Believing

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Believing

Postby jillybee72 » April 8th, 2012, 12:03 pm

I was noticing after the show last night and thinking during drop in class last week about this:


If you really believe in the world you're creating, it's much easier. The more you believe in it, the easier it is to function within. I know how my character "should" act, and I know where things are in the room and how I feel about my scene partner if I believe in it all. Not in an intellectual way, in a gut way.

Do you notice this also?
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Postby ratliff » April 8th, 2012, 1:14 pm

I do, but I'm sorry to say I'm not very good at putting myself in this place. I can do it with relationships but not so much with physical spaces or abstract situations.

I had one moment when I was at iO where it seemed like suddenly everything in the scene was visible to me, just slightly out of focus like behind a scrim, and as I would say something it would sharpen and define itself. But I didn't have to invent anything because it was all already there.

I would really like to experience that again.
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Postby kbadr » April 8th, 2012, 1:50 pm

This is the main reason I sometimes do unnecessarily-obsessive levels of space work. It grounds me, at the very least, in the reality of the objects I am interacting with.

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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 8th, 2012, 4:54 pm

i absolutely do, though there's a strange disconnect between my gut/heart and my brain. i absolutely BELIEVE in what's going on, but my head is still overanalyzing and rationalizing and saying "this isn't real. you're a person on a stage. you're a grown man playing make believe. when are you going to grow up and get a real job? what are you talking into right now? that's not a real telephone." etc. so my biggest challenge is making my heart louder than my brain (oddly, it seems to be the opposite in real life. ;) ).

there's a great Neil Gaiman quote from Sandman i try to focus on: "You shouldn't trust the storyteller. Only trust the story." which in this context says to me "trust what's happening right now more than you trust yourself."
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Postby jillybee72 » April 8th, 2012, 6:16 pm

Well, yes, you are always the puppet and the puppeteer at all times. Most people throw a little too much energy to the puppeteer and don't spend enough time in the puppet. I rarely meet people who are too much puppet. They probably couldn't find their way to class.
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Postby Katherine » April 9th, 2012, 12:35 am

[quote="Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell"]i absolutely do, though there's a strange disconnect between my gut/heart and my brain. i absolutely BELIEVE in what's going on, but my head is still overanalyzing and rationalizing and saying "this isn't real. you're a person on a stage. you're a grown man playing make believe. when are you going to grow up and get a real job? what are you talking into right now? that's not a real telephone." etc. so my biggest challenge is making my heart louder than my brain (oddly, it seems to be the opposite in real life. ;) ).

there's a great Neil Gaiman quote from Sandman i try to focus on: "You shouldn't trust the storyteller. Only trust the story." which in this context says to me "trust what's happening right now more than you trust yourself."[/quote]


Yes! What a good quote. And it seems like maybe your heart and head are fighting over the reality of two different things. The mind scoffs at you acting out some event that doesn't actually occur with objects that don't actually exist. The heart understands that your are trying to create a realistic illustration of human experiences and emotions and relationships, not necessarily a realistic illustration of a series of events.

The quote reminds me of my very favorite book. Yann Martel's Life of Pi is full of stories (true, exagggerated, utterly false), and it looks at why we tell them and how important they are to our survival in an often brutal, unfathomable world. I am an inexperienced improvisor, but I think the question, "What reality are we trying to represent when we tell stories?" Seems to be at the heart of strong narrative improv. Life of Pi suggests that stories have value in "the real world" of hard facts and figures because they help us deal with reality and they help us reach emotional truths and human truths that exist untarnished whether we encounter them in "the real world" of our lives or in the "make-believe world" of an improvised performance.

In my limited time in improv it has helped me to remember that the "truth" of a scene lies closer to matters of the heart than to matters of the head, and THAT idea, at times, has helped me to turm off the "what the Hell are you doing?!" voice in my head.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » April 9th, 2012, 8:07 am

I have heard people speak of this in acting many times... I have never really understood the question. Like, do I believe that I'm (for example) an Arctic explorer on the deck of an icebreaker, rather than Brad Hawkins from Cedar Rapids, Iowa? No, that never happens. How can it? I would be very worried if it did. I'd call that mental illness. I'm a guy pretending to be an Arctic ship captain, and always will be. My job, as I see it, is to pretend the best that I can.

I may use the word "belief" much more restrictively than most. I sense that when I hear my religious friends speaking of "choosing" to believe what they did. I know I sense it when I hear of people converting from one religion to another (consciously changing to a different set of beliefs). I don't understand how that can happen. So maybe belief means something different to others.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 9th, 2012, 10:15 am

Katherine wrote:Yes! What a good quote. And it seems like maybe your heart and head are fighting over the reality of two different things. The mind scoffs at you acting out some event that doesn't actually occur with objects that don't actually exist. The heart understands that your are trying to create a realistic illustration of human experiences and emotions and relationships, not necessarily a realistic illustration of a series of events.


exactly. i find it works best when i can embrace the paradox (i find most things in my life work best when i can do this), and i can let my mind go to less of a literal place where things have to be exactly as i perceive them ("A is A, 2+2=4") into more of a quantum mode where multiple "realities" can be true at once ("I am Jordan onstage/I am Jack in a doctor's office/I am electrically charged meat and water/I am God experiencing Himself subjectively").

Katherine wrote:The quote reminds me of my very favorite book. Yann Martel's Life of Pi is full of stories (true, exagggerated, utterly false), and it looks at why we tell them and how important they are to our survival in an often brutal, unfathomable world. I am an inexperienced improvisor, but I think the question, "What reality are we trying to represent when we tell stories?" Seems to be at the heart of strong narrative improv. Life of Pi suggests that stories have value in "the real world" of hard facts and figures because they help us deal with reality and they help us reach emotional truths and human truths that exist untarnished whether we encounter them in "the real world" of our lives or in the "make-believe world" of an improvised performance.


i like that a lot. there's another great Gaiman essay along those lines, where he talks about how people try to say stories don't matter. yet our wars, our maps, our religions, our philosophies, our ideologies, our national identities, our families, even our economic systems are all defined by stories, whether those stories are true or not (and most seem to be defined by the argument over whether they're true or not). and another great quote from Sandman along those lines: "Things need not have happened to be true." :)

Brad Hawkins wrote:I have heard people speak of this in acting many times... I have never really understood the question. Like, do I believe that I'm (for example) an Arctic explorer on the deck of an icebreaker, rather than Brad Hawkins from Cedar Rapids, Iowa? No, that never happens. How can it? I would be very worried if it did. I'd call that mental illness. I'm a guy pretending to be an Arctic ship captain, and always will be. My job, as I see it, is to pretend the best that I can.


well, yes, of course...we're all mad in the acting profession. why else would we ever choose to try and do THIS for a living? ;)

Jill talks about the puppet and the puppeteer above. in acting and improv, i started in college viewing any character i play as a fiction suit. it's something i can slip into and out of with relative ease (sometimes it can get a bit stuck, lol). when i'm not in it, i'm Jordan. when i am, i'm this other person too with a different history and personality and tastes and passions and secrets. the wonderful and terrifying challenge with improv is that i'm having to sew the damn thing while i'm wearing it. :P

what's the Batman line? "Of course we're crazy. We've always been crazy. We HAVE to be crazy." i've always liked that. 8)
Last edited by Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell on April 9th, 2012, 10:18 am, edited 2 times in total.
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"Belief"

Postby Ryan Hill » April 9th, 2012, 10:16 am

The word "believe" is kind of interesting, yeah. Choosing a belief has never made sense to me either.

I prefer to say I "feel" it. When I'm on stage and I'm really into a character or situation I can feel that situation as a created reality. There's a part of my mind (thoughts, feelings, etc.) that is engaged with that reality. Of course I know it's not really happening, but I am attempting to get as close as possible to really living in that moment and reacting as if I am actually there.

Sometimes it does get a little weird and I have moments of confusion, and that's kind of a success. For example, romantic or intimate moments on stage with someone that you have a little attraction to. My body has a difficult time telling the difference and I can use that in trying to trick my mind into believing it's in this other situation and is this other person.

I sometimes have this really odd experience after doing several hours of improv rehearsal, class or performance. I'll be having a real conversation with a friend and it will FEEL like improv. I feel like I'm in a scene. I know I'm not, but it feels like it.

Humans have a "what if" part of our brains. It has apparently helped us to survive by considering other possibilities and working through them without actually having to experience them. I think this is the part of our brains we're exercising and using in improv. On stage I'm trying to crank the "what if" engine up to full speed. I know I'm not an Arctic Explorer, but if I was...this is what it might be like.

The cool thing about our brains and what I think might make acting and improv possible is that the "what if engine," once you turn it on, can run by itself to a degree. You kind of have to keep spinning it up, but for me it's there. Sometimes I get it running better than others.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 9th, 2012, 10:19 am

oooh, "what if engine." i like that. i like that a lot. :)
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Postby Katie T. » April 9th, 2012, 12:37 pm

I think a lot of times I am a puppet without a puppeteer and it can be difficult to improvise with me.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 9th, 2012, 1:51 pm

Katie T. wrote:I think a lot of times I am a puppet without a puppeteer and it can be difficult to improvise with me.


i've had nothing but delightful experiences improvising with you!
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Postby Katie T. » April 9th, 2012, 2:25 pm

Oh, that's wonderful. Yea!
Well, certainly I'm having fun and I want people to have fun with me. But, I have never-you know after a show when people are like, I wanted this to happen, or that to happen? I've never wanted anything to happen. So there have been a lot of shows where I've feared I was frustrating plot developers. I mean, I'm listening and I'll go where you're saying, but I'm not trying to get to another point myself. I think my strength is not for story, but for color? These things are probably not entirely true, hunh? I must have an intuitive sense of how a story goes even though I don't keep an eye on story points like rising action and turning points and acts. I also don't notice the lights bump for wrapping the show up. I'm not such a dingbat that I don't notice other people looking nervous or trying to wrap it up. But, I have gotten so lost in character that later I'll think, I hope that was not frustrating for my scene partners. I don't feel that way as much now, but about a year and a half ago I nearly quit improv for feeling like, ughhh! I can't do this. A lot of that fear was thinking that other people knew what should happen better than I did. I don't think I've said anything here. I've said I get lost and don't give thought to directing myself, but apparently I do, because I am conscious of people around me. What do I do? I don't know even if I apply myself to think about what I do. That's how I improvise.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » April 9th, 2012, 3:25 pm

Katie T. wrote:Oh, that's wonderful. Yea!
Well, certainly I'm having fun and I want people to have fun with me. But, I have never-you know after a show when people are like, I wanted this to happen, or that to happen? I've never wanted anything to happen. So there have been a lot of shows where I've feared I was frustrating plot developers. I mean, I'm listening and I'll go where you're saying, but I'm not trying to get to another point myself. I think my strength is not for story, but for color? These things are probably not entirely true, hunh? I must have an intuitive sense of how a story goes even though I don't keep an eye on story points like rising action and turning points and acts. I also don't notice the lights bump for wrapping the show up. I'm not such a dingbat that I don't notice other people looking nervous or trying to wrap it up. But, I have gotten so lost in character that later I'll think, I hope that was not frustrating for my scene partners. I don't feel that way as much now, but about a year and a half ago I nearly quit improv for feeling like, ughhh! I can't do this. A lot of that fear was thinking that other people knew what should happen better than I did. I don't think I've said anything here. I've said I get lost and don't give thought to directing myself, but apparently I do, because I am conscious of people around me. What do I do? I don't know even if I apply myself to think about what I do. That's how I improvise.


i'd say you being in the moment and letting things develop on their own rather than imposing some personal plot decision puts you in a better prov camp. frankly, i find that far more interesting. my brain will start mapping out a whole story from the first few scenes and when i first started out in improv i would do anything in my power to impose that form on the show or rein in anything that was outside that box to make it all make sense. now, i find it much more interesting and exhilirating when that map forms in my brain (it will of its own accord, i can't stop it) and say "well, that's nice. that's obviously where the story would normally go. what else is out there?" and follow any strange new direction or detour that's offered. and the scenes and moments and stories that rise out of character and relationship become the most compelling. so don't frustrate yourself...i think you're probably "believing" the moment a lot more than the plotters. ;)
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Postby Ryan Austin » April 9th, 2012, 3:26 pm

Katie T. wrote:Oh, that's wonderful. Yea!
Well, certainly I'm having fun and I want people to have fun with me...


I agree with Jordan, you are a very pleasant person to play with. Honest. I also agree that your strength is both in coloring the world and characters while not worrying about plot and letting your intuition handle that (and your intuition is very good, by the way).

I know we had a scene together in the last Professor show that neither of us felt right about. You, because you felt your character was hard to play off of, and Me, because I felt pressured to move the plot along and was unsure what I needed to do in that scene. I really wish I would have let go of that thought of moving the plot and instead tried to explore your character and the world. And though your character was difficult to converse with, that was part of who your character was and it was HILARIOUS. If I had relaxed and dismissed plot, I think we would have had a really killer scene that we both felt good about.

Hopefully that shoos away the feeling you're having. My forcing the plot forward made us feel icky about the scene so please don't feel like you're hard to play with. Your character choice was strong, and that's always great to play off of (look at Treebeard in Lord of the Rings. Difficult to talk to but so good. Nothing wrong with those characters) I've felt great every time I've played with you during rehearsals and the show. I certainly don't see you being difficult to play with.

Hope this helps!
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