Tag Archives: group mind

Group Work and Getting Playful with Lyndsay Hailey

Of the three workshops I took this year at The Improv Retreat, Lyndsay Hailey‘s “Group Work and Getting Playful” is the hardest to capture in words. Like a lot of physical workshops, it was definitely a you-had-to-be-there thing.

Lyndsay’s focus was finding a nonverbal game (the kind you would see opening a Harold) and taking that game as far as it could possibly go. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s easy to heighten to a 7 or 8, but the game isn’t really over until you push through to 10. Editing before then feels unsatisfying and muddy.

As a class, I think we successfully heightened to 10 maybe 1/4 of the time. It’s something you develop an instinct for by trial and (lots of) error. Lyndsay was great at helping us see how to heighten what was already there instead of imposing new ideas of how the game should go.

A couple of stray notes:

  • We talk about improvisers being geniuses, artists, and poets. That does not mean that you need to put your energy into getting people to see you as a genius/artist/poet yourself; it means you should see those qualities in other people and treat them accordingly. This takes the focus and responsibility off you and makes you a more fun, supportive player.
  • In a group game, if you find yourself looking for something better to do, instead look for something deeper or more heightened. The trick is to deepen/heighten the game without letting any elements go.
  • The tighter the group mind, the more a single theme will emerge from a game. If you ask, “What was that game about?” and get four different answers, then the game was probably not heightened like it could have been.

I didn’t get to take Lyndsay’s yoga/Meisner class this year, mostly because it seemed like it might be a little more physically intense than my 3rd trimester self could handle right now. But rumor has it that that workshop was wonderful as well. If you took it, care to share your thoughts?

If you find yourself in LA, you should definitely look up Lyndsay’s shows and classes. You should also check out her interview with Jimmy Carrane on Improv Nerd from a year ago, right before she moved away from Chicago.

Snapshots and Group Mind

Due to a string of crazy life changes this summer, I’ve had something of a summer hiatus from playing and coaching. I miss it. I hope to dive back in soon. In the mean time, I’ve been taking pictures at Open Source shows.

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This was the opening scene from a show by the Unwritten Works of William Shakespeare. They snapped into this stage picture before anyone said a full line.

Watching a show through a camera lens makes it obvious why I like the troupes I like: They make the stage look interesting. When I look through the snapshots later, I never wonder, “Which scene was that?” because the scenes had distinct looks. The snapshots would make interesting fodder for caption contests.

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I love it when players use that back wall with some intentionality, not just because they’re tired of standing up straight.

If all of my pictures from the troupe are of two people, standing or sitting a comfortable arm’s length apart from one another, cheated out slightly, I probably won’t remember much about the show. It won’t have made any kind of impression on me. The players were talking heads who might as well not have had bodies at all.

If you get a chance to see a show at the i.O Cabaret, notice the stage floor. There are two worn out spots right in the middle from people always standing/sitting in the same safe spot.

This isn’t just about keeping someone like me interested in the show; how the show looks is usually indicative of how well a troupe works together. I’ve heard Jet Eveleth say that she doesn’t know which comes first, interesting stage pictures or good group mind. But group mind seems amorphous and vague, and stage pictures are concrete and manageable.

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I am also happy when I end up with lots of blurry pictures, because that means there was so much movement!

So instead of making your goal, “I want to experience amazing group mind in my troupe tonight,” try, “I want to help the stage look interesting tonight.” That gives you something practical to DO instead of a feeling to chase after.