You keep yourself safe. What about the AUDIENCE?

published9 months ago
3 min read

PLUS: The latest news from around the web.

In this issue:

  • Improv News: Interesting Links from around the Web
  • Feature: Audience Safety (book excerpt)
  • Highlights from the Improv Illusionist website
  • Your Question(s) of the Month

Improv News: Interesting Links from around the Web

1. In Canada you might recognize Linda Kash as an angel for Philadelphia cream cheese. She’s a Second City alum with a massive list of film and TV credits, and she’s a fantastic improviser. This is a great opportunity if you’re looking for some online training. There are also workshops from other SC players including Lisa Merchant and Wendy Hopkins.
Linda Kash offering improv sessions online during pandemic

2. Good post from Jimmy Carrane. Improv classes (or classes of any kind) should be DIALOGUES between teacher and student. Speaking up about a note is intimidating, but your learning is better served by it. Assuming the instructor is open to feedback (and they should be).
What to Do If You Get a Note in Improv Class You Don’t Agree With

3. Mike Nichols was not really a physical improviser in terms of what we promote here. But come on… IT’S MIKE NICHOLS!
Mike Nichols biography illuminates the path of improv master to award-winning director

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Feature: Audience Safety

Because we’re all about physicality here, we talk a lot about improviser safety. But what about ways to keep your audience safe? In another excerpt from my book The Improv Illusionist (currently seeking publication), here are some important tips…

Safety goes double when you’re involving audience members in the show. You MUST protect your volunteers — often from themselves!

It’s always a challenge to put the spotlight on people who aren’t used to it. Some will become bigger and louder, others will close up tighter than a pearl oyster. In most cases, they’ll be focusing on trying to be funny, or trying not to embarrass themselves, or on whether they’re doing a good job. They won’t be paying attention to stage safety. YOU have to do this for them.

If you’re inviting people on stage, make sure there’s a safe way for them to get there. Always offer a hand and warn them to watch their step. If there aren’t convenient and safe stairs, it may be better to have them stand at the foot of the stage.

Once volunteers are on stage, watch them closely. If they don’t need to move in the scene, put them in chairs. If you need them walking, someone should stay close at all times. Players not in the scene might consider moving toward the front sides of the stage, so they can jump in if someone is getting too close to the edge.

Respect personal space. A game like Pillars may require you to touch the person on the shoulder as a signal. During your setup, ask them if it’s okay to do this, and then demonstrate. Then do it exactly the same way in the scene — no surprises! Be ready to accommodate if the volunteer seems uncomfortable.

When the scene ends, volunteers are often in a hurry to leave the spotlight. Get near and keep them still until the lights are back up. It may require a hand on the shoulder and a polite word in their ear. When it’s safe, help them step off the stage and return to their seats.

Regardless of the quality of the scene, always ask for a big round of applause for your volunteers. In formats with judging, if the scene gets a low score, ask for another score for the audience members, with judges always giving them top marks. Even if they weren’t good, you want to encourage future volunteers.

Audience safety is deadly serious. The surest way to lose a crowd (and repeat ticket sales) is to make people feel unsafe, embarrassed, or violated.

(Stay tuned to future issues of this newsletter for updates on my book!)

Highlights from the Improv Illusionist website

  • Improv Books — Reviews & Recommendations: A list of books I’ve read, with recommendations on who they’re best for.
  • Podcast Reviews coming soon! Which are your favourites? Send me a note so I can check them out.

Your Question(s) of the Month
(because I never seem to ask only one)

What are your favourite audience-involved games? Have you ever had an unusual experience with volunteer safety?

Hit Reply and share your opinion. I love to chat with readers, and it gives me ideas for future content to help the whole community.

See you next month!

Ex nihilo,

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