Last week I held the inaugural Virtual Improv Jam. Part to maintain social connection with folks, and part to prepare for the IA Conference, which has switched to all remote (I’m facilitating a half-day workshop on Collaborative Improv) I plan on running these weekly at least until the conference, and likely through April.
What’s an Improv Jam?
For those nor familiar with the previous session, an improv jam is basically a musical jam session, but for improv. Players assemble and just have fun for an hour or two. No shows, no formula, just some activities and exercises. And NO PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE REQUIRED.
What did we do?
I’m looking to evolve and learn from my previous jams. To build on what worked and remove what didn’t. For this session, we had 6 players during the course of an hour. We did the following games:
- *Sentence Waterfall
- Red Ball, Thank You
- *Work That Brain Out
- *Alphabet Soup
- Knife, Baby, Cat
- Premise Lawyer
- Crazy Eight’s (not played but introduced as a stress reliever)
*Indicates a new activity compared to last week
I also removed the following exercises, realizing that the instructions and structure are a little too tight for a casual, virtual improv jam (as of now):
- 185 ___ Walk into a Bar
- Franklin Institute
Games passing and sharing focus work well. Games where either everyone participates blindly like Sentence Waterfall, or where one person has the focus at a time like Work that Brain Out, work well in group settings.
We also were comfortable with our own physical spaces. Playing red ball, thank you we use the full rooms we each occupy, even if our physical locations are very different. We were calling in from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Florida!
We also encouraged participation and were honest about our own technical challenges. One player had to leave and rejoin due to microphone issues and another made us all jealous by dialing in from their sunny balcony (Florida) and we had to ask they move inside as the wind made things very difficult to hear. We accepted these interruptions and didn’t freak out or lose cadence when this happened.
I don’t want to call this “what didn’t work”. Improv is all about moving forward and progress and growing. One lesson is activities like Mind Meld do not work well across distances and internet. Mind Meld requires timing (counting down from three) and eye contact. Two things difficult to imitate with internet lag and the desire to look at a person, not a camera on a video chat.
I also want to be sensitive to previous relationships. About half of us in last night’s Jam have played together before in various small groups. And another half were new to this group. In a mixed audience of novice and experienced players, we want to ensure everyone feels appreciated and engaged.
Want to Jam?
Register for our next Jam on Thursday, April 2 from at 8PM EDT. Registration is now live!
I plan to host a virtual Jam at least once per week as long as this social distancing is happening. To be the first to know, sign up for the newsletter. I promise to only email you when there are events/big announcements.
If you are part of a team working remote for the first time, contact me and we can discuss a 30-45 minute session for your team. I want to offer Improv Jams for free (as much as that is feasible).
Be safe. Practice self care. We are in this together. Reach out to friends and colleagues if you are struggling.
And please, wash your hands.