Home / Commedia / ‘Word Association, Improvisational Technique’ (15mins Duration).

‘Word Association, Improvisational Technique’ (15mins Duration).

Word association improvisations this is a method I used for actors to find improvisational techniques that are for the zany low-status they must have to win their audience so it’s good to make use of this as a warm-up games in the early stages while still learning about Zany the objectives are to improvise freely handle heckling and work as a team successfully these are to be done without masks the first part is probably familiar it’s designed to help drama students speak before they think in other words we’re trying to get them not to filter the words that they say but rather to say the first thing that comes to their mind this training is useful in allowing the access to feel that whatever they say when they are improvising is right and it’s ok now direct all students to get into the groups of four and to stand in a square or if you’ve got three stand in a triangle have one of the students start by saying a word it can be anything orange, car, house, any word that they want to say next somebody else in the group says whatever word came into mind and association with the first person’s word it doesn’t have to be the be related just has to be a word that was inspired from the last word that they heard a short example session might start like this orange, round, Sun, Dial, clock, watch, now the game continues like this it’s better they do not take turns in an organized fashion that is each taking a turn one of the time in a say in a clockwise direction instead I encourage whoever is inspired to say the next word to just say the word they just jump in perhaps there are three actors and two of them are quickly firing words backwards and forth while the third student is standing there just left out looking at what the other ones what happens is that they feel that they say I don’t want to miss out on this and so they jump in this only happens for a moment as as soon as they realize that they have been left out behind they’ll jump in quickly because though they’ll be anxious not to not to be left out not to fail this exercise trains actors for working in larger groups it helps them to get over the natural tendency to ‘wait your turn’ after they’ve played it for a while I asked them to discuss the game and instructs the other students to thank the people they’ve been working with and disband the groups and direct them to find some space in the room where they can stand by themselves they’ll each need enough room to throw their arms about without hitting somebody else nearby as I asked them to rehearse word association impro part 2 this essentially is solo word association exercise the goal is to get them to rehearse using their body as well as their voices taking our word that they are saying and making it sound nonsensical if you say a word enough times over and over again it starts to sound like nonsense instruct students to pick a word from the previous game ask them to physically express the word with movement gesture dance turn or a swirl we are asking the actor to engage in spontaneous movement and speech the movement being an expression of the sound that they are making I asked the class to close their eyes whilst doing this exercise it’s it’s it’s to be hoped that you’ll have enough space in the room that they won’t be bashing into each other but closing the eyes lets them loose from their inhibitions and I find that their movements get much more expensive you may find a large movement warm-up exercise useful before this after they’ve done a bit of experimenting by themselves with their eyes closed ask them to continue but with their eyes open and next ask them to get back into their word association groups and play the same game as before in part 1 but with movement encourage the groups to move around the room traveling as a group in the last part i encourage the students to continue working in the same groups because they you know been starting to build a rapport with each other direct them to sit in their small groups and ask them to think of one or two lines it could be a line or two from poetry a song or a famous quote from a play or something to be or not to be that a question or the wherefore art thou Romeo mary had a little lamb so on the point is for the group to think of something that the four or three of them know and you want them to rehearse not something that will have to worry about learning lines for so just to throw away a couple of lines since you’ve given no explanation they’ll be wondering what’s going to happen the result is the majority of the groups or choose a nursery rhyme which are less challenging than say Shakespeare but it it takes a while but once they’ve had some time to discuss it put the pressure on by saying okay who has already got something you know asked a group perhaps a group announces that they’ve chosen mary had a little lamb respond with fantastic because you know you don’t have to be clever or sophisticated we don’t care what the lines are because this helps the other groups push themselves into making decision of what they’re going to choose now whatever line they choose it’s perfect because they’re going to turn into nonsense anyway when everyone has a line ask them to stand up and say goodbye to their group that they’ve just been working with they have to practice movement and and the sound in a word association part 2 section here where they’ll come back together again as before they will need to find enough space to be able to swing their arms and not hidden somebody announced that now they’ll be rehearsing those lines that the students are to explore each word individually as though its out of its context for example if the line was mary had a little lamb the student would start with the first word mary she would say ‘Mary, ‘Mary’ and so on and whilst doing the movements to these different ways of saying the word when the student feels that they have sufficiently explored the first word they will then move on to the second word ‘Had’ I might point out that ‘Had’ as a hard quick staccato sound of sound and ask them to that what movement might go with that sound this portion of the exercise isn’t really word association but it’s rather individual words in a particular order that the class wonders where this is going and you can plain that its associated with comedia delArte’ and that they are training in a precise step-by-step process which leads to the development of exceptional improvisational skills after they’ve had some rehearsal time by themselves bring them back to their original groups it isn’t necessary for every student to have explored every word of their lines before you send them back to their groups but tell them that they are going to play the same word association game but this time they’ll be using only the words that they’ve chosen they’ll begin by improvising with the first word in the line any group member can say it at any time they spontaneously say the word in its different forms like ‘Mary’, ‘Miri’ until one of the actors feels like it’s time to move on to the next word in the line mary ‘Had’ and when one of the students says the second word the whole group moves on to exploring the word ‘Had’ and so on have them prance around the room Flanning their arms dancing the eat to each word and working together as a team I say pick up on the sounds that the other people are using mimic them work as a team complement them by copying them or go to the opposite direction if somebody is doing a big broad go to a short small and this will work as a team so once you’ve got the students improvising freely exploring the sounds of a words making them nonsensical and just doing movement with their sounds you’re finding that now you’ve got a small team that’s picking up off each other as far as complimenting by copying someone who’s repeating a sound and moving it around on space or whatever and someone copying their movements this is what you want to get to now here comes the final part of this improvisation what I do now is that once they’ve all had to go out rehearsing this and that they showing each other that you know they’re all doing this silly movements and silly sounds is that then you put it into a context so what I do is I aligned the first group that’s going to go first up against the wall up against a wall the furthest part of your drama room and have the other students sitting in an audience position facing them and you ask the group to do a presentation as though they’re in one of those nightclubs so they had the beatnik night clubs where they’re going to do a sound and movement presentation of mary had a little lamb or whatever piece there what there are two lines were from I asked them that they are to work together as a team it’s very contemporary movement piece you know I sell it to them build it up so that their presentation is you know is performed with a tongue-in-cheek confidence and I ask the audience to click instead of clapping at the end so it’s a bit of a an in-joke so once they do this I say great okay that’s the first troop that was the easy part the first group up gets the easy job because the second group get that gets up we add a few levels of complication to their performance now there to do the same thing I line them up against the back wall I ask them to do their sound and movement piece to their line but I say to them that they have to upstage each other okay so they go well how do you do that and of course they try to step in front of each other as they’re doing their perfect performance someone puts out their arms in front of somebody else’s face this is some of the things that they would do i also say to them that sometimes upstaging is not just getting in front of somebody sometimes someone can go right to the back of the room stand on the chair and pull focus and the others have to try and steal the focus back someone’s there playing with this I asked for the next group to get up if you’ve got lots of groups, lots of students in your class then I add another layer to difficulty to their performance I ask them to do the same thing they line up against the back wall there to do a presentation of sound and movement they are to upstage each other and they are to keep eye contact with the audience now this is something that the commedia the masks do there especially the low status servants they love the audience the the masks are very focused on the audience they the the mask want the audience to love them and so they’re all vying for attention and that’s why I’m doing this upstaging and focus and copying and teamwork so then it starts to fall into place and buy you time you’ve got your last student up sorry last student group up to perform they’ve got three or four different layers of complication so are you to get the first group to go up again because they got off lightly if you understand what I mean so they’re improvising sound and movement they’re working as a team there upstaging each other got eye contact it’s all happening at once and they’re all over each other I do say to them they’re not allowed into the audience you draw a line I don’t let them into the audience yet! so then once they’ve experienced this you can actually say okay what we’ve learnt from this is this free improvisation work word association we’re working together as a team and then you actually get them to say what if we put the commedia masks on now and they played the same game and then they go up any drop that’s why we’re doing this and that’s how the zanies work together when they’re sort of with the audience without a high status looking after them so I hope this exercise for you good niche ah I thought I said when I respect that you said yeah we gonna have to presenting the next act and you come out here you give me this do it again properly place what did you say no no no ok let me if you don’t do it you don’t get a meal tonight don’t get a meal until you do the job that you said you’ve got to do oh yeah beautiful what you go

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