What happens when a pandemic forces the entire world to shut down? No theatres, no schools, no large gatherings, and no improv…Improv may not be a priority in those situations, however remember “Improv is life and life is improv” Get some wifi, get a web based app and zoom a zoom zoom and boom boom…there you go. It’s a good distraction from the pandemic, but really health and safety is more important than improv.
An online Web/Video/Zoom improv session to work on fundamentals, short form games, and long form scene work. Some games are described in the A to Z section and others deserve attention, especially for video improv.
Introduction: Set the tone at the start of the session with clearly defined boundaries. Make sure everyone knows it is a safe space for everyone to participate without fear of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism, and hate speech. This is also the time to share pronouns and if there are any particularly triggering topics that the group should refrain from mentioning or discussing. This is an opportunity for social distraction and play time in a safe and friendly environment.
All players and participants are assigned a number (1-10+). This will help determine talking order when speaking during certain activities. Zoom can be difficult if people “talk over” each other. Assign “first come”, alphabetically, random, or however you wish as long as it is clear who/where each person is in the group order.
Here is the set list of our first ZoomProv session along with some tips of how to make it effective.
Stand up! All players will move in and out of their camera box, dancing and moving around. If only two players seen in the gallery view they “high five” and cheer. Body movement!
Sequentially go through the alphabet. A category is provided to go around one word at a time A to Z and/or Z to A. Real or made up words. Go quickly and as accurately as possible. If a letter is skipped, it becomes the new reality of the alphabet. Just get the team used to speaking through Zoom and going around the square.
The first player has to quickly list 10 things (any category) and then they challenge someone to list 9 things of a new category. Then challenge someone else to list 8 things…etc. Go around until everyone gets the chance to participate. Categories should start broad and progress to very specific. (10 foods you love…1 reason to fear commitment)
-Word Association 2-deep
Get a random word from anyone. That is the beginning word. Follow the pattern and continue around the zoom sequentially. Keep the responses to a single word or very short phrase.
Example: Peanut butter. Player 1: “Peanut butter” makes me think of “jelly”. “Jelly” makes me think of “jam”. Player 2: “Jam” makes me think of “dunks”. “Dunks” make me think of “Michael Jordan”, etc.
Do this for 2 rounds. It’s helpful and important to stick with the structure.
Take the last word of Word Association round 2. Can the group guess what word is coming up next? Any player can say “one” and any other player can say “two”. On a count of “one, two, three” both players will say their word. If the words match, you have group mind. If the two words are different, take the two words that were shared and seek a bridging word. Keep going until you find group mind…or chaos since its zoom.
-Zip Zap Zop
Colors or Words (Red/Blue/Kiwi)
ALL PLAY (Games for everyone)
-185 or any pun game
Go in order with no skipping. Force yourself to come up with a pun): random noun (I call my sweetie, sex with us, Hey Morty, B Movie, or any pun related line format.
One person hides their eyes/ears (or is sent to a breakout room. Various software features may make this easy) while the suggestions are determined. Other players can write something on paper and share it with the zoom screen or use the chat feature. That player is having a press conference. They are someone famous and they did something (invented, arrested, or why they are infamous). All other players ask leading questions to get the person to guess who/what. Offer characters and personalities when asking questions (name and media outlet).
-Word at a time story
Tell a story one word at a time. Get a genre and a title. Start with “once upon a time”
-1 Minute Ted Talk
One person gives a 60 second motivational or informative presentation.
-30 Second Monologue
One person starts a monologue and continues for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds the monologue continues with the same tone and same concept with a new player. Continue with other players. You may need someone to show a timer to the zoom.
-Poetry: Each player presents a piece of poetry based off a suggestion or single word. Free verse, couplets, limerick, haiku, etc.
Get a suggestion for a “high school club” (improv club, yearbook, etc.) Each player freezes in their camera box. One at a time, players will introduce themselves in character and say something about the club, themselves, or others.
TWO PLAY (Games for 2 players)
-Ding (say it again, say what)
One person has a bell or makes bell sound (simply say “ding”). Upon a ding of the bell, rephrase what was just said. Alternate version “New Choice”: host requests “new choice or say what or say it again” to change the words, accent, emotion, etc. The host can ding the players or a fun variation is to have the players ding each other.
One person can only read from a “book”. Other person must maintain the conversation and justify what is being stated. Use a novel, text messages, Facebook, twitter, or any written words.
-2 Heads 1 Voice
Players play a scene every other word or at the same time.
-Dear So and So
2 Players will have a pen pal relationship (suggestion needed). Players will write a short letter (reading it aloud while writing) back and forth to each other. First player read their letter…”Dear so and so… and ends with love whoever”. Make the letters short, interesting, and heightened.
TWO PLUS (NOT ALL)
-First line last line
Get an opening line of dialogue. 2 players start a scene. Say freeze to stop the scene. 2 other players will start an unrelated scene using the last line of dialogue from the other scene. Continue using the last line of dialogue to switch back to the other scene. The characters and the plot of the scenes continue.
Start a scene between 2 players. A pause (hesitation) will prompt a third player to provide the next word (single word). “Third player” will rotate sequentially through remaining players.
-Numbers: Assign each player a number which represents the number of words they can speak.
-Superhero Wedding Best Speech
Similar to superhero eulogy but we want to keep it positive. Superheroes are getting married. Two players will do a “best man” or “maid of honor” speech. (Gender norms and heteronormative expectations are not required. Marriage is between 2 (or more) loving people.)
Use any location, relationship, or suggestion from the session to “cut to” the scene. Use characters and edits (time hop, etc.)
Each person adds an element of the scene. Start with simple suggestion and each person adds to the element of the scene. Add objects and characters but no plot. Once the scene is painted, start the scene remembering and recalling what has been painted.
-Two person scene-start in the middle. Focus on emotion. Be affected by the emotional response.
· Every scene should have some object work.
· Go vague to clear. But still answer who, what, where.
· One line at a time. (Think about what happened, what was said, object work and everything that just happened before responding.)
· Rushing to get to the end you will miss stuff. Slow down take time to appreciate the scenes.
-Make it worse 1-10
Actors play a scene and each time the director shouts the next larger number (starting from 1 going to 10) the actors have to make the situation worse for the characters (on a drive 1. We’re lost. 2 were out of gas. 3. I hear something in the bushes 4. The baby is coming! 5. I want a divorce 6. Whatever was in the bushes is getting closer 7. Eat my husband! 8. The baby is here! It’s a vampire baby! (You cheated on me with a vampire?) 9. Here’s my secret vampire lover. 10. Aliens!)
-4 Part Character
First player offers a name, second player offers an adjective, and the third player offers a profession. The fourth player then improvises a thirty-second monologue as “Harvey the paranoid waiter” (or whatever.)
· Overdub or voiceover a tv show: show a muted tv or movie clip.
· Character Interview: Pick a character from the session and interview that character.
· Practice job interviews.
· Work on social skills.
· Mute the mic and speak for each other.
· Have a conversation.
· Book an online therapy session instead of doing improv.ZoomProv may be the future of improv, indeed. Back in December 2019 we had a dream, maybe even a premonition. The future of improv for GoProv would be unlike anything we’ve ever done. GoProv was boldly going where no other team has gone before. The theme of “Game On: The Future of Improv” was meant to be a nod to the very distant future of cyborgs, robots, and SpaceProv. Thank you Ben for designing a great image of the future. The season was meant to be a series of game shows and mixed form of short games, long scenes, a projector, a movie screen, and all of the technology available at our place. Fast forward to March 2020…the world shuts down. No live performance, no theatres, no face to face interactions, and only the internet connecting people. Well, well, well, our imaginary future of robots and technologically advanced screens became the only source for improv. The future is now. We are learning to improvise using computer, cell phone, Zoom, Twitch, Facebook live, IG live, and every new app available. It is different indeed, but many of the rules and guidelines apply. A rule for GoProv and friends is “if it’s not a hell yes, the answer is no.” Get people who say “hell yes” and make sure everyone is participating because they want to be involved. It’s the only way to embrace the changes and the new normal.