Imp Dislaimers: "headsup guys. silence is my style"

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Imp Dislaimers: "headsup guys. silence is my style"

Postby Spots » July 3rd, 2011, 3:15 pm

OK so this is interesting. I haven't come across this in the past but I sense that it comes up every once and a while.

I was out of town recently. I was watching a troupe warm up while waiting for a show. One of their members says, "Guys, just to let you know... I do a lot of silent work. That's kind of my style." (for a lottery style show)

Hmmmm. Silence?

I thoroughly encourage experimentation. I enjoy organic openings and silent build up. So I'm not going to slam his idea or style. The concept of using silence for comedic / dramatic effect is key, IMO.

But I watched the set and YES he included many silent characters. 3 damned near silent or all the way silent characters. These weren't even support characters. He was technically absurd for 2 scenes.

You might think "OK, so he's doing object work and relating to his troupe mates using movement and reactions." But from what I could see the performance looked like a freeze out. He smoked a cigarette in one scene. That's what I can recall at the moment. To his credit he's fairly new to this. He's a great guy. But he seems determined and hung up on this thing.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? I figure it's a typical actory type control issue. The guy doesn't realize how vital his side of the story is. His troupe depends on his gifts to help build the scene brick by brick.

I'm interested to see how this develops. For all I know his troupe mates love his silent work. Hell, his silence may turn into some incredible new format. Why the hell not??

But I can't help but think, "jeeeez that's terrifying to purposefully not have someone's back like that." I can't help but see the choice as denial.


Thoughts? Relate?
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Postby PyroDan » July 3rd, 2011, 7:34 pm

I can't comment on the performance, as I didn't see or participate in his "silence" to determine how it suited the piece...

However, I am a big fan of an economy in dialogue and language. As a improvisor or actor, your voice isn't your only tool, and many budding improvisors fall into invention through dialogue.

I have to say, I don't like the thought of "using silence" per say, I prefer to say, don't fear silent scenes. Purposefully cutting off all dialogue, even grunts is difficult in a group piece, and sometimes forces others into a river of dialogue.
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Postby mpbrockman » July 3rd, 2011, 8:00 pm

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Postby Spots » July 3rd, 2011, 11:28 pm

Curious about trust moreso than silence.
Last edited by Spots on July 4th, 2011, 8:07 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby jillybee72 » July 4th, 2011, 12:17 am

Robin Goodfellow is the same way. That fucker doesn't say a goddamned word. I feel so bad for Arthur Simone every time I see "Buddy Daddy." That four-legged prima donna.
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Postby Spots » July 4th, 2011, 1:03 am

Dan, "don't fear silent scenes" is excellent advice. That's coming from an even stronger place of trust.

This is getting at the sentiment I seem to be having problems conveying.
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Postby wiggies » July 4th, 2011, 9:39 am

Seems to me the issue you're describing is not so much about silence, but about engagement. I don't see a problem with a Silence Disclaimer, if it is backed up with commitment and engagement. As a stylistic choice, it would be a courtesy to the other improvisers to give them the heads-up, so they don't misapprehend the intention.

But what is a problem is if that choice is instead a screen behind which disengagement ("freeze out") is occurring. A more honest disclaimer in this case would be, "I'm deliberately not going to participate in any meaningful way with what you guys are doing, but will do my own thing, disconnected from yours. That's my style." And while that might, indeed, be innovative and fascinating to watch, it's probably not something I would want to play along with.
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Postby arthursimone » July 4th, 2011, 9:58 am

yeah, engagement is key, who wants to play with someone who isn't in the scene?

silence is a tool that gives real power to staging and nonverbal communication. It's not a suit of armor, it's an invitation to dance.
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Postby Spots » July 4th, 2011, 10:23 am

Engagement, yes. Perfect word choice. There was little of that.


I've heard of people dropping out of improv because they don't like to appear stupid. That's a lack of engagement too. Basically it's limiting your own spectrum, as well as your scene partner's.


That realization is magnificent too. The day you realize you can let go of your ego, have fun, and ultimately be rewarded for it.

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Re: Imp Dislaimers: "headsup guys. silence is my style&

Postby kaci_beeler » July 5th, 2011, 2:31 am

Spots wrote:But I can't help but think, "jeeeez that's terrifying to purposefully not have someone's back like that." I can't help but see the choice as denial.

Thoughts? Relate?


From what you're describing, it sounds like a pretty selfish move on this improviser's part. It's one thing to say, "Hey guys, I'd like us to incorporate more silent stuff into our show/set." or "My personal goal in this show is to try and incorporate more silent stuff." But to say, "I do this, it's my style (implied...deal with it)." seems rather presumptuous and unsportsmanlike. I don't even know if those are good words to describe how I feel about this kind of behavior, but to me it feels waaay counter-intuitive to group mind and working together as a unit to speak and act that way.

To me, a good improviser looks out for his fellow players, at times I think he should compromise his own favorite styles of playing in favor of a better experience for the group, especially in a "lottery" show situation, and especially if what he likes to do is at a disconnect with what is currently happening in the moment.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 5th, 2011, 9:12 am

silence is a tool...but from the sound of it, so is this guy.
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Re: Imp Dislaimers: "headsup guys. silence is my style&

Postby bradisntclever » July 5th, 2011, 9:43 am

kaci_beeler wrote:From what you're describing, it sounds like a pretty selfish move on this improviser's part. It's one thing to say, "Hey guys, I'd like us to incorporate more silent stuff into our show/set." or "My personal goal in this show is to try and incorporate more silent stuff." But to say, "I do this, it's my style (implied...deal with it)." seems rather presumptuous and unsportsmanlike. I don't even know if those are good words to describe how I feel about this kind of behavior, but to me it feels waaay counter-intuitive to group mind and working together as a unit to speak and act that way.

To me, a good improviser looks out for his fellow players, at times I think he should compromise his own favorite styles of playing in favor of a better experience for the group, especially in a "lottery" show situation, and especially if what he likes to do is at a disconnect with what is currently happening in the moment.


I agree 100% with the first paragraph and 150% with the second.
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Postby scook » July 8th, 2011, 12:03 pm

i agree with kaci.

if he's new, it sounds like he's afraid of saying something stupid or saying the "wrong" thing. if he doesn't talk, then he can't say the wrong thing, and every physical thing he's doing is justified by his partner's talking. therefore, he's doing everything correct! he just needs some encouragement that he has something to say and the only time you look stupid on stage is when you're trying not to look stupid.

also, if silence is something he digs, he'll become a much better silent improviser once he learns to talk. then he'll understand a lot more what he needs to communicate in a scene to his partner, what comes across to the audience, how best to play tone and style, etc. he can also better understand the power of silence. becoming a better overall communicator will make him a better physical communicator.
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Postby Spots » July 8th, 2011, 10:06 pm

Awesome, profound words Steph!




I'd say that's a fair assessment. I know I had a breakthrough when I gave myself permission to look stupid on stage. I think it's just a matter of time for some folks. But it's fun to learn about the different kinds of hang ups in case I ever wanted to coach or whatnot in the future.
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Postby sara farr » July 9th, 2011, 1:01 am

I say...
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CReDRHDYhk8[/youtube]
...and...
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JizFAhEpiEc[/youtube]
...not forgetting...
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GroDErHIM_0[/youtube]

And while Silence is Golden, a good musical score on top of your silent scene can make for great theater!
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