"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Monthly SCBWI Meeting - Improv

I actually got to attend our monthly SCBWI meeting here in Austin. I've been a little absent this year due to my son's Kung Fu class, so since class was cancelled today, I headed to the meeting.
We have a great group, and some very strong speakers. Today's subject was Improv.
The speaker, Sean Petrie, is an author in our group who'd taken two improv classes, tried out for a group, and been accepted.
What I learned is that there is a whole world of research involved in everything. Even improv.
He went over a series of exercises used to warm up, and produce new, fresh humor.

The "Yes, and" exercise was a good one.
If someone makes a statement, for example, "That's a nice lawnmower," there are basically three types of responses.
1) "It's not a lawnmower, it's a baby stroller." Funny. Gets a laugh. But the scene is dead after this.
2) "Thanks." This is the 'yes' response. Not funny, and the scene ends.
3) "Why thanks, mom, and did you also know it cuts hair?" Here is the 'yes, and' response. Adds humor. Relationship is quickly established. Continuing story line provided.

Another exercise was the "New Choice" exercise. Given the start of a basic scene, the actor comes up with a line. The director can always say "New line". The actor then has to come up with a different line. This is a great exercise to do while planning writing projects to prevent cliches.

The list of exercises was great, and aside from helping in my writing/author life, I think some of these will be fun games to play with the kids.

A final note on the improv exercises. Here is a prefect example that you will get better at something if you practice. Everything requires practice. OK, sure, some people may be born funnier or more quick-witted, but everyone can work at it and improve.

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