Get your warm up right – don’t skip over it. For a 2.5hour workshop I warm up the group for 30mins. I include exercises that improve physical, mental, and vocal abilities, but I also include exercises that improve awareness of themselves, within the space, in relation to other bodies, furniture, the rest of the building, the city… This gives them more focus on the present and generally improves focus overall. If the group isn’t warm, and their bodies aren’t alert, they won’t produce good work.
Keep it structured – I like to structure my workshops by amking time fore warm-ups, moving on to a skills learning section, then a section where the group gets to implement those new skills in a performative way in an improvisation, or structured performance task. Time manage well but allow for flexibility if needed. Also, structure each task in detail – participants need the best idea you can provide for what you’re asking of them. If they’re not sure what they’re supposed to be doing they will lose confidence and the work produce wont reflect their capabilities.
Everyone should contribute – whether it’s through ball games, improvisations, etc. structure your tasks so that everyone has role or job.
Only do things you’re interested in– no one being taught has ever been inspired by something if the one teaching isn’t inspired themselves.
Find the laughter – if you the pleasure in the scene as performers, you’ll find what makes it pleasurable to watch.
Stick to your guns with the skills – if the group is struggling to understand why they’re doing a particular exercise, but you know it’s important. E.g. personal and physical awareness within the space leads to better focus when performing – don’t wimp out, even if you get asked what the point is in a complaining manner. Answer them honestly – tell them it’s important, and what you’re going to lead on to – make it relevant for them.
Be mindful of the capabilities and limits within a group. If an exercise is too difficult for one, or many, break it down further, or make it simpler. If someone has greater physical or learning limits they may need to have the task tailored to their capabilities.
Guide the group, but allow them to direct and problem solve for themselves to the greatest extent possible – it’s a learning environment after all. Step in only when necessary.
Indentify strengths and weaknesses – have the group share knowledge and skills with each other. If you’re only doing the one session his could be difficult, but on a basic level it should be easy to spot the really confident participants from the more inhibited ones. Experiment – mix these up so they work with each other – but be careful that the confident ones don’t take over the task and over shadow the less confident ones – everyone must participate equally. Alternatively you could try putting the confident ones in one group and the less confident ones in another – which makes the less confident participants have to step up to the plate with no-one to hide behind. This can be risky though as it might mean the less confident group produces less strong work than the confident group. When showing each other their confidence could be knocked even more if they don’t think what they’ve produced is as good as the other groups. I do not recommend this particular method as a ‘go to’ option. But may provide an alternative if you are working with the group regularly and need to shake things up.
Always say thank you. After the group has given you 2 hours of their time and run around in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways at your whim, thank them for doing their best, for producing great work, and for attending. After all, if they hadn’t turned up, you’d be talking to yourself.