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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 6th, 2012, 4:47 pm

having seen Roy play aplenty and loving what he does, i think there's a wonderful elegance to the kind of winking meta he's talking about in narrative. i think there's a difference between commenting on tropes or saying something matter of fact about the reality you're in that comes across very knowing and meta, as opposed to breaking the reality to say "we're doing a SHOW!" look at Galaxy Quest. or ANYTHING by Joss Whedon.

those moments that blur the line, where the audience isn't entirely sure "was that the character saying that within the show, or the performer commenting on the show from the outside?" are wonderful because they call attention to the two shows without breaking one in favor of the other.
Sweetness Prevails.

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Postby Spots » March 6th, 2012, 4:49 pm

trabka wrote:
Roy Janik wrote:One of the things that clarified it for me was this post I reference ALL THE TIME by Bill Arnett on the two shows concept:

http://billarnett.com/wordpress/?p=40

This is an concept I've been trying to express since last summer I haven't been able to verbalize myself. Wonderful stuff.



That's the game I call "fuckin' it up." I'm totally against it. But after reading the article I'm convinced there's a percentage of improvisers who would enjoy playing with me more if I played along every once and a while. Maybe I'll leave the camera at home this Friday.
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Postby Alex B » March 6th, 2012, 4:58 pm

I feel similarly about going meta as I feel about pop cultural references: when done with intelligence and honesty and sincerity and coming from a place of joy in the moment, it can be great. However, when not coming from the right place--and also when relied on excessively--it can be a majorly lazy move that makes me want to punch myself in the face.

I've seen meta done poorly more often than I've seen it done well. I've also seen meta moves that were brilliant, but rarely.

So, that's no argument for not going meta; it's a call for caution.
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Postby Deano » March 6th, 2012, 6:13 pm

Ha. Yeah, I should've added "except when Roy Janik goes meta". You have it down to a science where I don't even notice it anymore! And your style is always so jovial too it's not annoying. I think it's when people are trying to be too clever that it bothers me. And yeah Jordan, it's WAY more tolerable in short form madness than in narrative.
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Postby jose » March 8th, 2012, 7:53 pm

This post by Peter Gwinn on the Improv Resource Center is one of my favorite things I've read on meta:

http://www.improvresourcecenter.com/mb/ ... stcount=34

The rest of the thread is fine and might lend some context, but it's also pretty great on its own.

(Also, just realized that it starts off with Gwinn mentioning that meta-theatricality in Harold. The rest of the post is pretty Harold-neutral other than mentioning a few specific Harold performances that he explains pretty well.)
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Postby valetoile » March 8th, 2012, 8:23 pm

I used to also try to do improv in a way that looked scripted and absolutely intentional. I would even feel miffed or put out when fellow players broke that fourth wall. But then when I learned about that "Two shows" concept that Roy mentioned, it opened my world so much and made so much sense.

Any time you get attached do the idea of the way a show "should" be, you are losing something. You're closing off possibilities. You can give yourself goals, limitations, structures, genres, or anything else as a way to push or shape the show, but in the moment, you have to believe, really believe, that whatever you're feeling and whatever is happening is absolutely right and the absolute best thing that could happen.

In improv, both shows are always present. You emphasize one more than the other, you can strive to make one nearly invisible, but they are both always there and cannot be ignored entirely.
Parallelogramophonographpargonohpomargolellarap: It's a palindrome!
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Hope It's not too late to chime in

Postby warren » March 11th, 2012, 6:45 pm

Great discussion, but I might point out that all these opinions are coming from improv experts, not from a typical audience member POV. Nevertheless, I think what everyone is talking about has been known down through theatrical history as one of a number of "conceits" used by writers AND improvisors to, what?, "clarify" a play or improv both intellectually and emotionally, but in a way that doesn't insult the audience's intelligence (like exposition and versimilitude) and which in fact binds the actor's work to them with a sense of shared experience and which further provides the truly delightful sensation of having used one's imagination. Improv has no scenery to speak of and is rarely performed on a picture frame stage which is usually some distance (physical and aesthetic) from the audience, so I don't think it can really be said that it has a fourth wall beyond that highly abstract one created by actors talking to each other. Also, most scripted "meta" (as this conceit is called here), or, as an example, the audience "aside", whether it is delivered in character or not, presumes that what is said will have no effect on the ensuing action because the other actors/characters don't hear it and will continue their historical narrative (i.e., that which took place in the PAST). But an improv audience knows that the actors must create something in the PRESENT based on what was just said, and it is that knowledge which I think reinforces and deepens the greater connection/emotional investment (someone said "focus") that audiences have with improv than they do with scripted work. Pirandello tried to do the same thing in his "6 Characters ...etc" (and other plays), but it didn't really work, such is the unescapability of audience fore-knowledge. "Our Town" was a little more successful, helped by its bare stage (with a ladder and some chairs) and "everyman" narrator (the Stage Manager).
So I say, the more "meta", the merrier!
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Postby jillybee72 » March 11th, 2012, 8:14 pm

It comes down to intention. Are you doing it as an artistic choice because it would be fun or lovely? Or are you doing it because you don't have the strength or courage to stay in the scene? The former I love, the latter I worry for.
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