(I sadly missed Clay's first class due to crazy snow and childcare issues therefore the following notes were provided by our awesome adjunct professor Erica Campbell, professor of the class in which Clay did his residency.Thanks, Erica!)
Clay Drinko, Monday, 2/3/14
Clay Drinko opened the class right away with a warm-up improv related exercise: a circle activity called “The Clap.” Students formed a circle and were asked to clap in sync with the person next to them as the passed “the clap” around the circle. After completing the game, Clay followed up by reflecting on the game with students. He asked the class what the game was meant to do. A few students responded with answers about paying attention to other people’s actions and trying to anticipate another person’s movement and respond accordingly. A few students hung back from the game, but most stepped right up to the challenge. It opened up the classroom right away, even as students sat down for the less active lesson to follow. They were much more eager to participate after warming up.
Clay gave an explanation of improvisation acting: a large part of improv is being in “the zone,” or rather, not thinking excessively about your response. Allowing funny to be funny without forcing it in that direction by overthinking your actions. He showed us a clip of Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig at the Golden Globe awards as they improved a hilarious skit around reading off the nominees for an award. It was a great example of how each played off of the other’s response, and how they also were able to work together by just “going with it.” After the clip, he reflected with students on what they noticed about the way the two actors interacted in the skit.
Clay gave personal background on his own journey with acting, complete with a powerpoint of slides and information. The students were fascinated that he’d been on Law and Order, especially. He gave some general history of improv acting as well. He talked a bit about “method acting”, or the practice of taking details of you life/memories and using it to do a short piece on stage. Although it’s tempting to believe that improv is has little or no structure, historically that is a misnomer. There is structure to improv, as well as important rules that help us to do it well. He outlined the agenda for the week, and let students know that they would be methodically building upon the skills that would help them complete a final performance together at the end of the week.
The next activity was: Saying “yes” and going along with your partner’s idea. Clay emphasized the idea of altruism…you have to believe that your partner is a genius. He asked students to play a game called the “Yay” game, where students were placed in pairs. One student had to say something totally random…the first thing that came into their head. Their partner’s job was to yell out “yayyyyy!” no matter what the statement that was made. For example, one student stepped forward and stated: “A shark ate my baby last week.” Their partner erupted into an automatic “yayyy!” It was a lot of fun, and emphasized the necessity of going along with whatever the story is shaping up to be. This was also an exercise that countered the impulse that some students had to shut down their improv partner by negating their statements (for example, simply responding to another student’s statement with “no it’s not” or “I don’t care). Clay told students that, “Your partner is there to thumbs up your ideas.” He again reflected after this activity, and students recognized that embracing the moment and saying yes to everything is a cornerstone in the improv practice.
Emphasized rules of improv:
-Improv is about being more honest than is comfortable
-Don’t TRY to be good
-Don’t be funny
Improv Games for the Week:
-words at a time story
-yes and… no words
-yes and… with words
-3 line scenes
-pass the clap
Clay wrapped up the class session by reviewing the activities students had done, and giving a summary of the next day’s lesson. It left students very excited for the following class. He was immediately comfortable and easygoing with students, presented an organized lesson, including a mix of powerpoint info, visual examples, and hands-on activities. A truly successful and unique classroom experience.