Zoom In On 4 Key Lessons


When I teach Patterns & Games in-person the first class is always Kick The Duck, Red Rover. I love this game. When I say “Go,” the class is to align behind a gibberish group game.

It’s always a mess to start, and then I begin laying in the lessons and with each iteration the group gels that much more. It never fails; by the end the group has built something cohesive out-of-nothing together as an ensemble – and have enjoyed themselves along the way.

The Zoom environment is not conducive to Kick The Duck, Red Rover, but I felt it critical to still have this first class expose students to the 4 Key Lessons that form the backbone of group game work as improv does best.

  1. Seek Symmetries
  2. Empower Asymmetries
  3. Establish Rules of Cause and Effect
  4. Restart and Repeat

So this is what I did…

First things first, I provided the class my definitions of Pattern & Game.

Pattern – a sequence that can be repeated / a structure that can be reused

Game – a sequence of actions, related by rules of cause-and-effect, that heightens with repetition

Then I enabled Zoom’s Whiteboard function. Everyone can draw together all at once, with each person given a different color with which to draw.

I figured that drawing was a fine way to track and follow Symmetries and Asymmetries.

#1 Seek Symmetries – Focus outward at what already exists and see how you can align with that. This Agreement fosters focus.

#2 Empower Asymmetries – Having first sought to alignment, now notice what differences exists. We can make those differences matter with reaction and repetition.

Focus out. Make your best choice based on what you see.

Remember we’re all playing by the rules in our own heads. What matters is that we’re each trying to serve the group, not our own egos.

Now we move onto Establishing Rules of Cause and Effect. Truly one could pick out rules from the earlier videos. For example, the move after a horizontal line was a vertical line. If another horizontal line is drawn, what’s next?

But I left the Whiteboard for PowerPoint at this point. And we got into SAT type games. FUN!

#3 Establish Rules of Cause and Effect – “What rules were you playing by?” Whatever happened, can we do that again?  We want players to observe cause-and-effect and seek to clarify the “rule” with repetition.

Make another X happen to make another Y happen.  If you see X happen again, make Y happen again.  Work to notice not only what is happening, but how what happens relates to what happened before.  And pay attention to what happens after.  Even if there is no inherent connection between the first set of moves, by working to repeat that sequence we begin to establish rules and clarify group direction.

Yes, this gets heady. But there are no mistakes in patterns.

And if any part of your brain is going, “Oh, crap,” I can’t do this, you’re wasting brain power. Get out there and try. Make a choice.

What’s wonderful is knowing that whatever you do your ensemble will be there to fold in whatever you do and make you look good.

And how you can you ultimately fold in ANYTHING that’s happened?

#4 Reset & RestartWhen games get confusing there’s a tendency to inject new stuff that only confuses more. Instead of getting more lost, go back to the last place you knew where you were.

Going through a game again will build clarity and simplifies the amount of stuff in play.

And that’s everything.

So now back to the Whiteboard to put it all together.

The 4 Key Lessons have been taught. And they are what the rest of the class will expand on as it works through my 4 Rubric Group Games into Organic Group Games.

If you want the PowerPoint for your own uses. It’s here.

And if you want to continue this virtual journey through my first Virtual Patterns & Games class, here are the other links:


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