I've been trying out Improv (on & off) for the last two years, here are some reflections:

1. "Yes and" doesn't mean you agree to everything
Improv requires that we accept the improvisations done by whoever is in the scene! I learnt from Andrew, that this doesn't necessarily mean we accept the exact statement said to us, but that we instead have to accept the scene,
Instance 1:
Person A : Did you eat my lunch again?"
Person B'"no.. but I think your brother did!"
Person A "Ugh, I'm so mad at him!"

Instance 2:
Person A: Did you eat my lunch again?"
Person B :"'This is not lunch, this is the book I gifted you'
Person A: ..

What can Person A say? The scene's been blocked!

In the first instance, we're still moving the scene forward even though we're not agreeing to it entirely.
on the other hand when we say no this is not lunch, but it's a gift.. then we block the scene from progressing at all.

2. Embrace the weirdness
Sometimes, you're throw into weird exercises - where you imagine you're an alien and communicate with actions as a group. So its a group improv activity (we were about 12-13 in this class) without any language to communicate. We started walking like zombies and became a part of zombie zoo (because the rest started taking pictures!)
Or you've to do an entire scene with weird facial expressions, and that is okay too!

3. Character building
We've been working on Character building at Hoopla, where we've been working on accents, facial expressions, absorbing another's body language 

If someone walks into a scene with a stiff lip and a serious face, and the other joins with a similar body language that adds to the scene; it builds an element of 'togetherness'. 
Characters also allow one to fully dissolve into it, and you start to think of how would this character react to a situation? We're pushed show up on stage as a character that is slightly exaggerated for the stage. This requires an element of confidence.. To be an over the top confident nail artist, or to be a skater who has a weird kink for bubblegum! How do you imbibe this confidence on stage? A fellow improviser told me that first off, it's a character you're portraying not yourself,. and there is a chance just like in life, that not everyone will appreciate your character.. but your job is to just show up, play the role for a few mins and whoever it strikes a chord with, it does, but one cannot control that element! 

4. Ties to workplace
I also learn character building at Flux, which is when I realised its similarities to workplaces:
1) from taking the time to get into character (which reminds of some whiteboarding exercises we do at work as UX researchers / designers! - to understand user's journey, their issues etc.)
2) to actually acting it out, getting feedback and starting again with the same enthusiasm (taking feedback, while working in product teams? Yes please!)
In this book I'm reading called "improvise : use the secrets of improv to achieve extraordinary results at work". (From my workplace's book reading club). We learn about how these same skills can be applied to a vairety of settings that enable participants to move forward into scenes. This also talks about how imbibing the basics of improv can easily translate to less stress in workplace situations


Super fun improv games:

1. Exaggerate your emotion!
At Flux, we recently tried an activity : one person starts with acting out an emotion, then goes to another person who then continues the same emotion in more severity. It goes on and on.. A small snicker of laughter by person 1, could have person 4 rolling on the floor laughing. This was ridiculously out of anyone's control and totally hilarious to be a part of!

2. Gibberish Talk
Where you have to loudly talk in Gibberish to another person. That person has to interpret it, and speak in a common language (Hindi / English). To which you continue explaining what you are saying in Gibberish. This is ridiculously embarrassing, weird, difficult, scary and amazing.. I think by the end of that class, we all were a different level of confident with ourselves :D
This made us realize our own gibberish languages came from our familiar language's tone, pronunication, vowel usage, etc. It also had heavy dependence on facial expressions, body language to communicate what we are trying to say.


3. One word at a time
There are scenes where, two people are chosen out of the blue; They are considered two heads of an alien body. Then this alien is made the expert of <insert random topic>. Now these two heads have to answer questions thrown in by the audience. However there is a curveball - Only one word from each head! This gets quite exciting too!
4. *I'm a tree* 
This is by far, my favourite improv exercise! :D simply because one has to move, can bring their sense of humour immediately to the scene. However there is also 'yes, and' aspect; even if you have a great idea, if you've waited a few minutes and others have jumped in and moved the stage in another direction with few other characters, you need to think on your feet (Toastmasters shoutout here) and let go of your great idea.
Considering this isn't structured also means a sense of spontaneity is present! I recently started studying at UCL and 
we actually did this in a UCL Class lead by Dr. Alison! This was fun for me, having experienced this activity in different settings initially in Bangalore, then at UCL's comedy club and Hoopla to suddenly using it in a Ethnography class. We also did some anthropology style 'unpacking' of how everyone felt after the short exercise, which was super helpful and a new twist for me. 

I know blanket statements can be a cliché
, but I do feel almost everyone can benefit from improv! Whether it's working on your acceptance of life's many curveballs, working on anxiety, being more social, team-building skills, or you just want to meet interesting people. Identify your nearest improv class and give it a shot! : )

These are some great places to learn:

'Flux's theatre group (located in Indiranagar, Bangalore, IN), I took a course in 2022. 
'Improwisers' a zoom community of improv & theatre enthusiasts,
'Improv Lore',  who run workshops in Indiranagar, Bangalore, '
Hoopla' based in London who run workshops for Levels 1-4, and a variety of advanced levels.

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