Tag Archives: improv

Murder: The Game

Main Piece:

How do you play Murder?

“High school kids all over play murder, I think. It’s the one where you wink to kill people. We did this on speech and debate trips. There would be 30 of us stuck in a hotel room, and we would have a deck of cards and whoever got the jacks or something, they would be the murderer, and the way you would kill people is by winking at them, which would lead to some very dramatic death scenes. And you have to figure out who the murderer was, and the key was you had to wink at people without being caught. It gets easier towards the end.”

Context:

The informant is my father. He attended public school for his entire life. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.

Analysis:

This kind of game is always a big hit amongst kids who like to act and investigate. I have encountered many variations of this game.  Some involve shaking hands instead of winking, some involve voting people out, and some involve multiple set rounds with different rules. The one thing that is constant is that there is a murderer, and every person who dies must act out a very dramatic death. There is something enjoyable about playing a game that is based on taboo topics like murder and death. This game allows people to act out things that they would never do in real life, but enjoy doing in a fantasy setting.

My Movie Improv Game

Informant:

Cameron is an avid improviser who specializes in long form improvisation.

Piece:

One of my favorite improv games has definitely got to be My movie. The way my movie is played is that a group  A group of improvisers  get in a line in front of a caller. They  get an audience suggestion for a letter and  suggest movie titles that start with that letter as the caller points to them. If the caller wants to hear a tag line for the movie he signals for it. When the caller finds a title he likes he says “let’s watch” and a very brief scene from the movie follows. Then the improvisers return and move on to the next letter. I like this game because it is super fast paced and you get to see a lot of variety in such a short time.

Collector’s thoughts:

My movie is a game that heavily relies on references or nods to famous movies. In this way copyrighted material is acknowledged and used and also changed in a way. This works to show that even if material is copyrighted, it is impossible for the owners of the copyright to prevent the material from being used in some way or another.

 

 

Second city and UCB Improv Schools

Informant:

Cameron is an avid improviser who specializes in long form improvisation.

Piece:

There are two main improv schools that teach the craft and those are Second City and the UCB but they both have very different styles. UCB is game based which means that basically they focus more on finding an action or phrase to be funny and then heightening that and using that to make the scene funny. Whereas with second nature they are super character driven and focus on making compelling characters, not really on the action of the scene itself. And I tend to think that ummm Second City has the better format and style, but at the same time Second City uses improv as a means to the ends of writing sketch scenes. But I think that improv can be an ends itself. But overall i think both schools have a lot of good skills that are worth taking.    

 

Collector’s thoughts:

Both schools have tried to, in one way or another, write canonized rules for an improv scene. In doing so they claim that they are able to create the best Improv scenes and have the best style. The reality though is that many improvisers take classes from both schools in order to be well balanced in different techniques. Improvisers take notes and ideas from everywhere and use these to synthesize themselves as a unique improviser.

Improv Game with Many Names

Informant:

Cameron is an avid improviser who specializes in long form improvisation.

Piece:

So it’s interesting in improv because the same game will have many different names based on who is playing it along with ever so slight differences in how it’s played. So like the game Pan-left pan-right which is a game where four people stand in a square with each side being a different two-person scene. And then when the caller calls either pan left or pan right, the box turns and the scene that is at the front is the one we watch. Anyways i’ve heard a bunch of different names for that same game like we call it pan-left Pan-right, i’ve heard it called switch, i’ve heard it called four square, i’ve heard it called merry-go-round, i’ve heard it called squarey-go-round, ummmm lets see i think there are a few more…….I can’t right now, but i know there are more.

Collector’s thoughts:

One of the essential aspects of folklore is that it exhibits multiplicity and variation and this performance demonstrates that. The difference in names shows how improv games spread through word of mouth rather than by “official” books or documents.

The catch phrase game in improv theatre

The following informant is a performer for an improv troupe at USC called Second Nature. She told me about this game they play in order to warm up when I asked her how they get ready for performances.

“There’s this game that’s been played for generations in Second Nature, where everyone has their own catchphrase, and so you go around in a circle and like I have six catchphrases and you have six catchphrases, and the way that the game is, is that I pass my catchphrase to you, so like one of my catch phrases is ‘what a DUMP!’ and one of yours might be like ‘or when are we?’ I don’t know, so they just pass like that and it’s just something that’s weird and so everyone keeps their catchphrases and its kind of passed on, like the funny catch phrases are always well-remembered… whenever you come on to the troupe, its like your duty is to learn, to come up with six catchphrases and they can be anything that you want and we play as we warm up, so like every rehearsal we warm up for 15 or 30 minutes, before and then before shows we warm up 15-30 minutes and then I’d say almost always play that game before hand. It’s always the same catch phrases for yourself. There are no written down rules, we just pass it along to each other and really good catch phrases from generations stick around ”

The above game is similar to the type of games Second Nature plays during shows, and it’s easy to see why they use it as a warmup. Different troupes have different strategies and techniques, but Second Nature’s inherited method appears to be the catch phrase game. It’s quite possible that the nature of the game itself has been transformed through the many generations, as improv is, after all, a theatrical art that is constantly changing; every performance is unique and ephemeral because of the inherent nature of improv, which is short for “improvisation.”