Unfortunately, I missed Clay's first class yesterday due to the snow here in NYC and the Department of Education cancelling all after school activities, but I must say that from the moment I walked into his class today I felt as if I had been in his class forever--in a good way.
Clay has a dynamic personality--what you would expect from an improv actor--and his energy is contagious. He commands the class in the most friendly and warm of ways, and the students, from the first minutes of class, were smiling and engaged. He had arranged the room in a semi-circle of chairs and the students sat, eyes on him, as the class began.
He started class with a quick review of what they had done yesterday (great pedagogy!) and the students were able to recall the Clap Game, Name Game, and Story Game. He had the students stand up and asked them to play the Name Game again.
Name Game: Students have to state their name with a gesture and the whole group has to repeat them. It was fun to watch who had very performative gestures versus who had subtle gestures to go with their name.
After the game, Clay asked the students, "What was that like?" The students said it was easier as more and more people went. Clay asked if anyone was uncomfortable and a few students responded that they were, but not because they didn't want to go, but because they weren't sure they could imitate the gestures initiated by their peers. Clay emphasized that there was no judgement in improv--that the need we all have to think that everything we say and do is awesome has to go out the window. Any and everything you say or do in improv is awesome--you need to have that confidence in your delivery.
Zip Zap Zop: Next they played Zip Zap Zop as a whole class and then in small groups. The goal of this game is communication and Clay reviewed that. You need focus, eye contact, energy, and maybe the gesture of pointing so that the person knows they are next. After a few rounds as a whole group, they broke into small groups to see which group could become the fastest.
Beasty Rap: As a fan of the Beastie Boys, I loved this game. The goal was to get students to rhyme as a group in front of the class, creating lines/rhymes and the class does this "Da Da Da Da Duh Dunt Da Dunt Dunt" to get them going.
321 Word Match: This was a riot. The class in standing in a circle and two students face each other while the entire class calls "3! 2! 1!" and the two students shout out a word that comes to mind. So, for example, one student says, "Moustache!" and the other says, "Starbucks!" and then one of the students turns to the next student and they have to try to find a word common (but they can't conference ahead of time) and the class again yells, "3! 2! 1!" and the two students yells their new word. This game focuses on the importance of both common references/associations as well as the importance of words.
1 Word Story: The students go around the room (sitting in a circle again) and say one word after another to make a story. Again, reinforcing the importance of ideas and how creativity can be culled from a group's collective thinking.
Shhhhh 1-2-3: This game is done while sitting to calm the class down. They must count out loud quietly to 20, one at a time, but each time a student speaks at the same time as another student the game restarts. The students had a hard time doing this at first, and then Clay asked them to think about what they needed to make it work. Students replied, "Trust, patience, waiting, quiet" and after they discussed, they made it to 19! It was pretty incredible to watch.
As someone who has been teaching either formally or informally (as an arts educator) for the past 17 years, these exercises were incredible, and not only to build improv acting skills. The students were working together so well; they were laughing, happy, and supporting each other. It was a great team building exercise.
And again, Clay had the most positive classroom presence. No matter what the students did, he was an enthusiastic cheerleader for everyone. I watched even the late and reluctant students feel the pull to get involved; his energy was contaigous!
That was only the first hour of class!
Next the students worked on SCENE work through a few games called Yes, and... and 3-word Scenes. They then moved onto GAME WORK, the first one being called the Pattern Game in which one person starts a scene and people jump into the scene as the pattern/idea emerges and they play along. I could not believe how well the students did this! One would begin a random scene and then others would jump (literally) out of their seats and enter the scene and build upon what had started. There was some serious talent in that room.
After that they did another exercise in SCENE WORK called Secrets. Two students get up and work up to telling each other a secret and the other has to react largely. Scenes are two people. Games are groups of people.
The next Secret game was hilarious, and Clay introduced the idea that you have to build the secret to make it make sense and that's called "justifying" the secret. After each SCENE and GAME, Clay had the students analyze why it did or didn't work. Additionally, he would have them rework a scene and have the students analyze it from a different perspective.
With about 15 minutes of class left, the students started to get a little tired, so Clay had them conclude class playing Crazy 8s to loosen them up and get their energy going again.
These students were too funny. I was laughing for two hours straight while observing this class. I am always so proud of our students for just diving into these new areas of study with no fear. I could watch that work happen all day.