Imperfect Mind Reading

At Cat Dance practice today, we had an exercise in which we paired up with a teammate and sat back to back, with one person describing a picture on their phone that the other would try to draw based on the description. The descriptions themselves couldn’t mention the objects to be drawn but instead would rely on more primitive descriptions like the placement of lines and simple shapes like circles and rectangles. Afterwards, we took a look at the resulting drawing alongside the original.

There’s something about the end of that exercise that reminds me of what happens after a set. A couple weeks ago, I stepped out in a second beat to initiate as a protesting gnome, and a teammate joined me in the protest chant in our high-pitched gnome voices.

After our set, he came up and asked, “What were we chanting?”

“Sí, se puede.”

“Ah, I thought it might be someone’s name, like Caesar.”

I was in the opposite situation at a comedy festival this weekend when a teammate made a reference to what I guessed was a board game that I’d never heard of, where the guess was based on the fact that someone mentioned Settlers of Catan earlier. During an analogous scene at a later point in the set, I made a callback to it by referencing Yahtzee, but I was curious after the set was over and asked my teammate, “Is ‘Sheep Four Won Weed’ a board game?”

“It’s ‘sheep for one wheat’ from Settlers of Catan.”

“Oh, duh!”

I am amazed by the fact that even though these moments of imperfect mind reading happen so often in sets, we can often approximate things close enough that sets go on without anyone raising an eye.

Of course, there are those other times when the readings are wildly off, which end up requiring improvisers to flex their justification muscles. If you look at my drawing today of what was supposed to be a box of popcorn, there would be a lot of justifying to do.

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