Posted by: D.A.S. Chicago | March 16, 2011

Improv For Life!

Nothing feels better that a good laugh! According to Dr. Standley, “Laughing 100 times roughly equals 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Vigorous laughter increases the heart rate, deepens the breathing rate, and uses muscles in the face, stomach, and diaphragm”.  Last Thursday night I went to a Red Light School District’s Improv show at UIC.  This wasn’t my first time going, but my experience was fresh every time. Red Light School District is a UIC student organization put together by current students to entertain the public. The most impressive part about this show is how much the audience is engaged. Audience members had a chance to get on stage to improv with the actors and participate in the improv games as well.  All the Red light members were dressed in red shirts, and their tag-line was“ we don’t know what we’re doing”. I just loved it because not knowing what you’re doing is what improv is all about. You go with your first instinct, which is the most interesting. “Improv is about creating a whole new world. Having the opportunity to express it with your scene partners and creating an atmosphere that is enjoyable and comedic. Improv is open to interpretation. It’s not just one face, it’s whatever you make it out to be. The reason I love improv so much is that there is no wrong way to do it”, stated Tanous, a member of Red Light District.

The show was compiled of a series of highly entertaining games, perfect for a group gathering. So for your next get-together, here are some of my favorites that would loosen the crowd up and definitely “get your party started!”

The first game was called the Amando Diaz Experience, in which a player tells any kind of story. It can be a made-up or real story, but the only rule is to make it interesting. This is because after someone tells the story, a couple people have to act it out. It’s hard to remember everything one says so the “acting” doesn’t have to be exactly what was said or related. It all depends on the “actors’  understanding of the story.  Play with your imagination, use imaginary objects and just have fun.

The second game was called Words on paper.  Before the show began, the audience was given a piece of paper to write an interesting phrase or sentence. The paper is folded and given to the actors.  The audience gives the actors a situation and a place so they can start an improv dialogue, and in the middle of a dialogue they have to read what was written on the paper given to them by the audience. This was my favorite!  My sentence was “ I have goat cheese in my bra” The actor used it to complete his sentence “ You know what Gandhi said?” At that moment it was hilarious. So, start a dialogue and read the written sentence at some point of your conversation.
The next game was called Oscar winning moment. We all have seen an award show. You know the part where they show a short video clip of all the nominees in a category? That’s what this game is all about.  All you need are actors and a genre of a movie. Each actor gets an Oscar winning moment in which they get to act as silly as they want. In improv exaggeration is key!

Party Quirks is a game of many players.  One person has to be the “host” of the “party” and others are the “party-goers”.  The party-goers all have quirks that the audience are aware of.  The audience would usually give the players their quirks while the “host” is outside of the room. The party-goers come to the party and have the host guess who or what they are by their behaviors. Once the host guesses the correct quirk, the person is eliminated. The game ends once the hosts eliminates everyone. You can help the host out but only with your actions! Talking is allowed but don’t give yourself out too easily. 

Next is Ding. This is played with three people; two actors and one designated “dinger”. The “dinger” says ding whenever he/she feels like it. The two actors are given a situation to improvise.  Whenever they hear the “dinger” say ding, whoever said the last word has to change what he/she said. For example “I hate blueberries” ding “I hate cow legs” ding “I hate breast milk”. So whenever you hear a ding, change your sentence. It doesn’t have to make sense at all.

Time machine is a scene between two or more people. Start an improv scene, and whenever the future or past is mentioned, the actors have to act in that particular time. If I said something like “ remember when I pierced my own ears?”  My partner and I would have to reenact the scene of me getting my ears pierced.The only rule is that you have to come back to the present time for the scene to end.  So basically the improv is like a flashback or a flash-forward.

The final game of the night was Texts.  The people in the audience pulled out their cell phones and browsed through their texts for interesting conversations. The actors would act out a scene based on the given text messages.

Red Light School District concluded my night with lots of laughs. It was a great way to round up my week.  The good news is you don’t have to go see an improv show, you can create one in the comfort of your home with your friends.
“The really cool thing about improv is that you don’t have to be a trained actor or have any form of training to join, as long as you understand the basic guidelines.  For everything there are rules, but the main rule for improv is being able to be accepting and say yes to everything because the moment somebody says no, the scene loses its momentum. To make it easier on yourself, just stay positive in the scene and see how far you can go with your imagination”, says Tanous.

The greatest rule of all is to have fun! Improv is about enjoying yourself, so if you’re not having fun, you’re missing out.
Make your next get-together one to remember with improv!



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