Making Everything Worth It

iO Summer Intensive

Week 4

Instructor- Rance Rizzutto



We started this morning with Pattern Games. I’ve done these before but not like this. In a normal Pattern you stand in a circle and one person points to any other person and says any word. The second person points to someone else and says a new word that somehow connects to the first. Then the third says a word that fits the pattern that has been established. After that everyone is just to follow that pattern. Typically you leave your arm up until everyone has been pointed at, to make sure no one gets skipped. From there, multiple variations can occur depending on the lesson being taught.

It good for teaching the concept of how patterns are set. First person says anything, for example- “Red”. Now the second person really has the most control because they set the pattern. If they say “green” we are probably doing colors, if they say “slick” maybe we are describing blood. However, the third person can have some say in the pattern. Like with “green”. If the third person says “orange” then yes, colors. But if they say “reindeer’ now we’re doing Christmas stuff.

Rance had us doing this but he took it to the extreme. We were supposed to watch and copy EVERYTHING about the pattern. Things I didn’t even think to look for before he pointed them out. The tone of voice, accent, pauses before/during/after speaking, body movements, gestures, expressions, etc. All of it. An overwhelming amount of things. It was very similar to Pass the Character but I like this version better because it was easier to see what was going on standing still.

He used it to explain Group Games in the Harold. They are the same idea- we have to stay in the moment and react to the thing that just happened (instead of whatever happened several people before) while at the same time keeping the entire pattern in mind, and stay current with what is happening on stage. Over the entire stage. It’s a mental juggling act.

General group game advice-

  1. A group game is not a scene. Don’t let it become scenic. There were three scenes before it, three scenes are going to follow it. It needs to be something different.
  2. Don’t feel like you are ever stuck or have to keep doing the same thing the entire time. In a scene is important to have and maintain a point of view or character. Not in a game. Feel free to evolve and change, and to drop things.
  3. Make sure your game moves are strong. Strong choices get supported.
  4. The 2nd group game can be very short. We already have all our pieces/information, it is more of an energy/palate cleanser.

We moved into doing Openings-3 Beats-Game-3 Beats, half of the class at a time. Rance pulled each person aside and gave us a special assignment for this baby Harold, something we were to do as much as possible during the games and scenes without anyone else knowing what we were doing. Afterward he gave us a list of the things he had assigned people-

  1. Scene Painting
  2. Character Painting
  3. Narration
  4. Monologues (stepping out mid-scene to deliver one)
  5. Sound Effects
  6. Being Objects (that was mine! I was a box, mouse, tree, and mail sorting bin.)
  7. Group Edits
  8. Playing an Extra (background character)
  9. Moving the Action Offstage (up in the audience, behind the stage, wherever)
  10. Music/Singing
  11. Interacting with the audience/involving them
  12. Taking over other characters
  13. Being SUPER blunt (even to the audience)
  14. Controlling Physical Space (adding camera angles, rotating the space, etc)

Our Harolds that came out of this were crazy. And amazing. I didn’t know improv could be so much fun. Why had I never been objects before? Why have I never narrated? Why have I never ordered my scene partners to flip the scene orientation, so that they had to run to the back of the room so we could see the other side of them?

Today was light on notes, heavy on mind explosions. Today was magic. I can’t find the words to describe how I felt. Rance opened up a world of wonder and excitement and fun that I didn’t even know how to look for. All of the frustration over the past few days, and even with Lyndsay last week, paid off this afternoon. For the first time since I started doing improv I felt like I could do anything. Anything! It was liberating. I wasn’t worried about screwing up. I wasn’t trying to make sure I was doing the right thing. I wasn’t in my head.

For the first time I understood how no move is the wrong move. Nothing we did today was a mistake because none of us thought that it was. We were all behind each other 100%. I was able to relax. That’s it. I relaxed on stage for the first time because I KNEW everyone else had my back and nothing was going to be judged. What an empowering, honoring thing the experience.

Even the “mistakes” were fun. We turned them into games, and suddenly they were perfect. One person stumble? Now we all take turns stumbling, maybe in that scene, maybe later in the show. One person use odd grammar? Now we’re all looking for chances to use it too. One person have to ask the person character painting what they said? Now we’re all asking for clarification after something/someone gets painted.

I was talking to a classmate who had the same sort of revelations today. Neither of us felt fully capable of putting it into words. It’s like, now I have this tool belt of amazing things that I can use. Me! I’ve seen other people do this stuff, my favorite improvisers, but now I can do it too. I don’t know why that never occurred to me before. I’ve never felt like I had the “right”. Like, once I’d put in a certain amount of time, or gotten so good (however “good” that is), or done something (undefined) then I would be “allowed” to do these awesome things. And, I didn’t know how. I mean, I’d never tried it before, I wasn’t sure what it was I wasn’t doing. Now I know. Now I know what it feels like, what it’s like to step out and make a move.

The hard part will be doing it even if the people around me are not. To support myself the same way I supported my team, and was supported by them. To step out in jams and classes and shows with other people and trust that they will have my back. And to grow into this place where even when they don’t it’s OK because I have my own back. I have to have the confidence to make moves with no guarantee that anyone will have my back. And that’s terrifying. Yet, I think that’s the thing I’ve been missing.

I’ve never had my own back. I wait for permission, and I wait for others to support before I risk anything. But my favorite improvisers, the people I look up to and love on stage, don’t do that. They have their own backs. They make moves and trust themselves, and if the others around them are doing the same thing then it’s beautiful. But even if the others don’t, like in a jam with beginners, it doesn’t make them stop. They are still confident in themselves and what they are doing. I can too. I can believe in what I am doing and do it without apologizing for it.

I’m not even entirely sure what to do with this revelation. But having it makes all the frustration over the past couple of days more than worth it.

Snatches from today–

  • Be careful to not connect the 2nd beats. Save those moves for the 3rd beats, makes the magic bigger.
  • It is always the right time to do something, if the group supports it. If the group doesn’t support it then it leaves that one person looking like an idiot.
  • Sometimes inaction is harder than action. Being the still person in a scene takes a lot of work.
  • If I’m wondering, “Why won’t someone edit?” I need to change that thought to “Why don’t I edit?”
  • Nothing you do on stage is a mistake unless you or your team think that it is. Then you’ll die up there, in public misery.
  • Moves are never wrong. Never. They only feel wrong when they aren’t supported or when they are half-assed.
  • When it doubt- say it. Don’t know how to make an idea work? Say it. Just say it.

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