Rhiannon Vivian’s Top 5 Tips for Beginners
So I think the best advice has to come from your own experience. Despite having done improv for ten years now, I still remember my first class as clear as day. With that in mind, here’s my top 5 tips for beginners:
1. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. I remember going to class thinking people would think I wasn’t well versed in things, good enough at accents, didn’t stand up straight enough, good enough in general…The list goes on. First of all, you’re awesome for just showing up! Second of all, everyone else will be so preoccupied with themselves that no offence, they probably won’t notice any of the stuff you’ll be worrying about - real or imagined!
2. Be as present as possible. Don’t plan what you’re going to say or try and second guess the game or what your teammate might say. You won’t be able to. And that’s part of the joy. It’s one of the few times in your life you’re actively asked to be underprepared. Celebrate that freedom!
3. Be kind and open and listen. Listen to what people say in scenes. Not just a bit, but right to the end of their sentences. That’s often where the gold is.
4. You might be nervous. That’s cool. Imagine your nerves as a big wave you’re gonna ride. Don’t try and get rid of them or get cross with yourself for having them. They’re totally normal. It’s just a question of getting used to that tidal wave of mild, brief (or maybe in some cases strong) feeling of nausea. Imagine your nausea as a regular, normal if slightly annoying next-door neighbour, that you say good morning to. Normalise it!
5. Make the other person look good. Give people gifts. If your teammate loves sci-fi maybe drop some into a scene. If they love doing accents maybe endow them with one and watch them light up with joy. Make them look epic and you’ll look epic in the process. Use your intuition and try to avoid deliberately wrong-footing people or endowing them with something you know they’ll hate. For example, I can’t think of a single female improviser who is glad to be endowed with being a prostitute. Just so y’know. Maybe don’t go there ;)
Rhiannon Vivian’s Top 5 Warm-up Games
I love surreal stuff, wordy stuff and character games. They can really get you out of your sensible brain which is what we want:
1. What’s on your stupid T-shirt. I love this warm up because it’s so daft and so simple. There’s a chant of ‘what’s on your stupid T-shirt,’ then in a circle, players endow someone next to them by describing what’s on their imaginary T-shirt. The player who owns that T-shirt then has to caption it. Simple as! Puns are fun, but the best ones are the bonkers ones that make no sense at all.
2. Character dial-up. Taking a small character quirk and line of dialogue and passing it across the circle, each time cranking up the affectations by 1%. By the end, when you’ve got 4 or 5 going, it looks like an absolute nonsense mess and is extremely funny.
3. Mind Meld. I love words and this is a simple game where you say a word at the same time as someone else. Then all the players have to do is try and find a word in the middle of those two words, that encompasses both and say it at the same time as another player. Mind Meld!
4. Not gonna lie, the best time to make up new improv games is after a few beers. If they still stand up in the morning, they’re going to get released into the improv universe. I made up a game with Lloydie from the Maydays that is a verbal version of Dutch Clapping (the cool clapping game where if you both put your hands in the same direction you celebrate with a high ten). You’re In The Army Now is just that, but with words! You’ve got four options: Left Tennant, Down Tennant, Up Tennant and Right Tennant. Just say them at each other at the same time. If you accidentally say the same one at the same time, then you celebrate by shouting ‘You’re in the Army Now!’ Easy! I implore everyone to make up at least one new improv game during their lifetime.
5. This one is from Chicago. Thanks Chicago! Ever wanted to make a remix machine out of humans? Yeah you do! Using clapping at the same time, different sets of words that would suit a rap or dance track (yeah! Woo! Alright!) are said by players in a circle simultaneously. Reverse the circle by double clapping. Soon enough you get a very limited but super cool human remix machine!
Rhiannon regularly teaches for Hoopla and is part of The Maydays, Dreamweaver Quartet, Bumper Blyton & Newsical who all perform on the Hoopla stage at The Miller. www.hooplaimpro.com