Week 6 – TEN GAMES, CONCEPTS AND TOOLS!
THOUGHTS, IDEAS, QUESTIONS, PROCESS, LESSONS,
TEN GAMES, CONCEPTS AND TOOLS!
OSHOW – Week 6
OSHOW introduces his interpretation of 10 Games, concepts and exercises. (with additional editing by Shawn)
(1) One Voice
(Keith Johnstone & Viola Spolin created independently of each other)
How to do it:
Several people speak words at the same time as if they were one person. (Two people to start is useful for training. It simplifies the focus. Later, 3 or more people can participate and train connection, awareness and sensitivity. Keith mentioned that they once had the entire audience speaking in one voice.)
I think this is a fairly well-known game, but until now I had never really played it, because I didn’t really understand the point of doing it. It was usually played by performers who would speak in a slow-motion style, like “Myyyyy……~naaaaame…~isssssss…~”.
The players mistakenly try to read each other’s thoughts, and it didn’t seem to be interesting or teach me much.
But this time, Shawn’s lesson changed my mind. Shawn made us aware of the need to “speak like a normal human being” and “fight to speak with 100% clarity and for your partner’s happiness. IS YOUR PARTNER SATISFIED AND DO THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS BEEN SAID??”.
We know that this ‘perfection’ is impossible but they have to try! And they mustn’t accept weaker and weaker results or you’ll eventually be playing without risk and joy.
To get them to speak like normal humans, you first ask them a template question.(a question that has obvious first words)
What is your name?” →”My name is…”
What is your job? →”My job is…”
With a template, performers have a head-start as they connect quickly and it acts like a ramp of safety propelling them forward into uncertainty.
Human beings address fear of failure by going slower and quieter. Your job is to help performers bypass that defence mechanism.
Aspiring to be 100% accurate means you repeat the speech, and because you are more confident with the content, increase the speed.
If you feel that something is off, (or your partner shows signs that it isn’t good enough) even a little bit, you can redo it, like, “My name is Robi… my name is Roban… my… my name is Robert!” esach time stronger and more confident.
Both people need to look at the other, be honest about their discomfort, and make an offer to give 100%. One of you can’t be leading the other, so you can learn status. This can develop good spirit as premise for doing improv.
By the way, many Loose Moose members didn’t like this game, probably because they think like I did in the past. It is a really fun game if you play it correctly!
(2) Stage direction (He said, She said) – (KEITH JOHNSTONE)
How to do it:
Two people act out a scene, and after the first person’s line of dialogue, the second person directs their action. “He said/ She said”. ( HE SAID – opening the door. SHE SAID crying uncontrollably. Etc)
I learned it as a game called “He said, She said,” but I was surprised at how important the name “Stage direction” seemed to be.
When I played this game in Japan, everyone, including myself, often said their lines in an honest and rigid manner. This means that they leave their movements completely up to their partner. This is very accurate to the rules of the game, and I think it is typical of the Japanese, but when we played this game here, performers moved as if it were a normal scene and incorporated the added stage direction. This way there is more dynamic and less pressure to say things.(The first version is a good early version to practice control.)
Many people are not sure what kind of direction they should say, but Shawn says, “Simple movements are fine. It removes pressure to keep it simple”. You don’t have to include “important” or complicated things. For example “HE SAID… walking around the room,” “nodding his head,” “opening the curtains.” Of course, once you feel comfortable with it, you can contribute to the story more effectively. (See KEITH JOHNSTONES – IMPRO FOR STORYTELLERS FOR COMPLETE INSTRUCTIONS)
(3) Only questions –
How to do it:
Do a scene with only questions. (e.g., “Why did you call me up today?” Don’t you remember what day it is?” “Do you remember our wedding anniversary?” …
It’s crazy difficult to do, but I’m getting more and more aware of the need to do it. In impro, there is a kind of theory that says, “Don’t ask questions”. That’s because asking questions is often a sign of giving up responsibility to make an offer“wimping” (not being brave enough to offer definition) or depriving the other person of ideas. But that is not always true.
This game taught me that you can use questions to move the story forward in a big way. “Did you read my diary?” “Why didn’t you tell me you were actually a man?” “Does gender matter in love?” …etc.
By the way, I always have trouble when I play this game in Japanese. This is because we often judge the words by intonation and tone of voice, rather than by sentence structure as in English. But it is often better to judge by feeling than to do it logically.
(4) More or Less (Loose Moose format)
How to do it:
The director directs a scene, and after the scene is over, the audience is asked to decide whether they want to see more or less by voting with the words, MORE and LESS.
If there are more “MORE” votes, the director continues the story. Scene (They don’t have to continue the scene where it left off. They can leap to other characters and locations and times.
If there are more “LESS” votes, they move on to a different director and story scene.
This is one of the Middle Forms. Until now, the only middle form I knew was the Super Scene, but now I know another one.
The reason I like the middle form is because it is very educational. Many people want to do a long form right after doing a short form, but I think we need to learn more about storytelling to keep the audience engaged. That’s why we have middle form.
A middle form is a format for deciding whether or not to continue a scene, and can be moved to the long form if you are interested in what happens next, and moved to the short form if you are not.
I have heard that there have been times in the past when a show has run from beginning to end with a single story, and I think that is exactly what an ideal long-form should be.
By the way, I think the key to improving middle form is to read manga. A good manga ends with a panel drawing of the most interesting moment at the end of the episode to keep the reader hooked. Besides, the idea of drawing impressive panels is also an exercise in direction.
(5) Incidental Detail (Keith Johnstone concept)
Incidental details are random bits of specific information that are usually not negative. They can occur anywhere in the scene but are most useful at the beginning.
How to do it: Create a base for your scene by scattering incidental details.
This is not a game. It is a narrative suggestion which gives you a solid platform for a scene with the seeds of ideas that will grow into tools to help you find a solid tilt and ending.
According to Shawn, what is needed for a platform is “a variety of Incidental Details,” “Not Negative,” and they “don’t leave big questions un-answered”.
I think that scattering “Incidental Detail” in particular, is a surprisingly overlooked.
In Keith’s theory, Incidental detail occurs in the first moments of the scene. It’s a question of timing and pace to know when you have enough details in your platform before moving on. Setting a SPECIFIC time (30 seconds, 1 minute, etc) is dangerous. People will start to follow that as a rule. Platform should have enough incidental detail to tell us three or four various things – more or less. These incidental details will be used later to form the tilt of the story.
The idea is that the incidental ideas are puzzle pieces that create the picture that will tell you what to do. Some pieces ARE INCIDENTAL… meaning they don’t matter too much and so, might not be tied together in the final picture whereas some of those pieces might be extremely important. We only find out as we move forward.
If the details are not randomly scattered and everything is related, then there is nothing left to do in the second half. I think the basic idea of a story is to “scatter and put together”. That’s why you need to do that in the platform.
A common scene is two people talking about coffee over a cup of coffee. But since they are already having coffee, they can talk about something else without mentioning it. That way, you can get two pieces of information out at once. Furthermore, if one person is drinking coffee, the other person can be smoking a cigarette. That way, more information can be ‘scattered even if they are not talking.
It is difficult to do this consciously on stage, but not in real life, because the brain inevitably connects each piece of information. But if you can train your brain to do this scattering, your brain will work with less effort in the second half of the scene to do some amazing storytelling. So that’s what diversified investment is for.
One useful piece of advice Shawn gives is to “let your body tell you.” For example, if you’re drinking a cup of coffee and casually looking outside, you might discover, “Look, there’s a bird’s nest”. If you were smoking a cigarette and putting your hand in your pocket, you might grab a receipt. If your thoughts make associations on their own, let’s rely on our bodies to be more random.
By the way, I use a technique of finding another aspect of a topic. For example, if I hear about a “bird’s nest,” I can derive the idea from there and relate my story to “pets,” “home,” and “child-rearing”. I think everyone can find these kinds of tips.
(6) I’m stupid – (from Jonathan Wright’s Why is that so funny?)
How to do it:
Choose one person. That person makes everyone around them believe that they are stupid, while everyone else argues why they AREN’T stupid.
This is a clown exercise that Paul, brought from the book WHY IS THAT SO FUNNY by Jonathan Wright.
This was a lot of fun! Partly because I liked clowning originally, and partly because it had a clear goal of making the audience believe that you are stupid, and establishing that through your relationships and interactions with those around you was essential, and it was interesting to see all the different ways you could do it.
It was also fun that the people around me would be an obstacle, saying things like, “You are so smart to be able to do that”.
I don’t speak English that well, so I showed them with my body, my reactions, and my attitude, which matched very well. When I did the scene in that state, they loved it so much that it gave me a chance to blow it off. If I had done it in Japanese, it might have been more difficult, so I am glad I did this one here first.
(7) Triangle Scenes (Shawn exercise)
How to do it:
Three people do a scene, and ONE of them is responsible to move to a place on the stage that maintains a compositional triangle. The group can be equal distance with two people at the back of the stage and one at the mid front, or so close that they are touching in a triangle. There is also a variation where the person responsible for maintaining the triangle with the other two performers changes when the offstage director or teacher calls out a different leader in the middle of the scene.
I feel that a scene done by three people is challenging, but this showed me one possibility. When there is movement, something is created from it, and the story is formed by the justification. Since we can play with the focus on “movement,” there is not so much pressure to “create a scene”. And we can see that the story is created on its own through physical movement.
5- AH, SO, KA
How to do it:
Players stand in a circle. One person puts his/her hand on his/her forehead in a gesture of salute while saying “Ah”. Based on which direction the “salute” is pointing, the next person says “So” and puts his/her hand across his/her throat in the same ‘saluting’ way. Based on which direction that “salute” points the next person says “Ka,” and claps their hands together focusing on someone else. That person who just got “clapped” at starts the series of words again“AH..SO..KA”.
It’s a simple game, but when someone fails in this game, everyone points at that person and shouts in unison, “You are out of this game!” The person who is out of the game is then left wandering around outside the circle, disturbing evreyone’s focus, making it harder to play the game.
I love it even more when everyone yells this catchphrase sentence.
I think the Japanese in particular should do this. It would be good training for polite and gentle people to play a game of cursing someone to their face.
(9) Negating an idea (A TILT KEY – by Shawn)
How to do it: It is good to do this after Incidental detail. Negate one of the scattered platform ideas. For example, “Actually, it’s a lie that I am a lawyer.”
This can trigger a Tilt and move the story forward IF it alters the relationship dramatically.
lNegate an idea in the platform “I’m not a Lawyer”
lHave the other person ask the obvious question the audience is now asking (What do you mean you aren’t a lawyer?, or Why would you lie about that?)
lThe first person makes sense of the information so that it will affect the relationship. “I lied to you and Dad because it was easier to make a living selling drugs than to become a lawyer”
According to Shawn, this is one technique for creating Tilt.
Tilt, by the way, means “altering or affecting the relationship with the other person in a dramatic way”. It requires mutual cooperation. The initiator needs to develop the idea into something more relevant and important to them and to themselves (again using ideas from the Platform), and the recipient needs to be STRONGLY AFFECTED by the information and support the change.
Says Shawn, “A good Tilt is like ripping off a band-aid in one swoop.” If you’re afraid of risk, you’re cautious, and impactful change doesn’t happen. It’s important to actually make something happen here and now.
How to do it:
Form a circle and say someone’s name. The person who is called must crouch down to avoid being shot because the people on either side of the called person aim at each other and shoot. The person who is shot first, or who is too late to avoid the bullet is the loser. They sit down in their spot and are out for the game except for one more task. The person shot in the last round calls out the next name for another gunfight,
It sounds like just a fun game, but there are elements here that foster impro skills. For example, the person who loses has to call the next name, but because he or she lost, he or she feels like they got out of the game too soon and forgets what to do next. At this time, that person is gone from the scene. You always need to stay in the moment at all times. Other things happen in the game, such as the two people next to you not realizing that the person in the middle fails to pay attention and was late in avoiding, or losing because you fired one shot at the same time and then fired a second shot. Instead of following the rules, play with them.