Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

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Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby tacotrombone » May 2nd, 2013, 12:22 pm

There seems to be a Chicago style, NYC feel, and an LA approach.
However, can you tell an Austin improviser from another city now?

I asked this of Craig Cackowski when he was down two weeks ago to help workshop the JTS Brown show, and he said we are getting there.
He made this really cool observation that "all great improv really looks just like that--great improv. With bad improv, though, you can always tell where that person has trained or who they are trying to copy."

Playing with the 15 person cast in the JTS Brown show called Arkay has been pretty wild for me, because
a. we have folks who have trained all over town
and
b. the JTS Brown "form" is to not have a form, to discover the form that night.
So, we get to see what it looks like now for people from all over to come together and play. The differences in training start to fall apart and the show takes on its own look and feel.

Very interested to read your thoughts on the matter...

[Disclaimer: instead of commenting on how each school in Austin is different, maybe we can discuss the things we recognize in one another and like from other players in Austin]
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Roy Janik » May 2nd, 2013, 1:03 pm

The thing I see that most Austin improvisers have in common is an absolute willingness to play with forms for different projects.I think because there are so many influences and styles all flourishing here, we're super open to making a show or a troupe or a one-off experiment be exactly what it needs to be, versus dogmatically sticking to a narrative, or a harold, or a no-rules flowy structure.

Put even more egotistically, I think there's a tendency for Austin improvisers to be bad-ass cross-trainers, and that makes us open and flexible performers.

I don't know that that's unique to Austin, mind you. But it's something that springs to mind ABOUT Austin.

Also, out of curiosity, what's LA-Style? There's a ton happening there, but it doesn't seem very cohesive.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby trabka » May 2nd, 2013, 1:41 pm

A friend of mine who was in from out of town last year mentioned to me how much more comfortable Austin troupes seem to be with each other on stage, especially physically. I think that kind of reflects Roy's flexibility observation.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby tacotrombone » May 2nd, 2013, 2:34 pm

Adam, that's really interesting. The one thing that seems to tie together the folks in the JTS Brown show is physicality.
Now that I think of it, all my favorite shows/players in Austin are ones who end up in wild stage pictures because of this...
Maybe we figured it out!! : )

Roy: that is one heck of a yesand. Thanks man.
I have not seen a show in LA, so this is only from what I have heard:
Pros -- especially solid acting chops, even from the "funny guy" in each troupe; cross-pollination of actors/standups/writers/improvisers
Cons -- more of a tendency for those actors to want to be "the star" in each show; playing for agents/producers in the crowd
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby happywaffle » May 2nd, 2013, 2:55 pm

Our hallmark is almost certainly our cross-pollination and community-wide support. We blow away NYC/Chicago/LA in that department. It's so awesome to see things like JTS Brown that involve most or all of the five families.

But that's not our *improv*. I usually point to our mastery of narrative long-form and how relatively uncommon the Harold is (I really can't think, offhand, of the last time I saw a straight Harold). I might guess that our stuff is more theatrical than most places (see: giant "IMPROVISED THEATER" poster at the Hideout). But I'm really talkin' out my butt here. For all my time in the community I just don't know much about what-all goes on in other cities.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby trabka » May 2nd, 2013, 3:47 pm

If you're citing "narrative mastery" and "theatricality" as the hallmarks of Austin improv, you're ignoring at least half of the work that goes on in this town.

Any accurate description of a city-wide style (which I think we'd be hard pressed to come up with because of how diverse everyone's artistic goals are) is more than likely not going to reference any particular format, and be more based in the community atmosphere and what that leads to in our performances.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Roy Janik » May 2nd, 2013, 3:52 pm

trabka wrote:If you're citing "narrative mastery" and "theatricality" as the hallmarks of Austin improv, you're ignoring at least half of the work that goes on in this town.

Any accurate description of a city-wide style (which I think we'd be hard pressed to come up with) is more than likely not going to reference any particular format, and be more based in the community atmosphere and what that leads to in our performances.


Agreed completely.

It's not 'what unique things are happening in some parts of the Austin scene', it's "is there a style that encompasses all of Austin?" Maybe there's not, and never will be. I'm totally cool with that. Which is why the only meaningful answer I could think of was our versatility... the fact that we are doing wildly different things, and yet still often cross-pollinate and perform in different shows at different theaters.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby kbadr » May 2nd, 2013, 4:16 pm

tacotrombone wrote:There seems to be a Chicago style, NYC feel, and an LA approach.


Well, if you don't want to generalize Austin improv by stating that we're (on average) more open to narrative than most scenes because it neglects or ignores everything we do that isn't narrative...I guess the best we can do to fit in with the list above is that there's an "Austin vibe"

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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby SarahMarie » May 2nd, 2013, 4:41 pm

I think our style is all about the off-stage, more than the on-stage.

The AIC respects, celebrates and supports the differences in each other. We are nurturing to the individual objectives of each family and recognize that the success of one theater is the success of the collective and of the artform in Austin.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby ratliff » May 2nd, 2013, 4:46 pm

"Obsessed with format as a commodity instead of as a process."

Sorry, my neck really hurts and I'm cranky. But it does have the advantage of applying to every theater.

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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Jon Bolden » May 2nd, 2013, 7:18 pm

ratliff wrote:"Obsessed with format as a commodity instead of as a process."


I don't know if I understand this. Would you be willing to elaborate?
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Spots » May 2nd, 2013, 7:38 pm

Roy Janik wrote: there a style that encompasses all of Austin?" Maybe there's not, and never will be. I'm totally cool with that. Which is why the only meaningful answer I could think of was our versatility...



Big agreement here. Versatility. Flexibility in experimentation.


Comes from being open. Comes from being a small enough city.


LA style is definitely undefined. Sure there are stage hogs and actors. That's simply their social dynamic since the city lends itself to the stepping stone industry mentality. If Austin were a bajillion times bigger we would have that. The city is so small that a single person could easily visit each institution and try to have an effect on each community. In LA that wouldn't be possible. You'd have to devote your life to UCB and still you might never be known by a tenth of the people there.


Comparing the institutions in LA to the institutions in Austin is sort of silly. In LA they are literally institutions. They are machines whirring and buzzing, mindless of the others. In Austin it's still small enough for them all to keep in touch and even collaborate with each other.


Do I feel there's a mob mentality in Austin? Most certainly. I can say that because I no longer live there. But in Los Angeles its too big to have anything resembling a mob. Its a market place. There are good and bad with this.


But the closer Austin gets to an actual marketplace while still maintaining the community feel, the more there will be to celebrate.


Take that from an outsider and simply chew around on it. I'm not looking for popularity. I'm looking to make everyone shine. I love you guys & appreciate everyone's part in keeping Austin one of the coolest cities to do comedy.


But it's simply too small to compare to Chicago or LA for now. We need a marketplace first.


And the city is damn close. Open your arms to the market place. It's happening.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Chuy! » May 3rd, 2013, 1:24 am

Austin keeps it weird. 420!

The lack of tension between schools here has a lot to do with the lack of performers who have stayed here. It is a great "vibe". We should be happy with the fact that everyone (mostly) loves one another.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Jon Bolden » May 3rd, 2013, 1:44 am

Jon Bolden wrote:
ratliff wrote:"Obsessed with format as a commodity instead of as a process."


I don't know if I understand this. Would you be willing to elaborate?


Scratch that. We talked in person! Ratliff is wrong about everything all the time, it turns out.
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Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby ratliff » May 3rd, 2013, 6:42 am

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