Vonnegut's advice (works for improv)

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

Moderators: happywaffle, arclight, bradisntclever

Vonnegut's advice (works for improv)

Postby Spots » November 13th, 2010, 5:51 am

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyQ1wEBx1V0[/youtube]

Kurt' Vonnegut's birthday was Thursday. It's been over 3 years since his death. The week after he passed, I made this video for aspiring writers. The advice is perfect for short stories and scripts. But some folks are saying this inspires them for improv too. I definitely agree but I suggest that you tweak #1 & #7. (to account for differences between written word & improv)

Kurt's #1: "Use the time of a stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted."
Improv #1: "Have fun."

Kurt's #7: "Write to please just one person."
Improv #7: "Connect with your partner."

It translates well. Especially for longform improv. It's like magic. I may edit an alternate version of the video if folks want to share with students etc.
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » November 13th, 2010, 1:04 pm

"Hi, can i get a suggestion of an iconoclastic theme that can be presented non-linearly?"
Sweetness Prevails.

-the Reverend
User avatar
Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell
 
Posts: 4215
Joined: March 17th, 2006, 6:50 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Postby mpbrockman » November 13th, 2010, 3:00 pm

the_reverend wrote:"Hi, can i get a suggestion of an iconoclastic theme that can be presented non-linearly?"

"Sure, how about 'The adventures of an electron in a universe with a lifespan close enough to infinite that highly improbable quantum events become nearly inevitable?'"
"He who is not a misanthrope at age forty can never have loved mankind" -Nicolas de Chamfort
www.perfectlyreasonabledreams.com
http://www.facebook.com/mpbrockman
User avatar
mpbrockman
 
Posts: 2734
Joined: April 12th, 2007, 6:26 pm
Location: ATX

Postby Spots » November 13th, 2010, 4:54 pm

[places an asterisk next to Jordan T. Maxwell's name.]

"Can I get a suggestion for a granfalloon please? You know. A group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless?"
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Postby mpbrockman » November 13th, 2010, 10:11 pm

Spots wrote:[places an asterisk next to Jordan T. Maxwell's name.]

"Can I get a suggestion for a granfalloon please? You know. A group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless?"


Wasn't one's genetic relatives KV's usual example. Works for me.

EDIT: Being from Indiana, I believe he used Hoosiers as well.
"He who is not a misanthrope at age forty can never have loved mankind" -Nicolas de Chamfort
www.perfectlyreasonabledreams.com
http://www.facebook.com/mpbrockman
User avatar
mpbrockman
 
Posts: 2734
Joined: April 12th, 2007, 6:26 pm
Location: ATX

Postby Spots » November 13th, 2010, 11:06 pm

Hoosiers? Definitely. Sounds like Cat's Cradle... yup, on the plane to San...whatever it was. Speaking of Cat's Cradle, that's the novel I recommend to folks who have never read him before. It's nice and light, and filled with tons of beautiful imagery & humor.
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Postby mpbrockman » November 14th, 2010, 6:53 am

Spots wrote:Hoosiers? Definitely. Sounds like Cat's Cradle... yup, on the plane to San...whatever it was. Speaking of Cat's Cradle, that's the novel I recommend to folks who have never read him before. It's nice and light, and filled with tons of beautiful imagery & humor.


San Lorenzo.

My favorite KV novel. My will contains specific instructions that the Bokononist funeral rites be read aloud at my wake.

"Lucky me, lucky mud..."

I'm actually serious.
"He who is not a misanthrope at age forty can never have loved mankind" -Nicolas de Chamfort
www.perfectlyreasonabledreams.com
http://www.facebook.com/mpbrockman
User avatar
mpbrockman
 
Posts: 2734
Joined: April 12th, 2007, 6:26 pm
Location: ATX

Postby Sully » November 18th, 2010, 7:20 pm

Brockman, This is awesome.
User avatar
Sully
 
Posts: 68
Joined: December 7th, 2009, 2:19 am

Postby Timmy R » February 28th, 2011, 7:06 pm

We just ran a w'shop on improv and the short story in melbourne, and Vonnegut's lists made for a handy reference.

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.*

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.



What we discovered, is that Short Story brings about a tone of playing, where dialogue is most heavily affected. Characters will only speak under duress and from absolute need and gesture and stage movement replaces what would ordinarily be spoken.

1,3,4 & 5 seemed to resonate directly.

I think short story is an under-utilized fuse for improv. Painting with the five senses as a set-up- That kind of thing. The toes we dipped have sparked all sorts of ideas that could be readily injected in to any show/form, but seems runway ready for things like Twilight Zone or a more subdued style of play. The sort of play that lets offers land so the audience can project their story onto our story.

T
User avatar
Timmy R
 
Posts: 21
Joined: February 28th, 2011, 6:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia.

Postby Spots » February 28th, 2011, 7:29 pm

Timmy, thanks for sharing! I love that! I've been thinking about the examples you say resonate and the ones you say do not.

Here's my suggested tweak:

1. Have fun.

2 & 6. Utilize the "straight-absurd" dynamic & look for patterns.

3 & 8. Every character should want something & express this somehow ( Avoid suspenseful or unseen motivation. ie: secretly double crossing your mate ).

4. Every line of dialog must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

7. "Yes and", listen to, and ultimately connect with your partner.


The numbers correlate to Vonnegut's original short story tips. I find it's easier to talk about patterns rather than narrative (at least to beginning improvisers. narrative doesn't work when it is forced). I'm curious on your thoughts.

I guess you are you based in Australia. What's the improv scene like there? (I day dream about living in Melbourne.)
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Postby trabka » March 1st, 2011, 12:05 am

Spots wrote:Timmy, thanks for sharing! I love that! I've been thinking about the examples you say resonate and the ones you say do not.

Here's my suggested tweak:

1. Have fun.

2 & 6. Utilize the "straight-absurd" dynamic & look for patterns.

3 & 8. Every character should want something & express this somehow ( Avoid suspenseful or unseen motivation. ie: secretly double crossing your mate ).

4. Every line of dialog must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

7. "Yes and", listen to, and ultimately connect with your partner.




I'm having a hard time telling if what you mean by tweak is change the items on the list to what you've italicized, or to use what you've italicized to more fully explore Vonnegut's tips within the context of improv. Can you clear that up?

Also, I don't think #1 in the original needs to get changed at all to apply to improv, as respecting the audience's time should be pretty high up there on the list of performing priorities.
trabka
 
Posts: 248
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:49 pm

Postby Spots » March 1st, 2011, 6:29 am

Great question. I hope I can clear up my point on these tweaks!

Here were my thoughts. Writing and improv both benefit from intuition and feeling inspired. However my tweaks are an attempt to adapt left brain processes that Vonnegut proposed into better fitting right brain processes. As a writer, you have the advantage of working with the left brain over time to carve away at the best narrative possible. But on stage, you're better off being in the moment & therefore trusting your right brain exclusively. (in fact, thinking in terms of "narrative" may be harmful... compared to say "patterns")

Image

Have fun is the right brain equivalent of "Don't waste the audience's time." If you stand onstage and analyze what the audience is thinking, you're setting yourself up for mental blocks. [Left brain] What you can do is have fun and invite the audience to follow along and have fun with you. [Right brain]

Most of these tweaks favor focusing on the whole over focusing on any one component. I feel this is the biggest distinction between right & left brain. And of course some tweaks address the difference between the omnipotent viewpoint of the author (objective) versus being a living breathing character in a scene (subjective).

Please interpret the guideline however you wish! I will definitely adapt my tweaks over time & I love a good chat!
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans


Return to Improv Theory & Practice

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

cron