The Importance of Stage Time

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby Spots » June 6th, 2011, 10:45 am

B. Tribe wrote:I had the luxury of being in The Draft during Level 1 and then joining Achatina shortly thereafter. I was able to use what I had learned in class on stage almost immediately. I never got intimidated by the audience; lack of stage fright from years of doing theatre will do that.


Regarding the draft and other jams: I find I'm apprehensive the first time I step onstage in a particular week. But the second and third time - I have pushed through that apprehension. It may be a matter of momentum in other words. So these types of student shows are godsends for multiple reasons.


Not to mention... watching "star students" jump onstage night after night will serve to inspire & push you past your fears. The I want to do that mentality can be infinitely invaluable.

So watch a lot of shows, obviously. Gain momentum & tell yourself you can do it. It's not a super power, it's a skill!
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Postby Alex B » June 6th, 2011, 1:18 pm

Spots wrote:Alex B: Also, you should meet Alexandria Berry.


!!!

Thanks, Spots. That Shootaround was way fun.

That reminds me. Jams--where anyone can jump on stage and play--are IME great opportunities to get some stage experience.

Which I why I love the New Movement's Shootaround on Wednesdays and the ColdTowne jam on Sundays.
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Postby Spots » June 6th, 2011, 1:41 pm

Yes! Even when people break patterns and drunk people fly onto the stage with silly suggestions, students of improv are learning valuable lessons & finding new ways to navigate their scenes.


Many times that drunk person will take level 1 the next week. How cool is that??
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 6th, 2011, 2:04 pm

Spots wrote:Yes! Even when people break patterns and drunk people fly onto the stage with silly suggestions, students of improv are learning valuable lessons & finding new ways to navigate their scenes.


Many times that drunk person will take level 1 the next week. How cool is that??


as long as they're not drunk in the class... :P
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Postby jillybee72 » June 16th, 2011, 1:25 am

There's a jam I've been going to lately and the improv is SO BAD. Does anyone worry that such situations may create bad habits and the flight time might actually be damaging?
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Postby Spots » June 16th, 2011, 1:36 am

I'm a huge proponent of learning "what not to do."


When I helped out all my friends in film school I learned alot that way.
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Postby mpbrockman » June 16th, 2011, 2:09 am

jillybee72 wrote:There's a jam I've been going to lately and the improv is SO BAD. Does anyone worry that such situations may create bad habits and the flight time might actually be damaging?


Absolutely. I submit that bad practice is as bad or worse than no practice at all. Breaking bad habits is a helluva lot more difficult than forming new good ones.

Sorry to drag my musician analogies out again; but if you have say, poor armature, that becomes your default. So in any situation where you're trying a new piece of music or in a new situation, you tend to revert to it.

But then I freely admit to being, when it comes to music, a technician (or perhaps a better term is "craftsman") first and foremost. Get the foundation right and the rest comes. There's probably room for argument - but my experience has been that the people who argue the hardest against the importance of technique, theory and craftsmanship are those who have none.

Saying, "Man, I just play what I feel", is the mark of an amateur. Not that everyone doesn't have to start somewhere, but seriously - get a metronome.
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Postby B. Tribe » June 16th, 2011, 8:16 am

jillybee72 wrote:There's a jam I've been going to lately and the improv is SO BAD. Does anyone worry that such situations may create bad habits and the flight time might actually be damaging?


I did the Coldtowne Jam during my early levels. I would work on specific techniques. One week I'd do space/object work, another I'd do emotional reactions. Or, at least, I'd try to. Sometimes the show was such a mess I would just struggle to get through a scene, waiting for a mercy edit. Eventually I got tired of the hot mess and stopped attending.

The biggest problem is the lack of listening which leads to too many ideas at the same time. Everybody is trying to get their 'thing' in. A lot of group scenes with people who'd never done a group scene. I don't know if it made me a better improviser or not, but I don't think it gave me any bad habits. I suppose if it's your only form of stage time/rehearsal/practice a week it could be damaging, but classes should counteract that.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 16th, 2011, 9:54 am

it's tough, because i think it's great to encourage failure in beginning levels to shake people out of their self consciousness and in advanced levels to get people out of their comfort levels and habits...so it's tough to push that idea and then say "you're doing this wrong." at the same time, it's equally important not to reenforce bad habits (as Jill says), and it can make the jam less fun for other players (i've been in and seen plenty of scenes where one person clearly just feels abandoned or helpless to save it from their partner) which defeats the whole purpose.

not sure what the answer is between those two notions, though. should you give notes on a jam? let the more advanced players take the "lead" in scenes and games (considering the rash of improv prodigies i've witnessed lately who are brilliant right out of the gate, i don't know how great an idea that is. ;) )?

i've started LIGHTLY directing scenes from the outside in the Fancy Pants Mash Up after a few people complained about scenes they were in...just a little nudge if i see it going off the tracks too much. for instance, there was a scene a month or two ago that just started out instantly and extremely negative, the end of a relationship. so i asked them to jump back in time at different intervals so we got to see the relationship in reverse, culminating in their first happy meeting. since starting that, i've also had my direction ignored or outright denied from the stage a couple of times, at which point i sit back and let them continue with the scene THEIR way...typically to no laughter and little applause. maybe that's the key...you want to shake improvisors of their bad habits, give them dead air and golf claps. :P
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Postby mpbrockman » June 16th, 2011, 11:21 pm

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:...considering the rash of improv prodigies i've witnessed lately who are brilliant right out of the gate...


This is probably where my musician analogy breaks down. Rare indeed is the untrained musical prodigy who can just sit down at a piano and rip into a Beethoven sonata (or even, for that matter, the latest 4-chord Taylor Swift song). Even the most naturally musically gifted require a certain level of training.
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Postby Katherine » June 17th, 2011, 2:50 am

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:i've started LIGHTLY directing scenes from the outside in the Fancy Pants Mash Up after a few people complained about scenes they were in...just a little nudge if i see it going off the tracks too much. for instance, there was a scene a month or two ago that just started out instantly and extremely negative, the end of a relationship. so i asked them to jump back in time at different intervals so we got to see the relationship in reverse, culminating in their first happy meeting. since starting that, i've also had my direction ignored or outright denied from the stage a couple of times, at which point i sit back and let them continue with the scene THEIR way...typically to no laughter and little applause. maybe that's the key...you want to shake improvisors of their bad habits, give them dead air and golf claps. :P


I think I was in that Fancy Pants (geeky pants?) and I think I remember that feeling that several scenes were heading south for a lack of happy-healthy-sexy. I don't remember if you lightly directed anything I was in or not, but as a noobie, I'm always glad to get some direction.
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Postby PyroDan » June 17th, 2011, 7:29 am

When I was 5yrs old, my Dad put me up on a horse, handed me the rein telling me, "this way goes left, and this right. Pulling back will help to stop" and then he slapped the horse on the ass.

This was AFTER I had been run over and knocked unconscious by a stampede of horses in a corral. I learned how to ride, and have no fear of horse because of that.

I am a huge proponent of stage time for young pups, it has good and bad repercussions, but it hardens people like steel.

On the flip side, if you are a business owner, and comedy is your product, I can see why you might be hesitant to throw people out there for the sake of quality control.

Also in the jam atmosphere, people will only push themselves as far as the are willing.
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Postby Alex B » June 18th, 2011, 5:28 pm

jillybee72 wrote:There's a jam I've been going to lately and the improv is SO BAD. Does anyone worry that such situations may create bad habits and the flight time might actually be damaging?


Yes. I worry about this. Especially because my troupe hosts one of Austin's weekly jams.

If I've ever seen cataclysmically bad, disturbing improv, it's during a jam (although this was before my troupe hosted it so ha!). My worst experience was during a jam a while back that fell into this abyss of disturbing abuse and a total absence of laughter. The experience soulwounded me. I mean, to an extent I've moved on and can jam again and laugh, but to another important extent, some things are so evil that you never forget.
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