A new kind of standing ovation

I’ve been to a lot of improv workshops where, quite frankly, not enough improvising happens.

One possible solution is, as Keith Johnstone says, ‘let nothing be discussed that could be acted out’ (not an exact quote).
Another idea is to allow no discussion at all between scenes, which keeps people in improv mode, not discussion mode.

However, I think there is a lot of value in a little discussion between scenes. This morning I was reading this article by Seth Godin on running effective meetings, and I was quite taken by this idea;

I think most of the time, most meetings should be held without chairs. People standing up think more quickly and get distracted less often. And the meetings don’t last as long.

While I don’t think it would be productive to have players stand during other player’s scenes, it might be good to have everyone stand between scenes.


-People encouraged to stay on topic.
-People are already standing and ready for the next scene to start.


9 Responses to “A new kind of standing ovation”

  1. Daniel Says:

    seth godin is clever.

    PUrple Cow etc.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Also i think improv worksops tend to work a lot better when the rules of improv are not applied to the workshop.

    I often find in improv teaching and business that we want to bring the world of the stage (yes! and.. any idea is a good idea etc etc) to bear there as well. which isn’t the best.

    Better to have one person in firm control. Otherwise the improv penises will slowly creep out and begin to wave about. Each competing for size and attention.

  3. jill bernard Says:

    I’m going to push back on you, Daniel, because Yes And doesn’t mean being a push-over, it means acknowledging someone else’s perspective and launching off of it. It doesn’t mean yielding control. If you are teaching without paying attention to what your students are experiencing, then you might as well just be a tape-recording. I love making students tell me what’s going on in their heads, making them say it in their own words to help them absorb it. And if one of them has a great idea, well, if we don’t explore it, what are we here for? If one of them has a question that can be answered via object lesson, why not?

    They tend not to wave their improv penises at me because mine is bigger. What? OK.

    I guess I do lots of exercises where everyone is standing up the whole time, I never thought about how that helps people be ready to go, but it does.

    There’s a really easy way to limit the discussion in between. You just yell, “Two more people, go!” and that seems to take care of it.

  4. Daniel Says:

    I hear what you’re saying.

    However i think that unless one person has firm control of the direction things are going in then the principles you outline are hijacked in order to prove personal agendas. You say yourself that you have the biggest penis – thereby implying that you have the final say, which is kindof the point i was making.

    the situation i am referring to is when everyone in the workshop is at about the same level, including whoever is taking it and perhaps not relevent to your situation?

  5. jill bernard Says:

    Ah, this is so, yes.

    Perhaps you’re misrepresenting the application of Yes And on the inside of scenes then. Not everyone in a scene is at the same level, status games are part of the joy of scenework.

  6. Daniel Says:

    no. I don’t think i’m misrepresenting anything.
    i think you may be misinterpreting me.
    or am i missing out on the joy of status transactions in internet blogs as well?


  7. improbable Says:

    One of the frustrations I have from working in a Japanese public school is that the only form of discipline available is yelling at the students. Can’t give detentions, can’t send them out of class, and (thankfully) you can’t hit them.

    So dealing with student misbehaviour is a problem.

    The best way to get around this, I think all teachers will agree, is to keep the students engaged in the work at hand so that they don’t misbehave. Thus removing the need for discipline measures.

    So, what’s my point?

    1. Telling a lengthy and irrelevant anecdote can diffuse a tense situation ( I hope).
    2. While it may be necessary to stamp down on intellectual cock-waving during workshops, it is preferable to stop it from ever getting to that point. Which was the intent of my post.

    Which reminds me Daniel, you have a great technique for keeping kids focused during improv workshops. Would it be ok if I wrote about it?
    Or better yet, if you wrote about it?

  8. Daniel Says:

    Are you talking about “actor faces?”
    if so go for it. If you’re not talking about that then please write about it as well because i have forgotten what it was.

  9. improbable Says:

    Yes, that’s it! Actor Faces.

    Now that I think of it, it’s a hard one to describe.

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