Workshops Strike Back: Round Up Part 2

By Mike Hammond and Polly Leger

Last week we brought you Part One of a round up of some of the workshops our staff put on at the National Festival. Because CIG Nationals is about more than just competing… it’s also a haven of improv workshops and forums. Staff from across Canada helped players and coaches flex their improv muscles, and so can you, with a few tips from this workshop round up, sequel edition.

Yes and more!: Everything is an offer! It’s our job as improvisers to find the information that our partners are giving us and turn it into s omething great. It’s very important to remember that offers come from everywhere, not just the direct things people say (Let’s play hockey!). The tone of someone’s voice is an offer, the way they are standing, if they sneeze, the look in their eyes, the way they task, everything! All of these are offers and the only way to accept them is to take the offer and run with it in a way that is going to advance the scene and set your partner up for success. One way to do that is to react to what is said to you. Be emotionally invested in what the other person is saying to you. Justin calls this “Pinching and Ouching” (A strong offer is given by player A (Pinch) and the reaction and building from player B (Ouch!). In order to pick up on all of these great offers by our scene partners we need to HYPER LISTEN! We need to slow down so you can really digest what your scene partner is saying and doing so you can react appropriately to push the scene forward!

Silence and Sincerity: Sometimes you need to just slow things down and let things get quiet. Silence can be really powerful. Being comfortable in the little moments is key. It can make for a great Life event, but that comfort and confidence in the quiet moments translates into strong skills you can use in any scene. Try playing some scenes in silence, let the rest of your team dictate your actions instead of moving or speaking yourself. Not only will it help get over the giggles when it comes to being serious and help your listening skills, it’s also crazy zen-like.

 Tiny Offers: Mike is watching you… So he can get information to further the scene! Sometimes we miss the forest through the trees in that we only focus on the obvious offers that we get, but we miss the little things that give so much information. Things like tone of voice, body position, distance between the players, eye contact and how they all interact to help tell the story. As improvisers we are hard wired to be impulsive and if we experience any sort of silence we react to fill that void with dialogue. DON’T BE AFRAID OF SILENCE. All silence means is that the physical offers are telling the story rather than the verbal.

Judgin’: Curious on how scenes get scored? Head Judge Katie Bowes had a lil’ sit down to explain the incredibly hard task of assigning a number to art. To help judges make an informed decision on the score they give there is a rubric. The judging sheet and the events are designed to teach and enforce the basic skills of improv, but be vague enough to allow creativity. As for the scores themselves, there is no way to “fail” a scene. The judges award points based on what they see in a scene, it isn’t a passing or failing grade. One of the most important jobs for a judge is to remain consistent. If they score a scene a certain way, they have to apply the same standards to every scene after. There may be a variety of numbers across the judging panel, but as long as the judges are consistent, it doesn’t matter what the actual numbers are.

And just one final word from some of the players at the National Festival.

What’s the best workshop you’ve ever taken? Write and tell us about it at  stories@improv.ca Craving more improv tips? Ask us allll about them! Tweet us your q’s @CanadianImprov with the hashtag #AskATrainer!