Coaching Workshop by Jeff Griggs at Laughtrack Theater

On Saturday, August, 7, 2010, I had the pleasure of taking a coaching workshop taught by Jeff Griggs. It had a great deal of information, lots of pointers on how to format a coaching session and what a coach’s role is. I think as an improviser foremost, it’s nice to keep in mind what people are looking for and how it all comes together! These are my notes from the class.

Coaching Workshop with Jeff Griggs

-created brief bio for us to use during the first class.

Reasons the bio is important to have and to state in the beginning for the team:
As the coach it’s always a good idea to introduce yourself and give a background of who you are and why you are there. Letting the class in on what your perspective may be will benefit you in the long run.
It’s good for you and the people you’re coaching to know, but it’s also good for you to remember and remind yourself of.
(So be confident and relax, you have a perspective that is important. You are the expert and you are here to give them your perspective.)

Rehearsing – Teaching/Coaching:
Know what you are going to do before you go in. Have an agenda.

Warm-ups should be tailored for the exercises that you’ll be doing. You should be flexible and be able to change to fit the immediate needs but don’t count on your flexibility, come in with something to do.
Don’t come in with the idea that they’ll just do scenes – have a focus. Give them a direction and purpose. The group needs to know what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Plan your warm ups (for a 3hr class 20-30 mins/for a 2hr reh 10-15)
Warm ups get the group focused on what they’ll be doing for the next few hours and gets them ready to improvise.

Plan your exercises (majority of the class time). This is usually where the most time is spent and it is the main focus of the class or rehearsal. Where do you get exercises? Reuse and tryout what you like from classes you’ve taken and people you’ve been coached by or worked with. You can vary the exercises to fit but if you borrow an exercise it is good to give credit to the person that introduced it to you.
Repeat the exercises as needed. Create your own as necessary and utilize new ideas.

Before you go in finish this statement – “Today, my focus is on -fill in blank-.”
Everything you do should fit this statement. It’s better to over-plan, over-prepare, and not get to the end.

On average you’ll get through 4 exercises at most. Make the beginning exercises the most important because those are what you’ll want to make sure they do. Be prepared to have 30 minutes at the end.

Always emphasize focus of class. Over-plan and be prepared to do only a portion of what you planned.

Things to remember:
Remember why they’re there.
Everyone deserves your attention and training.
Try not to get mad.
You can’t treat everyone the same. Talk to them differently because they are different.
Don’t talk too much. Stories do help on occasion but remember the purpose and focus of the days rehearsal.
Don’t be afraid to reuse and repeat (exercises) to refocus.

Exercises fall into categories of fundamentals. Exercises will overlap.
Those fundamentals are:
1) Yes And
2) Characters
3) Relationships (emotions and heightening)
4) Environment/spacework
5) Listening
6) Group work

Reuse and Repeat to Refocus. Take exercises from workshops and create the need to do them in your sessions, (make sure there is a need versus it’s a cool exercise that you really want to do). Coaching is infinite and it’s important to plot out what to do.

Giving notes: (should center around comments, thoughts, and advice)
Most people would rather have you stop them, give the note and let them continue the scene. Let them decide what would be best.

Every scene is a good scene. Some scenes can be better. How can I, as the coach, make them better?

Griggs teaches (doesn’t correct as much). For him it’s more about finessing and teaching the improvisers how to do something.

Important for improvisers:
Get them on stage don’t talk too much. Explain if you have to but make it simple.

The mechanics of getting them on stage are just as important in a larger group when dealing with a big class. Let them feel their stage time and if you have to sit a group down so another group has equal time, divide the group and bounce back and forth. It’s important to keep them moving and working. Make sure you get them all up and know the mechanics of how that is going to work.

Jeannie’s advice: Take a breath when someone asks you a question. Answer correctly instead of immediately.

Do more than just scenes (plan exercises that have a specific focus.)

You will get questions. Embrace it. They’re confused and want to get it.
Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t argue notes, just say, “that may be, but from out here it looks like this . . .” – “Why don’t we try something else.” “This is what I see.”
Don’t lie. But don’t be mean. Just say it wasn’t the strongest, it didn’t work the way it should have. If you can reference your struggles with something do so.

After show notes shouldn’t take longer than the show. 8 minutes max. and put it back on them. “How’s that, how do you feel about it?”
Don’t point out what was wrong, be more helpful.
Ex. There was a lot of denial going on – not specific notes will make the group do an individual retrospective.
Don’t be a task master. Give challenges to work towards making it better.

Money and Time:
Tell them to be on time. Decide how long the rehearsal will be and stick to it.

Money is a hard issue, but being paid for your time is as important. The recommended amounts are $5 or $10 per person. They should also still pay even if they don’t show up.

As a coach you should be thinking long term and short term. Be goal focused on the individual needs and the group needs.

General For You For Them:
Don’t have bad habits, set the example and the tone. Be prepared for bad shows. Notes and praise, it’s important to know when to do each. Break it up. Think about how to get them from point A to point B without making them. Is there another way to do what you want to see?

Keep on your toes. Coach to help. Don’t abuse others or be abused. Play and know when to work. Constantly work to be a better teacher and coach.

We created a list of warm-up exercises and a few fundamental exercise samples for us to keep in our back pockets. For those, I put on my other blog at (improv musings). They’re straight lists but the idea (for me) is to keep adding to them.

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