Bill Binder - Yesand (2 of 6)

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Bill Binder - Yesand (2 of 6)

Postby tacotrombone » March 18th, 2013, 12:16 pm

Original question for reference:
"I loved your Yesand workshop.
Can you please remind me the different levels of Yesand?

There are six class levels/sessions in most improv theaters.
1. Wouldn't it be cool if your levels of Yesand were taught at each one?

2. I haven't solidified it yet, but I also think there are different levels of listening that could also be taught in tandem with your different levels of Yesanding.
Examples of different levels of listening:
- first, just the words. Common exercises are to restart the scene and play your scene partners character. Also, having other folks replay the scene they just watched.
- then, listening with your body. Mirroring physicality etc.
- But now, I am reading a bunch of interviews with "the legends" who all talk about full body/emotional listening. If you watch Dave Pasquesi listen to someone, it's like he is trying to listen to them naked.
Trying to work on this myself lately.

Example of what I am getting at:
8 clasess
Class 1 of each session: new level of Yesand
Class 2 of each session: new level of Listening
Classes 3-8 of each session: the curriculum for that level"

Bill's reply
"Hi Joshua,

Sorry for the delay.

As to yes and. I think there are levels for sure that grow with you. I don't think it's necessarily a small series of big steps however. There are many small steps in yes and (with a couple of larger paradigm shifts)

I think a few of the big ways to yes and are

1. Listening to words (weakest kind of yes and)
2. Listening to subtext
3. Being aware of the context; the body language, environment
4. Supporting the emotional state of the scene
5. Listening to the actor above the character

I think all five of those can be happening at the same time, but they are usually learned in roughly that order. You could proably switch around 3 and 4.

You could definitely put a focus on one of those in different levels as the performer grows. But just as importantly, I believe, are the smaller steps.

What I mean is that we usually learn yes and in a vacuum. The only tools we have as improvisers are words on our first day, so that's what we're taught to yes and. I think that's fine, but yes and should be part of every class. Let's say Level I, class 5 (as a random example) is about object work. In level I, they probably haven't dealt too much with exploring the depth of their character. At that point object work is a very simple tool to help communicate environment.

So during object work ask, how do we "yes and" the object work. It's not too terribly complicated; don't walk through things, if someone swings a knife, allow yourself to step back cautiously. We teach these things already, but if we frame them in the context of "yes and", suddenly the thread of support through all work becomes easier to see.

An object - in this example - is very much like a word. Nothing too in depth, but we can yes and it the same way. Those students aren't really using the deeper skills of acting quite yet, but they know how to support

The first big step comes as the students begin to discover they can be emotionally connected with their characters; when choices on stage aren't invented for laughs, but discovered through their character, when they surprise themselves onstage letting their characters have real motivations and wants.

It's a big step, and it's important again to ask "how do we yes and this". People are complicated and so are good characters. When are scene partners are beginning to really be immersed in their characters, they'll be making gifts that aren't words or objects. They'll be in their body language, in the things not said, in the tone of their voice.

In the levels of class focusing on character work, be mindful of listening to those things above the words and yes anding them. Don't just mention this idea, point it out. Call out moments in a scene where a character is clearly going through something and their scene partner is missing it because they are focused on the words. Ask questions like "what does she really want?" or "why is she telling this to you?"

A good rule of thumb for me is to play just a bit paranoid in exercises like that. If someone tells me something, they probably have a reason. Why are they saying it now? Why are they saying it to me?
In real life we've all been afraid to say something, so we hope people pick up on it through what we do say. Listen like that and support those choices.

The final step is when the students are comfortable with their characters enough to let their characters fail. Sometimes we play tragic characters who will fail, or make naive choices even if we as actors know those choices will lead to a bad end. It's totally OK for our characters to not get what the want. They can fail. That's part of drama.

We need to yes and at this level as advanced students. Listening to what our scene partners - not their characters - want for the growth of their characters. I wrote something on this here ... t-have-to/

I think when we listen to the actor, we have permission to say "no" to the character.

I hope that's helpful."
"Music throws you back into your body like organic food or heroine." -- William Matthews

"The consequence of joy is a good show." -- Susan Messing
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Re: Bill Binder - Yesand (2 of 6)

Postby Spots » March 18th, 2013, 2:16 pm

When we say "Finding the Game" for me that essentially translates to:

"having a focused awareness of our scene partner's intent"

That's why group scenes become increasingly harder to play the more people are onstage. But if 4 people are onstage and all of us have our tendrils out listening for each other's intent, there is an infinite amount of listening we can do as we grow as improvisers. Our game becomes tighter and tighter and tighter. We can contradict each other in the literal sense while listening very very intently and acting very much in tandem.

We front our words. We front our emotions. We front our intent. But we listen & include each other in this process of fronting. That's what we mean by game. Our partners follow us every step of the way.

We can never listen enough.
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Re: Bill Binder - Yesand (2 of 6)

Postby bradisntclever » March 18th, 2013, 4:56 pm

Spots wrote:When we say "Finding the Game" for me that essentially translates to: "having a focused awareness of our scene partner's intent."

This feels like an incomplete thought to me. Yes, listening is by far one of the most important skills an improviser uses on stage. It's a given that for scenes to go well on a regular basis, you need to be listening to your scene partner (even if your character is choosing to ignore your scene partner's character). I do think most improvisers don't listen enough.

However, just focusing on the intent of your scene partner seems to put an unfair burden on her/him to discover what's funny, especially if your scene partner is out there without any real intent. If your scene partner initiates a scene with some clear premise, by all means, yield to her/him and try to support the idea until you can figure out how to help build upon the scene together.

Additionally, if two improvisers entered into a scene with their sole focus being on supporting the other player's intent, the scene would most likely drag on for far too long before anything happened.

Often in scenes, one person's idea of what should be funny is not what actually winds up being the funniest thing about the scene. You can't really force a game to happen. As Bill suggests, an improviser needs to be able to listen to several different sources all at once within a scene. If your radar detects something humorous about the environment or something you said by accident, or a weird shift in your partner's posture, maybe those things are the actual source of the game. It's important to be aware of your scene partner's intent, but it's still one factor among many others. Focus too hard on one thing and you'll miss out on the rest.
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Re: Bill Binder - Yesand (2 of 6)

Postby Spots » March 18th, 2013, 5:09 pm

A player can definitely find the game when his partner is offering nothing. By steamrolling the scene or by simply laying out a road map to his partner (ie: Armando initations).

But this is also done as a result of listening and gauging his partner's intent. "His intent is that there is no intent. OK I will lead us." Tomato, tomato.

I think by now we should acknowledge that you and I have totally different playing styles. Hence why we always seem to have left brain - right brain differing definitions and conflicts while using rhetoric. It seems a bit semantic.
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Re: Bill Binder - Yesand (2 of 6)

Postby PyroDan » March 19th, 2013, 7:22 am

Maybe it's just a "me" thing, but I find that if I focus on the emotional content of an initiation, I open up and become way more attentive to everything else. Humans use language to lie. I would wager a bet that dogs don't fib at all.

The subtext is always emotional and is usually the scene, the words are the flourish. Dialogue is the frosting on the cake of a scene.

Maybe it is countless roomate scenes, transactions, or scenes starting with "hey/hi/hello/etc" that made me search for something else in the scene, but it helped to hone that instinct.

I no longer look for a game, I play the emotional angles until the game slaps me in the face and then communicate as a performer, through my character to aid the progression of a scene, without trying to wrestle it into what I believe it should be. I have really clung to the idea that any scene can be funny without trying to be funny, or finding the funny. It will come if you listen with more than your ear and do more than push air out of your lungs over vibrating vocal chords along your tongue and past your teeth.

A hard initiation is a different beast, because it is thought out to some extent, and sometimes (unless you are an amazing actor) the emotion is either lacking or contrived. The audience can often smell it like sharks and blood. It can shut them down if there is nothing genuine to it.
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