If you’ve seen improv in the Twin Cities in the past 20 years, you should know who Jill Bernard is. She has taught workshops all over the US, toured internationally with her solo improv show, and is one of the founders of Huge Theater. Recently, Jill offered an improv class called Teach the Teachers. Few improv classes if any delve into the practical sides of improv. Now that you have these improv skills, how do you put them to use? The class was an overview of different techniques and strategies for delivering workshops or classes. Here’s an excerpt, but you should really go and read her entire post if you’re interested in teaching improv.
Teach in your own style. No style is wrong as long as the students learn something of value and don’t leave feeling like shit. For example, here’s something I learned the hard way about my own style. There are two types of travellers, some like to have an itinerary planned down to the minute including bathroom breaks and all the tickets purchased and plans locked down. There’s a second type of traveller that lands with just a guidebook and a few ideas and wanders at will. I’m a dissatisfying teacher for the first group of people. I don’t try to change to suit them, rather, I offer them books and handouts to give them the reassurance they need.
Introducing warm-ups and exercises. It’s important not to overwhelm the students with instruction right at the beginning of a game or exercise. Consider:
- What’s the bare minimum to get us started?
For example, for beginners I often introduce just the “Zip” portion of “Zip, Zap, Zop” and we just pass “Zip” around until people are comfortable. There will be a student who wants to ask a lot of questions about how an exercise works before we start. You can say “Let’s get started, you’ll see in a second.”
- Once we’ve played for a second, what are the pro tips/what’s level 2?
“You guys are great at Chairman/Mao, let’s add in Cat/Meow and Moo/Cow” or “This will honestly be easier if you put your energy forward and make really good eye contact as you pass it.”
- When we’re done, what’s the feedback/result?
“What did you notice about this game, was it hard? What makes it hard?” “This game is a model for improv scenes – if we say YES to each other’s ideas, they grow.”