Inside an Improv Workshop

I conducted a workshop for a LGBT youth group. It was interesting enough to write about.

Last night I conducted an improv training session for a youth group that is mentored/supervised by my friend Amber. She is always looking for something different and, of course, positive for them to do. She brings in guest speakers and group activity coordinators who conduct sessions lasting between an hour and an hour and a half.This fell right in line with the training that I do with Dutch Blitzkrieg and gave me my first training session with teens. There were about 20 people there including six adults. I started the session by telling them about improv. Improv is about creating an interesting scene and not negating what someone else is doing. Mostly people think about improv being comedy, but really it can be anything from comedy to tragedy. (Sometimes the comedy ends up being tragic.)The important factors are building a scene, developing characters, and making things interesting. Doing this as improv (non-scripted work) helps people to think fast on their feet and it also builds self-confidence.To start the actual process, we played two warm-up games, Energy Ball and Bippity Bop. Energy ball is played by passing around an imaginary ball, and when someone throws or catches the ball they first, make eye contact, then make a sound. The sound could be a whoosh, band or even a word. Each pairing (throw, catch) is a unique sound, and we had sounds, words, animal noises and cartoon character effects. Then we played Bippity Bop, which in short is one person trying to say Bippity Bop before the person they lock eyes with says Bop. Not as easy as it sounds, and both these games gave us good group energy. The warm up games serve the purpose of uniting the group and building a sense of trust. It worked, we were all laughing and playing well together.Next we went into some standard improv games. We started pretty easy, playing the Alphabet game as a whole group. Each sequential sentence has to start with the next letter of the alphabet, and you should try to progress a story. Again, we had fun and although the story was extremely choppy, it held everyone together as a group as we practiced our listening skills. (They didn’t really know that’s what they were doing, but they were.)We then played “Poet’s Corner” a rhyming poetry game, then “The Question Game” where no one is allowed to say anything, except in the form of a question, and finally we played “Party Host” where the kids acted out famous people with quirks (Michael Jackson Blind, Whitney Houston with only one arm, etc) and someone who left the room had to guess who they were and what the quirk was. Rhiannon with a PFA was a tough one to guess, but I wasn’t going to limit their choices of what a quirk was, so we went with all of them, some really odd, some not.Overall the session went really well. We had a lot of fun, including me. There was great participation (which was my one worry going into this) and lots of laughter. The hour and a half pretty well flew by.This same sort of thing can help in an industrial, manufacturing or office environment. If people are willing to “play” and let their inhibitions go (at least a little bit) suddenly you start to see people in a new light, and you realize that you can work together as a team.

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