5 Ways an Improv Troupe Can Communicate Better

I get asked this a lot…How do we deal with someone in the troupe that is hard to work with? How do we kick someone off the team? Should we add new people? Should we get a coach? How do we make these decisions? Improv is such a positive force we sometimes forget to set some ground rules because we assume everything will work itself out because we are all easy-going people. Well this is not the case all the time. We are also artists that have strong passionate feelings about things. Sure, improvisors are awesome we all know that, but a troupe needs to communicate and be on the same page or else it will quickly fall apart.

A troupe needs to set up expectations up front so when you come across a situation it’s easier to figure them out in a diplomatic way. Below I have listed some things that will help guide you and your troupe into communication bliss.

1. Get Organized From the Start:

I’ve mentioned this in a blog post before. Your troupe should start an improv bible. Now the bible in the blog mentioned is focused more on the improv aspects of your troupe, which you should have, but in addition to that bible, start a bible on the rules of your team outside of performance. Here’s an example of what you’d have in there:

A. How do we pay for a things – rehearsal space, coach, etc… – Dues Based? Monthly Dues? When we show up for rehearsal? I would personally recommend a monthly dues based system. Why? It’s easy and holds every member accountable. So if they miss a rehearsal you don’t get screwed out of money to pay for the space or the coach. This saves you a lot of tracking people down.

B. Troupe Positions – Sure you’re all improvisors in an ensemble but get organized – Like a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troupe they have Senior Patrol Leaders, Patrol Leaders, Scribe etc. What are you in your troupe? Positions I think you need to have – 1. Booker – Books the rehearsal spot, coach and submits to festivals etc. 2. Treasurer – Handles all money to pay for space, coach and handles dues. 3. Marketing – Handles all social media posts, invites and team events. And switch roles every few months so you’re not always doing the same job, unless you guys are happy with your jobs then you can keep them as long as you want. But figure out how you’ll handle that.

2.  Set the Rules of Your Troupe:

If you miss rehearsal are you allowed in the next show? How many rehearsals can you miss before you are unable to be a member of the team? How does the team vote ? Meaning how will people deal with who is on or off the team or what new rules will be added or taken away? Does the coach/director vote? Does the coach/director make those decisions? Or is it a team matter only? Have this written in stone so there is no confusion and have everyone understand it and have it be accepted unanimously. If all else fails ask your coach for advice.

3. Get Serious! Get a coach!

PLEASE!!! Get a coach or a director. If you are serious about improv and growing as an artist you need an outside eye. Do not have another teammate give notes or step out and coach you. You need to grow as a team and you can’t do that with one member hopping out and coaching too. It’s a weird dynamic that doesn’t work. If you don’t have enough coaches in your community then someone has to decide not to be on the team and just take the role as a coach. But the best thing about a coach, is as a veteran, they can give you advice on what to do if you’re having issues with an ensemble member. They can be a great mediator. Trust me they’ve been through it all before.

4. Troupe Boundaries 

You have to talk about what is okay and not okay to do. Is it okay if we have physical contact? How far can that go? What are we as a group comfortable with? Some people don’t like to be touched and that’s okay. Know that now so you can figure it out and move ahead as a troupe. You don’t want to find out a month down the road when you kiss someone onstage that they were uncomfortable with that now and are quitting the team.

5. Team Vision

What kind of team do you want to be? Again, set expectations – Do you want to be a traveling troupe that goes to festivals or just a local troupe. If most of you want to travel but there are a few that don’t then you really need to figure out if this troupe goes forward. Agree on what you want out of the troupe. How many shows or rehearsals do you want a month? Where? I know it sounds like a lot but figure it out.

PHEW! That’s a lot. Hey guys and gals, remember improv is fun! YAY! Sure  this looks all serious but  it’s necessary. You will save yourself a lot of time and heartbreak by putting these things in place. It holds you all accountable and there is no questioning what is right or wrong if rules are in place from the get go. Hopefully with these 5 items in place communication will be a breeze.

If you have any questions or you think I’ve left something out please feel free to comment. Go Improv!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for grown ups in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network as well as performer in The Sunday Company at The Groundlings and a member of the critically acclaimed Harold Team King Ten at iO West. Feel free to follow me @nickarmstrong on Twitter or on Facebook. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what’s up. 

To e-mail nick e-mail at nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com and for workshop information visit www.nickarmstrong.com.

 

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