Can You Hear Me?

iO Summer Intensive

Week 3

Instructor- Lyndsay Hailey



We started out before Lyndsay got there. My class is so awesome, I love them. We are all so enthusiastic about being here and learning that we often start doing warm-ups before class begins. This was a version of Zip-Zap-Zop that the guys from NC taught us last week. It’s played like normal but at any point someone can change the Zops to kill mode and then it’s every man for himself. Dodging and running around the room trying to avoid the Zop in the pattern because if it hits you then you die. Dramatically is best. Eventually the floor is littered with bodies that the survivors have to jump over as they try to avoid being hit. When the end comes and there are only two players left most people take it well, remaining calm as their killer handles them execution style.

Lyndsay came in during the game and since we were already playing the game she waited until only one remained, then had us circle back up for a game of silent Zip-Zap-Zop. Then we moved to elimination style, still silent, and as you got out you were allowed to distract the other players. Screaming at them, jumping around, clapping to cover the claps they were listening for, telling them they were going to fail, breathing in their ears- we got mean. Then we broke the circle and played as we moved around the room. Lyndsay kept adding Zips until there were dozens, then more, so fast no one could keep up. After it was over she pointed out, quietly, that it was interesting how flustered some people got when the “rules” were broken.

We followed that with more walking around and pairing off for scenes. Then 4 people were told to start doing a major physical task, and the rest of us could join in with whoever we were most drawn to helping. These turned into group scenes, that we all took turns watching, where she really drilled up on not talking about the activity or making a plot. Without those two things it’s really, really hard to figure out what is fair game. It’s such a habit to talk about the thing, or something else that isn’t there.

After lunch we did some more Soundscapes/song, which led into a scene. It happened to be an airplane crash, where all but one person ended up dead by the end of the scene. I think the serious mood over the past few days is getting to everyone because my group is experienced enough that we don’t normally kill each other in scenes. (If you don’t do improv you won’t know this but a common reaction for new improvisers is to kill all the peoples. Not everyone goes through that phase but I sure did. Don’t know how to end a scene? Kill them. Don’t know what to say? Kill them. Panic for no reason at all? Kill them.)

Then she asked two people to get on stage and do a scene with no instructions. When the next two got up she told them that they had to repeat that earlier scene, words and motions. They failed. Obviously. But then the next pair were told to mimic that scene we’d just seen, same thing. Also didn’t do well. And even though the rest of us knew what was coming very few of the scenes were noticeably close to the scene they were supposed to mimic. Which led to an interesting conversation about listening, and how little we really hear. Also, though the words and movements were lost the tone remained throughout the piece. Emotion carries a lot better than dialogue.

Lyndsay pointed out some research that shows that we only hear about 10% of what is said to us, regardless of how much we think we are hearing. Now, knowing that can help, and she said improvisers in general tend to hear a little more. I’d hope so, considering how much time we spend just training on listening. Still, most of our mental energy in a conversation goes into planning what we will say next, even in deeply personal conversations. Our job, then, is to SLOW DOWN and be present on the stage. To actually hear what is being said instead of planning our answers to what we think was said.

Snatches from today–

  • Often we don’t respond to things authentically because we want to be likable to the audience. But interesting characters are often people we wouldn’t like in real life.
  • When we talk around issues on stage (instead of naming/facing them directly) our scenes become flat and predictable.
  • Everyone, even side characters, should be looking for the main relationship/s in a scene and doing whatever they can to throw fuel on the fire.
  • Seeing a relationship isn’t writing! It’s intuition, and a gift. Writing is when we see that relationship and try to wait for the perfect moment to use/reveal it. By the time that moment comes the scene has moved and everyone is onto something new.
  • We keep giving our emotional power to someone who isn’t in the scene. Why?
  • If you’re not sure if they are talking about you, make it about you. End that confusion for everyone. It’s a gift.
  • Don’t resist love!!!
  • The only wrong choice is the one to move away from what you feel.
  • Don’t worry about how to protect your scene partners (emotionally or in the story), protect yourself. They are strong actors, they can take care of themselves too.
  • When you invent a reason for something that’s happened you move the action out of the present and into the past.
  • Naming a connection is not inventing. Not if you are aware of and using the energy that is already there.
  • Words are golden, silence is beautiful
  • If you are feeling like something needs to happen in a scene it’s always emotion. Go for the emotion!
  • In improv, to lose is to win. It is beautiful, fun, and safe.
  • Eat the asparagus. You don’t have to like what you are doing to move a scene forward, and that can show, but you still have to do it.
  • If someone baits you into a fight- don’t back down. This is contrary to most improv teachers but Lyndsay said she never backs down- she hits 10. Fast and hard. Go apeshit crazy on them. That will take the emotional stakes over the 10, which will then allow for an authentic status shift. Like in a real fight, there is a pause at the end where everyone just stands there, then life goes on.
  • Anger scene laughs are often a release of tension. Love (in any form) scene laughs are often a moment of recognition.

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