” the game. Rather than it meaning he had to search out a game from the scene – artificially building a game from elements in the scene – he realized that it also meant discovering a game by chance or happenstance.

Along with that realization he thought about the concept of finding “a” game rather than “the” game. This seemed to eliminate some resistance he was having to these “cerebral” concepts in long form work. His post is well written and insightful.

His second entry focused on the second beat of a Harold scene. This second beat is the second round of scenes that follow the first set of establishing scenes. It should carry forward the games found in the the first beat, not necessarily the plots. He gives a good example of this and the post is worth a read for some more insights he has into the Harold long form.

The Harold, diagramed

Dyna Moe at Nobody’s Sweetheart is putting together an Improv Infographic that explains a Harold. Roughly in the form of a flow chart, all the phases (beats) are illustrated along with an indication of the flow, timing, and points of focus. It’s a pretty fun graphic although she hasn’t finished it, yet. It’s possible that she’ll do other graphics on the elements of a scene. If she decides to make these into posters, I’m buying some!

Additional Game List Site

I’ve added another website with a list of improv games to the post on improv game sites. I’ve seen this site referenced, but the links were always broken. I’ve just come across the current link:

The Living Playbook hasn’t been updated for awhile (the current list is dated from 2001), but it is a long list of long and short form games along with a glossary.

A List of Lists

I am thinking about creating a list of critical improv aphorisms or ‘rules’. But, I’ve come across a lot of exisiting lists that are available of the web and before I publish mine, I thought it would be a good idea to reference some other (and possibly better) lists.

The first list is The Eleven Commandments of Improv which is found on the Improv Encyclopedia website. They reference Del Close as the source. Here’s the list:

  1. You are all supporting actors.
  2. Always check your impulses.
  3. Never enter a scene unless you are NEEDED.
  4. Save your fellow actor, don’t worry about the piece.
  5. Your prime responsibility is to support.
  6. Work at the top of your brains at all times.
  7. Never underestimate or condescend to your audience.
  8. No jokes (unless it is tipped in front that it is a joke.)
  9. Trust… trust your fellow actors to support you; trust them to come through if you lay something heavy on them; trust yourself.
  10. Avoid judging what is going down except in terms of whether it needs help (either by entering or cutting), what can best follow, or how you can support it imaginatively if your support is called for.
  11. LISTEN

Another list at the Improv Encyclopedia is named the Ten Commandments. They didn’t reference where they found this list. The commandments are:

  1. Thou shalt not block
  2. Thou shalt always retain focus
  3. Thou shalt not shine above thy team-mates
  4. To gag is to commit a sin that will be paid for
  5. Thou shalt always be changed by what is said to you
  6. Thou shalt not waffle
  7. When in doubt, break the routine
  8. To wimp is to show thy true self
  9. (S)he what tries to be clever is not; while (s)he that is clever doesn’t try
  10. When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained, and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because it just doesn’t matter.

The third (and last) list at the Improv Encyclopedia is named The Rules. Again, no reference of the source, but here they are:

  • Trust
  • Don’t negate or deny
  • Don’t ask questions
  • Make actional choices
  • Make assumptions
  • Give and Take
  • Listen, watch and concentrate
  • Work to the top of your intelligence

The next list comes from the Pan Theater Improv Theater and is titled The Rules of Improv Part I- the First Ten . The group is from San Francisco, and the article was written by David Alger. Here’s the list:

  1. Say “Yes and!”
  2. After the “and”, Add New Information
  3. Don’t Block
  4. Avoid Questions
  5. Focus on the Here and Nows
  6. Establish the Location!
  7. Be Specific- Provide Details!
  8. Change, Change, Change!
  9. For serious and emotional scenes, focus on characters and relationships
  10. For humor, commit and take choices to the nth degree or focus on actions/objects

David went on to write a follow up article cleverly titled The Rules of Improv Part II. The ten rules in that list are:

  1. Give information to your partner
  2. Listen to your partner
  3. Respond to your partner
  4. See the impact of the response
  5. Look beyond the words
  6. Use more than words
  7. Accept silence and being self concious
  8. Be doing but don’t focus the dialogue on what you’re doing
  9. Sooner is better than later- Do it now!
  10. Have fun and relax

Dan Goldstein has created a long list consisting of some basic rules of thumb. The article is titled How to be a Better Improviser and the list consists of:

  • Accept Information: Yes And
  • Add History
  • Ask Yourself “If this were true, then what else is true?”
  • Be very specific
  • When Beginning Scenes, Cut to the Interesting Stuff as Soon as Possible
  • Commence with Characterizing Actions
  • Don’t Deny
  • Enter and Exit with Purpose
  • The Game of the Scene Should Rhyme and Heighten
  • Get Behind the Story
  • Get in Groups when the Number of People on Stage is High
  • Give Yourself a Suggestion when you Don’t ask the Audience for One
  • Go Against the Voice of Reason
  • Go Line for Line
  • Justification
  • Keep the Focus Human and Onstage
  • Maintain your Character’s Point of View
  • Don’t Make Jokes
  • Mime Better, Much Better
  • Play the Opposite Emotion
  • Provide Information About the Other Person
  • Raise the Stakes
  • Take Care of Yourself
  • Questions Should Give More Than They Take

The Purple Crayon of Yale is the college’s improv comedy troupe. They have a list of rules that they call Improv Wisdom. That list consists of 160 rules so I’m not going to duplicate it here. I find lists that long to be be distracting, with only a few of the rules being generally useful or unique. However, I give you the link in case you want to mine it for your own gems of wisdom.

By now you are probably cross-eyed from the all of these lists. You can see that there are some common items to all of them. The differences generally define the style of improv performed by the list maker.

What’s the best list? Well, you know I’m not going to answer that directly. Instead, I’ll be putting together my own. You should do the same.