"Down the Rabbit Hole": Discovery vs. Invention

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"Down the Rabbit Hole": Discovery vs. Invention

Postby B. Tribe » March 1st, 2011, 11:23 am

As a current Coldtowne TA, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach a Level 6 class at Coldtowne. In that level, the students create their own format, perform it for 4 weeks, refine and improve, then perform that format at the graduation show. This 5-person Level 6 class, dubbed "Safety Word", uses a unique opening to get ideas for a mono scene.

This last week they performed with 3 players. They did a great job using their skills and natural talent resulting in a very entertaining show. The big struggle came from trying to find what the scene was about. This led to a fair amount of invention in hopes that would create something to latch on to and guide the scene forward.

Following Josh Krilov's lesson plan, we worked on keeping things simple; finding the first interesting thing in the scene and following that to the next one. I used the term 'rabbit hole' to describe delving into an interesting 'thing' until it's done and then moving on to the next 'rabbit hole' that comes along. That 'thing' could be something as simple as another characters object work, a line of dialogue that grabs you, or a spark of emotion. What came from exercising this muscle was discovery. By keeping things simple, the players discovered motivations, facts, history, emotion, relationships etc with ease, not force. Without relying on invention, the scenes moved forward as each 'rabbit hole' revealed something to play with. This 'technique' (not the right word) is similar to Cody Dearing's "burning the leaves" idea. Ask him about it, it's pretty sweet.

So if things are feeling forced, relax and find that first interesting thing, follow it 'down the rabbit hole' and I can almost guarantee you'll discover something at the end.
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Postby Spots » March 1st, 2011, 11:26 am

If I get you, a rabbit hole is a subjective stimuli from the previous scene that the player uses for subjective inspiration in the next?

I could get behind that.
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Postby B. Tribe » March 1st, 2011, 12:14 pm

Spots wrote:If I get you, a rabbit hole is a subjective stimuli from the previous scene that the player uses for subjective inspiration in the next?


That would be more like finding a theme. The "rabbit hole" is often found at the beginning of a scene, whether it be a montage style show, a mono scene or a format. When you enter the scene, something will happen that you find interesting. Explore that to it's end. It could be a game or a relationship or even space work. Go with it until the next interesting thing happens. Keep following these and discoveries will appear. You're not traveling to Wonderland, just hopping along that hole until you reach the end. Pop back up and go to the next hole.

I find it similar to 'finding the game', but instead of looking for a pattern to repeat, you look for something interesting, something worth exploring. Keep doing this until an edit or the show is over. You might find that first thing becomes a great game so you play that to it's end.

I'd also say the 'rabbit holes' often come from observation of your partners. They'll do something; move, speak, emote... even doing nothing is something to explore. You yourself might do something worth following. A strange turn of phrase, a self-endowment, a 'mistake' can all lead to discovery.
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Postby Jastroch » March 1st, 2011, 12:17 pm

I don't like using the word discovery, though I know what you mean.

Words like "discovery" and, to some extent, "organic" to me imply that the things we're creating are outside of our control. Pulled from some magical improv ether separate from our own brain.

The danger there is that while everyone waits around for the universe to present a discovery, nothing happens. How many shows or performers have you seen that have confused "patience" with indecision?

That said, there is such a thing as negative invention. Ideas born out of desperation for laughs, fear of being boring or however that particular group is expressing their particular neurosis on that particular stage. Those ideas or elements are different from ideas born of good listening.

Is there a better, more active word than discovery -- one that implies active participation in the scene -- that doesn't have the bad connotations of invention? Creation?
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Postby Spots » March 1st, 2011, 12:34 pm

B. Tribe wrote:I find it similar to 'finding the game', but instead of looking for a pattern to repeat, you look for something interesting, something worth exploring.


I want to avoid phrasing it this way but it sounds like an autistic version of "finding the game." Rather than focus on the dynamic (in regard to human relationships) you focus on a tactile detail? To what extent?

Exploring both the game and the rabbit hole sounds like juggling plates. As in.... how many filters can you view the scene through before you become blinded by them?

A lot could be clarified if we replace the word "thing" for a slightly more specific term. Perhaps more examples will provide better context. This theory sounds great for stacking on top of the game, but only after the game. Right? Otherwise we're talking about a tactile detail becoming the dynamic of the scene.

I'm thinking in terms of closing yourself off rather than staying open.
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Postby kbadr » March 1st, 2011, 1:16 pm

Jastroch wrote:Words like "discovery" and, to some extent, "organic" to me imply that the things we're creating are outside of our control. Pulled from some magical improv ether separate from our own brain.


That's kind of how it feels to me when it's going well. I am not actively/consciously creating things, but some deeper part of my brain is bringing ideas and details to the surface. Like a waking dream. You can't make it happen, but you can give students a glimpse of it from time to time and make them aware of the feeling.

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Postby Spots » March 1st, 2011, 1:18 pm

kbadr wrote:
That's kind of how it feels to me when it's going well. I am not actively/consciously creating things, but some deeper part of my brain is bringing ideas and details to the surface. Like a waking dream.



Seconded. The idea of control is death.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 1st, 2011, 1:33 pm

Jastroch wrote:Is there a better, more active word than discovery -- one that implies active participation in the scene -- that doesn't have the bad connotations of invention? Creation?


i think discovery still works on an active level...it wasn't like Magellan was sitting around waiting for the world to move under him. to discover, you still have to explore. i think in this sense, and in conjunction with a word like "organic," it's more in the vein of "let's see what's out there" as opposed to trying to establish a spice route (no offense to Shannon McCormick. ;) ).
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Postby buseman » March 1st, 2011, 1:42 pm

Jastroch wrote:I don't like using the word discovery, though I know what you mean.


Is there a better, more active word than discovery -- one that implies active participation in the scene -- that doesn't have the bad connotations of invention? Creation?


Awareness and Investment? You see, hear, feel what is going on. Then you heighten and explore it.

I once tried running three line scenes with a group. I told them not to worry about forcing out the "who what where" and just let them go. This led to them making stronger statements from emotion and character. I was surprised how many of these 3 line scenes set up dynamics that could have been played throughout an entire scene.

"She's upset because you're a fuck up"
You love each other in disgusting ways. etc.

You have to make a choice at the top of the scene. Just acknowledge what you did and what your partner did. Then ask "what next"
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Postby Spots » March 1st, 2011, 1:53 pm

Jastroch wrote:I don't like using the word discovery.... the bad connotations of invention...


I understand why invention and discovery are 4 letter words, but they don't have to be. Break it down like this:

"contrived discovery" vs. "inspired discovery" || "contrived invention" vs. "inspired invention"

In my opinion, inventors don't pull ideas out of thin air. Not completely out of context anyway. They are absorbing their ideas from social consciousness. Take the case of photography, where a long line of happy accidents led us to the eventual discovery of silver halide. That certainly wasn't in spite of circumstances, but rather due to the effort of group mind over the years. One person didn't invent photography, a whole bunch of folks collaborated unknowingly.
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Postby Marc Majcher » March 1st, 2011, 2:09 pm

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:To discover, you still have to explore.

I just wanted to say that out loud again.
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Postby Jastroch » March 1st, 2011, 2:11 pm

Maybe we can replace the word discovery with exploration. A discovery is something that happens. Exploration is something you do.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 1st, 2011, 2:33 pm

Jastroch wrote:Maybe we can replace the word discovery with exploration. A discovery is something that happens. Exploration is something you do.


it seems a false distinction to me...they're wrapped up in one another. but i do think i see what you're driving at, at least in terms of education...wanting to highlight the journey and the process rather than the notion of an end goal or product, yes?
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Postby Spots » March 1st, 2011, 2:39 pm

I'm lost :(
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 1st, 2011, 3:02 pm

Spots wrote:I'm lost :(


best time to explore. ;)
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