Clay started class with some warm up activities. He put the students in a circle inside the U-shaped desks and they immediately got started. They did a quick clapping game and then Zip-Zap-Zop (see Class 2 for directions) again to get comfortable with each other and then Bunny Bunny (which was so funny and I can't even explain it--please see video). After that they split into two lines and played a quick SCENE game of "Yes, and..." (see Class 2 for directions).
Then, while still in their two lines, they played something called Instructions in which they are pretending that they are explaining a concept to an alien who just landed on earth. They are given a object and have to explain the directions of how to "do" that object. The first team was given a "human baby" and the other team was given "ice cream." They went randomly and explained how that object worked.
Next they played a game called Story in which they collaobratively constructed a story. Team 1 had a story called "Jimmy From the Block" and the other team had a story called "Super Cat Dolphin." Each team's story title came from the opposite team. "Super Cat Dolphin" posed some problems, so the other team created a new title called "Evil Man Princess." (I was cracking up the whole time, it was so funny...). I guess "Evil Man Princess" is a throw back from class on Monday, and Clay explained that when Improv Actors bring back a title that the audience liked that's called "recall" and it's a technique commonly used to re-engage the audience. Great teaching on his feet!
"Evil Man Princess" went much better than "Super Cat Dolphin" and Clay asked the audience (the other team) what parts they enjoyed/liked and WHY. This is a key component to this Improv Work--it's not only figuring out how to work collaboratively but also how to use the practice of analysis to determine what works and what does not work.
Clay: What do we know about Improv?
Students: Go with the flow, spontaneous, everything's in the moment, clear your mind, erase what you knew before and say whatever.
Clay: Is that hard or easy to do?
Students: It's freestylin', They just made up a whole story right now from nothing, they used used their brains....
Next Clay had the students sit back down and they began work on monologues. He said that he would give them ONE word and the student would have to start a story that might be true to might not. Clay chose the word "nail" for a student to tell a story. A young woman got up and told this crazy story about how she used to get acrylic nails and how they ruined her nails with lots of gross details and facts on how to peel the fake nails off your real nail. Clay then asked students to recall the details and what they could use from her story to create a scene. Next he asked someone to get up and do a scene that sparked from the nail story. Two people must do a scene.
Two guys volunteered and did a hilarious scene about nail biting. Clay brought up that sometimes in Improv you can interrupt each other, and one of the students who was in the scene explained that when you get interrupted it pushes you in a gently competitive way to think faster. Clay concurred that some of the best improv teams intentionally toss one another a curve ball so that the audience can witness them thinking on their feet and that audiences LOVE that.
Next story: balloon. Another guy got up and told a hilarious story of liking ot cut kids' balloons in secret so that they'll fly away. Clay explained that when you do a story, you have to make sure to end it well. He then asked them for ideas that sparked from that story and two students came up to construct a 1-minute scene.
This scene was more awkward, so Clay explained how the actors in the scene could have been more in tune with each other and how one has to decide what is happening at a certain point to carry the scene or else it will flop. The great thing about Clay is that he can critique the students while praising them so that everything always has a positive spin.
Next, Clay split the class in half for performance teams. Job 1: pick one warm up to do as a group. Job 2: Team name. Next, one team (The Spectaculars) performed a group pattern scene and three two person scenes and a concluding pattern scene to the theme of "sock puppets" given to them by the other team (Super Cat Dolphin). After their performances, Clay broke down what worked and what didn't work about their theme and ideas. Next, Super Cat Dolphin had to perform to the word "cow" but it turned into "milk" and after their performances Clay broke down their use of the idea throughout. He asked what were their favorite parts to analyze what worked and what didn't. Clay talked about pacing a scene and how it seeps in to the audience when the actors take their time.
Clay concluded the class by asking, "What did we learn about Improv?" Students responded that they shouldn't think too much, be natural...Clay asked "What was this experience like?" and a student responded that it's great, especially if you're a shy person. Clay iterated that we like authenticity--we like REAL people and we'll forgive mistakes if the person is being honest and makes mistakes. A student said that improv gave them a chance to express themselves in a unique way by being open in class. Clay then asked how do you apply this to real life? A student said that the biggest mistake is not to say anything--that it's important to HAVE A VOICE.
Overall, I was impressed/surprised/thrilled by how many lessons about life and education could apply to the idea of Improv Acting. The class seemed so kind and supportive of each other throughout their classes with Clay, which was great for team building. This entire experience--even watching it--was an act of pure joy.
You could tell how much the students appreciated the experience. Not only did they get him a present, but many also lined up at the end to personally thank him and to talk to him about future improv work. It was very touching.
What an amazing conclusion to our pilot artist-in-residence program.