Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

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Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby heydemo » August 16th, 2013, 1:28 am

Improv classes frequently pair students to do scenes or exercises by having them divide up into two lines and then switch lines after their scenes. However, the fatal flaw with this approach is
YOU WILL ONLY HAVE AT MOST TWO DIFFERENT SCENE PARTNERS. If I just blew your mind, then strap yourself down cause you're in for a wild fucking ride.

Take a class of 8 people, with evenly split lines of 4 it's obvious the same people will always be paired together. But even with an uneven lines (say 5 in one line, 3 in another), each person will only have two different partners.

1 6

2 7

3 8

4

5

Right now, 1 is in the front of the line and paired to do a scene with 6. 1 will always be paired with the person 5 spaces behind him, and that will always be 6 unless someone cuts in line. When 1 is at the head of the opposite line, 1 will be paired with a person 5 spaces in front of him, going the opposite direction, which is 4.


4 1

5 2

6 3

7

8

Because the order of students never changes, but just rotates, 1 will always be paired with either 4 or 1. THIS IS TRUE REGARDLESS OF THE SIZE OF THE LINES OR HOW THEY'RE SPLIT. Even if you have 14 people in one line, and 9 in another, each person will still only have two partners, because you're always going with the person X places behind/in front of you in the rotation.

So what's the solution?

DON'T SWITCH LINES!

I know, counter-intuitive, right? If you have an odd number of people, this works like a charm because the pairing iterates by 1 person each rotation, meaning EVERYONE will get to play with EVERYONE ELSE in the other line once, before ANYONE has to to play with ANYONE ELSE in the other line twice. If you have an even number of people less than 12, you're kinda boned as near as I can tell. You're better off having people in a circle and letting them randomly jump out. For even groups of 12 or larger you can put two extra people in the same line. i.e:

1 8

2 9

3 10

4 11

5 12

6

7


Then 1 goes up against

8, 10, 12, 9 and 11 before repeating with 8. Of course people in the short line get to go 40% more often, but 20% of people own 85% of the wealth in this country so get used to it.

Thank you for reading and I hope this will help avoid awkward situations where that girl you like switches with the person behind you and you're not sure if it's because she would feel guilty monopolizing your time and talents or because you seem to turn into Gropey Mcgee every time you do a scene with her.
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby happywaffle » August 16th, 2013, 9:02 am

Well said. I usually just do ad-hoc spot-in-line-switching to avoid being with the same partner(s) over and over.
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby Ryan Hill » August 16th, 2013, 10:01 am

You figured this out in Clif's 401 at the Institution last Sunday didn't you? I could see those wheels turning. :-)
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby ratliff » August 16th, 2013, 1:39 pm

Doesn't this mean that the people in the shorter line get to play more scenes than the people in the longer line?
Last edited by ratliff on August 16th, 2013, 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby Adam Keys » August 16th, 2013, 4:00 pm

I applaud all applications of semi-formal thinking to the scene start lines problem. Also, the game theory of random switches vs. Gropey McGee is worth putting our best minds towards solving.
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby poltergasm » August 16th, 2013, 4:38 pm

Great write-up! But also: what's so bad about two people doing scene starts together multiple times? They might just fall in love and then get married.
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby heydemo » August 17th, 2013, 12:08 pm

@ratliff - Yes, that's true...couldn't think of a way around this that wasn't ridiculously complicated.

Ryan - took me several hours after class! I always assumed uneven line switching would shuffle people for some reason. I'm out of town this weekend but I trust you to get Cliff up to date with this important research.
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Re: Examination of the mathematics of scene start lines

Postby Spots » August 19th, 2013, 1:33 pm

I think improv is good for learning about yourself. For instance, learn to expect to be paired up with "that same person" over and over again.

When you get exhausted of trying to make the other person fun in different ways, realize you are actually winning improv. Because now you can isolate yourself and really get to work. Less variables, more win.


Definitely situations where yes, let's make it fair. But wouldn't stress out too much or press the issue ever. Could eventually become a weasel hole to escape from real improv growth.
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