I had the pleasure and the honor to have been (and in many ways still are and will be) part of the community of the “Global Improvisation Initiative Conference 2019” (#GII2019) in Mai 2019. I shared and co created four inspiring, sparkling, nourishing, motivating days together with over 150 people from all over the world, that apply improvisational methods and approaches, research on improvisation in many fields, are improvisers themselves, are academic, researchers and curious people.
I am grateful to the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences, that made this journey possible for me in financial and structural means. I will bring lots of methods, links to projects and approaches, ideas back to my work in the fields of higher education back and also lots of personal evolvement.
In this blogpost I list some methods and links to projects I saw, experienced, were geschenkt to me. Ofcourse comments are welcome of things I forgot or didn’t grasp!!
I will use a form of writing here as a respond to an ongoing process of reflecting gender that in panels and many workshops happened: I will use she_he or her_his to express, that there are also people who don’t want to be put in a certain “gender”-cliquè.
On every method I experienced / used I reflect, how it could be evolved (EV) in this (or other) setting(s). This is an approach take from the methodology of Design Based Research (in short: literature research, research question, find methods, try something out, evaluate, redesign methods (perhaps also aspects of research question; do ore literature research), try out once more and so on – sum up and offer insights for eg. evolving a theory, a way of teaching something…
And to every topic I add some links, and/or hints to literature.
Improvisation & Civic Engagement
Workshop “Comedic Improvisation as a Pedagogy for Civic Engagement” with Olivia Hartle.
As introduction and warm up, she asked to form a cycle and that every participant should say her_his name and combine it with a movement of the body showing something typical of the own life story (I choose playing the guitar) – than everybody would repeat name and movement simultaneously.
Nice start where everybody is given the chance of a short moment of stepping out, being in the focus, bringing in a contribution and to experience, that she_he is seen / recognized by others.
(EV) …repeat this and after that make another repetition where names and movements are used one by one, remembering / recreating it together.
A method used there I know by the name “props game” or as “Homage to Magritte” of Augusto Boal.
Olivia placed a bottle in the middle of a circle of the participants and asked everyone to step out and imagine it was something completely different und use it in a pantomimic way, till people in the circle called out, what item they recognized.
I experienced it as another possibility, that people evolve their courage to speak up and at the same time are in the focus of everybody. And here as possibility how to motivate people, to think and act outside the box. Also it evolves the readiness to give someone one’s and his_her ideas intense mindfulness.
(EV) The Instruction could be, to think of items, that are related to a certain topic / aspect of a project of Civic Engagement. Or after one person steps out, uses the item another steps out and they use it together and it is being transformed in this dialogue. Or there is a second item in the circle and after first is being used in a different way, the second one should be something, that is related to the first.
Bowles, N. & Nadon, D-R. (2013). Setting the Stage for Social Justice: Collaborating to Create Activist Theatre. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Breed, A. & Prentki T. (Ed.) (2018). Performance and Civic Engagement. New York: Palgrave
Cabrini, D., Watterson, N., Rademacher, N. (2015). Common Ground Through Dialogue: Creating Civic Dispositions. In. Delano-Oriaran, O., Penick-Parks, M, Fondrie S. (Ed.). The SAGE Sourcebook of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement. Thousand Oaks. SAGE Publications
Freebody K., Balfour, M., Finneran, M., Anderson, M. (Ed.) (2018). Applied Theatre: Understanding Change. New York: Springer.
Harteveld, C. & Suarez, P. (2015) „Guest editorial: games for learning and dialogue on humanitarian work“, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 5 Issue: 1, pp.61-72, https://doi.org/10.1108/JHLSCM-01-2015-0005
Rossing, J. (2017). No Joke: Silent Jesters and Comedic Refusals. Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 20(3), 545-556. doi:10.14321/rhetpublaffa.20.3.0545 (Link)
Rossing, J. P. (2016). Emancipatory Racial Humor as Critical Public Pedagogy: Subverting Hegemonic Racism, Communication, Culture, & Critique 9.4, 614–632. DOI: 10.1111/cccr.12126 (Link) (more on J. Rossing, see day 4! And he has written more on topics relating to civic engagement https://www.gonzaga.edu/college-of-arts-sciences/faculty-listing/detail/rossing#publicationsContent)
The “Theater of Public Policy” is doing shows also dealing topics on civic engagement. See here http://www.startribune.com/exploring-issues-with-improv-theater-of-public-policy-is-seriously-funny/253789661/ and https://www.twincities.com/2017/03/14/theater-of-public-policy-creates-improv-with-insight/
Blogpost by Josh Stearns What Improv Can Teach Us About Innovation and Community Engagement https://medium.com/@jcstearns/what-improv-can-teach-us-about-innovation-and-community-engagement-500a6e7e5480
Interesting project using improvisational methods while walking through communities https://walkinglab.org/tag/civic-engagement/
Playing with Gender
Workshop “Defy your Default: Gender, Power and Intersecting Spheres of Influence” with Barbara Tint and Simo Routarinne. (The card deck and this combination of the aspects of a person are © by Barbara and Simo).
A very important tool used in this workshop was a deck of cards with four colors, representing aspects of a person, Rank (position in a hierarchy), Status (behavior in a setting with other people), Social Currencies (social & professional traits and resources) and Confidence (self-efficacy) – each card also had a number representing the intensity of the aspect. Everybody took one card of every color, thought of a character, she_he had played / encountered before and started to walk in this role through the room. After that the Instruction was, to walk further on and on meeting other characters have a short dialogue.
Good way of really tapping in various aspects of a character and experiencing what effects have Instruction in relation to an intensity of an aspect of a person.
(EV) Walk to the room in the character without a card. The take one card: What is changing. Put the card aside, experience the difference in walking / posture / mimic; take another card and repeat the process. Then combine two different cards; vary the combinations; add a third card… Also always play with variations of short dialogues with others. Exchange one, two, three cards with other persons in the room, experience the difference. Imagine a door in the room, that relates to the story / the origin of the character; what is different in pace, intensity, posture, mimic, entering the room with different cards as Instruction?
Finding groups playing “islands & sharks”: Facilitator calls out a number; as fast as possible form groups consisting with exactly that number of people. Who can’t find a group fast enough normally is “eaten by the sharks” (is out of the game), but her waits shortly till another number of people is called.
Fast way of building groups with completely new variation of people, who are part of it. It is important to explain firstly, that no one will be thrown to the sharks, and the idea is, to act as quickly as possible.
(EV) Define a space in the room, that is “shark safe”, where people who are not fast enough and wait till the next round or till somebody else joins this space.
A card was added, naming a specific social currency. Groups of four persons. The Instruction was to have a discussion about climate change, stepping into roles, inspired by the cards given.
Nice way of applying the method of short improvised scenes.
(EV) The characters enter the scene one by one, without dialogue, doing things like (in pantomime) puring water, drinking coffee, arranging the room… The Instruction is to watch each other closely. The scene ends by leaving the room established one by one, using impulses of the discussion.
Also used was an overview of “gender” with scales of male <-> female (biological sex), masculine <-> feminine (gender identity / gender expression), male <-> female (sexual orientation). Four participants (two male, two female) were asked to sit in a row. They were asked to look on the scales and define, where their character is now, they were also given the five cards, named above. After that they played a variation of a podium discussion here: gender and improv).
In a way the scene was a nice, eye twinkling comment to a panel discussion, that took place at the start of the conference.
(EV) Play it at least twice, with different cards and/or Instruction relating to the scales of gender.
Zumhagen, P. (2005). Using Improvisational Workshop to Explore Gender Issues in „The Untold Lie“. The English Journal, 95(1), 82-87. doi:10.2307/30047403
Seham, A. (2016). Performing Gender, Race, and Power in Improv Comedy. In Lewis, G. & Piekut, B. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies, Volume 1. Oxford University Press.
Old and still interesting / inspiring: Seham, A. (2000). Whose improv is it anyway http://homepages.gac.edu/~aseham/whoseimprov.html
AINx-Talk: Status and Gender untied with Barbara and Simo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GR44-fXi6g0
Blogpost on Gender in improv – a trans perspective https://impromiscuous.com/2017/09/07/gender-in-improv-a-trans-perspective/
Blogpost Stop gender-casting your improv show http://www.katyschutte.co.uk/improvblog/stop-gender-casting-your-improv-show
Workshop “Improvisational mindfulness in leadership: A strategic and action-orientated mindfulness practice” with Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren.
Full description see here: http://www.playingmantis.net/improvisational-mindfulness-in-action/
Bermant, G. (2013). Working with(out) a net: improvisational theater and enhanced well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 4.
Cole, J. (2016). I’ve Got Your Back: Utilizing Improv as a Tool to Enhance Workplace Relationships. Dissertation. UNiversity of Pennsylvania. https://repository.upenn.edu/mapp_capstone/95/
Farnaz, T. (2013). Effects of improvisation techniques in leadership development. Dissertation. Pepperdine University, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, https://search.proquest.com/openview/82e2d9280320f78c8a3d0f79fc7dee4d/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Gagnon, S., Vough, H., Nickerson R. (2012). Learning to Lead, Unscripted: Developing Affiliative Leadership Through Improvisational Theatre. Human Resource Development Review 2012 11: 299. DOI: 10.1177/1534484312440566
Workshop “Living Words” with Susanna Howard and Oliver Senton.
An impressing and touching frame of the workshop was created by using pictures and a video out of the work of “Living words”.
The start was a variation of sociometric methodology: A line on the floor, and the participants lined up in a distance to it. The facilitatory named various assumptions, topics / biographic aspects / feelings, related to the topics of mindfulness, listening and dementia. Everybody who agreed with the named aspect stepped forward to the line.
Everybody is in action at the same time.
(EV) It is not only “be in the line with others” and “step to the line”; you can choose the distance like on a scale of approval, the nearer, the more. Let participants rephrase topics to explore aspects of them, motivate them, to bring in own topics.
Find a partner. Aske her_him the question “How do you feel about your life at the moment?”. The partner has three to four minutes time to answer. The one who put the question is repeating aspects of what the other said, also using phrases of the partner. And she_he also writes down these words. After that the words written down are read to the partner. She_he can utter her_his feelings do that; aspects of that could also been written down.
Couples who want, sit in front of the others. The words written down are read aloud to the others (in a neutral way).
A very intense way to really listen to somebody else.
(EV) Start with a mirror game, where A shows the answer to B who is mirroring every aspect without altering it. After the first reading: Repeat words and phrases that touched you most several times; Repeat them in a certain rhythm; perhaps, you could also sing them.
Repeat words that stukc to you mind and at the same time move through to the room, letting the words guide / inspire the movements
Lobman, C. (2015). Performance, Theater and Improvisation. Bringing Play and Development into new areas. In: Johnson, J. et al. (Ed). The Handbook of the Study of Play, Volume 2. London: Rowman & Littlefield.
Krueger, K., Murphy J., Bink, A. (2017) Thera-prov: a pilot study of improv used to treat anxiety and depression, Journal of Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/09638237.2017.1340629
Stevens, J. (2012). Stand up for dementia: Performance, improvisation and stand up comedy as therapy for people with dementia; a qualitative study. Dementia, 11(1), 61–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/1471301211418160
Zeisel, J. et al. (2018). Scripted-IMPROV: Interactive Improvisational Drama With Persons With Dementia—Effects on Engagement, Affect, Depression, and Quality of Life. American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & other dementias. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1533317518755994#articleCitationDownloadContainer
Talk: Using improv to improve life with Alzheimer https://www.tedmed.com/talks/show?id=526821
Accept and Engage
Engaging the whole person with Dan O’Connor.
Built couples. Worked while standing with the game “Color / advance” with the addition of “emotion” (see description of game here).
Good “entrance” to this workshop and for getting very close in contact.
(EV) Adding a number from 1 to 3 (or perhaps up to 5), indicating the intensity (pace) of color / advance / emotion. Choosing one moment and “color / emotion” one very tiny detail in it (e. g. tear running down a cheek). Adding “dialogue” – the partner has to phrase, what somebody has been saying in that moment.
New couples. Firstly, Dan asked to stand with our eyes closed and to envision a room we have lived as a child with all senses and as many details as possible. After that – with change – the instruction to lead the partner through the devised room and she_he asking for details (e. g. what is on the wall? What do you see / smell / hear from the window? Where is the door? Where is your secret hiding place?) and partner answering / showing spontaneously.
Very intense way to “follow” somebody in the path of an aspect of her_his life.
(EV) Inspire questions through side coaching like “Tell your partner, to take a book out of the bookshelf and read out of it to you.”; “Lie beside him on the bed / sit with him in a sofa on chairs in the room” (using the floor to act it out);
Last part of Workshop was a intense way of realy seeing each other. It is explained in this document (c) by Dan O’Connor
(also see this video about this fantastic project)
Started with a circle. Found a rhythm with clapping. Clap: Say own name, second Clap: everybody repeated it, third Clap: next name….
Another possibility to the way to co creating mutual awareness.
(EV) Second round: Whisper the name. Third round: shout out the name. Make the clap faster. Repeat names together without the “first clap” (together remember the names in the circle).
Moriah asked to go in couples (A & B). A tells the story of her_his name in one minute, swap. After that A & B summed up this story with speaking on one breath of air. After that asking the partner, if this summary acknowledged the one minute story.
Powerful and very intimate; tapping in the biographic of an other person in a very intense way.
(EV) Combine the breath of air with one body image and perhaps also distinct movement. A & B repeat the image / movement together (or everybody in the room).
Moriah used after that sociometric approaches: She defined where in the room was north, south, east, west, the center of the room was defined as Middlesex. Everybody stood at a place, representing (and the calling out) the place where she_he lives now and after that the place of his_her birth.
Fast way of making diversity visible.
(EV) Call also out name before place of living birth as a method of getting to know each other. When I use this approach I insist, that people don’t say e. g. “Turkey” as a place of birth but the exact name of the city. The place of birth is an important brick stone in the biography of a person.
We got together in couples. First working alone: “What is home to you?”, was the question given and to transform it in a repeatable movement of the body. After that we showed the movement to our partner who learned it by repeating it several times with us and the other way round. And we combined thee two movements. After that we met one or two other couples and everybody learned everybodies movements. We then showed this performances to the other participants.
Beautiful way of embodiment the “feeling of home” and at the same time stepping in an intense way into the “feelings of home” of others!
(EV) Combine movements with sounds and/or words that emerge. Repeat movements in slow motion and then increase speed. Create a “movement of the group”, that incorporates elements of every person in the room.
Named by Moriah as source of inspiration for the chosen methods:
Dawson, K. & Kiger Lee, B. (2018). Drama-based pedagogy. Activating learning across the curriculum. The University of Chikago Press.
(also see this site for more on Drama-based pedagogy, that uses lots of approaches and methods of Applied Improv https://dbp.theatredance.utexas.edu/)
Holdhus K. et al. (2016). Improvisation in teaching and education—roots and applications. Cogent Education (2016), 3: 1204142.
Lehtonen, A. (2012). Future Thinking and Learning in Improvisation and a Collaborative Devised Theatre Project within Primary School Students. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 45, S. 104–113.
Ross, D. (2010). Improv ED: Changing thoughts about learning. Dissertation, Montreal: McGill University.
Ross, D. (2012). Improvisation-based Pedagogies. Changing Thoughts on Learning. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing 28(1). S 47-58
Day Three and Four – Open Space
Intense talk with Andre Besseling (short info in Englisch)
“not funny improv”
Improv has the call of “always having to be funny” as it is compared to “Whose line is it anyway?”. I personally don’t think so.
After a short phase of discussion, we decided to try out intense forms of improvisation methods:
Variation of “complete the image” (one source for this method is Augusto Boals Theatre of the oppressed): Couples. A offers a body image. B completes this image by adding her_his own body image, which can be an addition, an extension, a contradiction… Taking in this common picture by breathing together. Then A says “thank you” to B for the picture. B starts with a completely new picture and so on.
Second Variation: A offers a body image. B starts to find different variations of a competition by trying out different “answer / comment” body images; when finding the “one”, going on with “thank you”, change and start from scratch.
Third: Standing in a circle. A & B co create a picture. B & C another one, implementing an element, an idea or inspiration of the first picture.
All variations: Slowing down the variation of creating a flow of body images without the break of breathing, saying thank you and start from scatch.
(EV) Adding one sound to each picture before saying “thank you” or one word that emerges in the moment.
Couples: made intense eye contact. A is starting a repeating movement. B is mirroring it, but tying out decent variations of the movements e. g. by making them softer, a bit bigger, a bit more playful, a bit more gentle…
Interesting variation of a mirror-method. Very intense way of practicing mindfulness.
(EV) Try out slow motion variation, to explore more details together. A is starting to integrate aspects of the decent variations in own movements.
Reflection in Blogpost by Chris Mead https://medium.com/improv/make-em-laugh-does-improv-have-to-be-funny-391ed78927cf
also see this video with Jason Mantzoukas
“Jill Bernard’s Mad-Sad-Glad-Afra(i)d”
One person entered the scene with a simple line (“It’s Tuesday” or “I bought milk”) and the other person responded with a huge emotional reaction, that is mad, sad, glad, afraid. (see this analysis of the method). Everybody had the possibility to try this out.
This format is and feels different from “it is Tuesday” (A says “it is Tuesday”, B reacts in an intense way, A overreacts to B and so on). Very deep insight in the feelings of a role. Strong offer for the partner(s) on stage.
(EV) Name the number of words / lines, that can be used in the scene.
“Let’s play with our racism”
Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren (following soon)
Intense Talk with Ralf Wetzel (profile at vlerick business school)
He told me about the “Kaospilot” school in Arhus, who also approach topics from theatre-based view, see e. g. https://kaospilotradar.dk/2019/03/25/embodied-leadership-from-knowledge-to-knowing/ (or this very interesting, the change course free offer).
And the annual “Future forum” in Luzern https://blog.hslu.ch/futureforumlucerne-en/
(example for an article, cowritten by Ralf: Wetzel, R. & Van Renterghem, N. (2016) „How To Access Organizational Informality: Using Movement Improvisation To Address Embodied Organizational Knowledge,“ Organizational Aesthetics: Vol. 5: Iss. 1, 47-63.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/oa/vol5/iss1/4)
Six Piece Storymaking
Write a story, you can only use the space given by the six squares.
After that examine the story from the perspective of Mooli Lahad’s “The Survival Game”. Koray told us, using this, it would be able to tell something about the writer of the story. I see it also as a chance to look more closely to the characters of a scene.
Videotalk by Mooli Lahad “The storytelling animal” (creativity & storytelling as a basic need)
Lahad, M. (Ed.) (2013). The „Basic Ph“ Model of Coping and Resiliency: Theory, Research and Cross-cultural Application. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Jennings, S. & Holmwood, C. (2016). Routledge international Handbook of Dramatherapy. New York: Routledge.
(EV) After writing the story, pass it to someone else, who acts out the hero (who could be supported by other players) and his_her story. Co Create alternative versions of the end of the story.
“Improv in universities”
Berk, R. A. & Trieber, R. H. (2009). Whose classroom is it anyway? Improvisation as a Teaching Tool. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 20(3), S. 29 – 60.
Doug Shaw: Improv at the B-Shool: https://bized.aacsb.edu/articles/2018/09/improv-at-the-b-school
Duckert C. L. & De Stasio E. A. (2016) Setting the Stage for Science Communication: Improvisation in an Undergraduate Life Science Curriculum. The Journal of American Drama and Theatre. Vol. 28, 2. (see here)
Gravey, V., Lorenzoni, I., & Seyfang, G. (2017). Theoretical Theatre: harnessing the power of comedy to teach social science theory. Journal of Contemporary European Research , 13(3), 1319–1336.
Inam, A. (2010). Navigating Ambiguity: Comedy Improvisation as a Tool for Urban Design Pedagogy and Practice, Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 5:1, S. 7-26
Leybourne, S., and Kennedy, M. ( 2015) Learning to Improvise, or Improvising to Learn: Knowledge Generation and ‘Innovative Practice’ in Project Environments, Know. Process Mgmt., 22, 1– 10, doi: 10.1002/kpm.1457.
Ludovice, P., Lefton, L., Catrambone, R. (2010). Improvisation for engineering innovation. American Society for Engineering Education, AC 2010-1650.
Rocco, R. A., & Whalen, D. J. (2014). Teaching Yes, And … Improv in Sales Classes: Enhancing Student Adaptive Selling Skills, Sales Performance, and Teaching Evaluations. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(2), 197–208. https://doi.org/10.1177/0273475314537278
Rossing, J.P., & Hoffmann-Longtin, K. (2018). Making sense of science: Applied improvisation for public communication of science, technology, and health. In T.R. Dudeck & C. McClure (Eds.), Applied improvisation: Leading, collaborating, and creating beyond the theatre. S. 245-266. London. Methuen Drama.
Schinko-Fischli, S. (2019) Applied Improvisation for Coaches and Leaders: A Practical Guide for coaches and leaders. London: Routledge.
Slazak, B. (2013). Improv(ing) Students: Teaching Improvisation to High School Students to Increase Creative and Critical Thinking. Creative Studies Graduate Student Master’s Projects. Abgerufen 30. 9. 18 http://digitalcommons.buffalostate.edu/creativeprojects/192
Stewart, C. (2016). Effects of Improv Comedy on College Students. Dissertation. Paper 601. Illinois State University.
Vesisenaho, M. et al. (2017). Creative Improvisations with Information and Communication. Technology to Support Learning: A Conceptual and Developmental Framework. Journal of Teacher Education and Educators 6 (3). S. 229-250
Example from Stanford University: Using Improv Techniques to Learn Public Speaking https://teachingcommons.stanford.edu/teaching-talk/using-improv-techniques-learn-public-speaking
Improv Workshop Universiy of Minnesota http://environment.umn.edu/leadership/boreas/workshops/improvseries/
Literature I stumbled upon, researching for all written upon:
Antonacopoulou, E. & Taylor, S. (2018). Sensuous Learning for Practical Judgment in Professional Practice. New York: Palgrave.
Blatner, A. & Wiener, D. (Ed.) (2007).Interactive & Improvisational Drama: Varieties of Applied Theatre and Performance. https://www.interactiveimprov.com/buybook.htm
Flegar, Z. & Kovačević J. (2015). Lessons in English Language, Literature and Improvisation. Retrieved 23. 5. 19 http://clelejournal.org/lessons-in-english-language-literature-and-improvisation-flegar-kovacevic/
Fotis, M. & O’Hara, S. (2016). The Comedy Improv Handbook. A comprehensive guide to university improvisational comedy in theatre and performance. New York: Focal Press.
Hainselin, M., Aubry, A., Bourdin, B. (2018). Improving Teenagers’ Divergent Thinking With Improvisational Theater. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01759/full
Larsen, H. and Bogers, M. (2014), Innovation as Improvisation ‘In The Shadow’. Creativity and Innovation Management, 23: 386-399. doi:10.1111/caim.12067
Lenters, K. (2018) Comedy in the classroom? How improv can promote literacy. Retrieved 23. 5. 19 http://theconversation.com/comedy-in-the-classroom-how-improv-can-promote-literacy-89900
Vilč, S. (2015). Collective Improvisation: From Theatre to Film and Beyond. Maska Publishing / Kolektiv Narobov) also see here http://www.stay-or-go.eu/book.html
Vilč, S. (2017). Acting together: the art of collective improvisation in theatre and politics. Philosophy & Society, 28 (1), p. 32-40. http://journal.instifdt.bg.ac.rs/index.php?journal=fid&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=500
Applied Improvisation as a coaching tool to fight violence and bullyism: https://martinapavone.com/2017/09/17/applied-improvisation-as-a-coaching-tool-to-fight-violence-and-bullyism/
A site I often get great examples: https://howlround.com/