Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

Moderators: happywaffle, arclight, bradisntclever

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Spots » May 6th, 2013, 6:51 pm

PyroDan wrote:I believe, that "Chicago style" actually is closer to what the Harold did for improv, and not just the Harold. Meaning that, rather than a listing of shortform games, each group/show/etc is creating a performance piece. More akin to watching live theatre then seeing some people perform what was essentially acting exercises.



Riiiiight. So it's becoming more and more of an antiquated definition as new styles evolve and come into being. Practically everything in Austin fits into the "Chicago style" you just described. Yet we would all find stylistic differences which did not apply when the phrase "Chicago style" was coined.



Going off this, I find it interesting that so much of what Spolin Players did would not be considered Chicago style.
Image
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby PyroDan » May 7th, 2013, 6:21 am

I think that even the use of the term Chicago style really just denotes LONGFORM. Whose' Line did a tremendous amount of good pushing improvisation to the masses, but it also gave the unknowing public the definition of improvisation to the point that if you did any longform you had to describe it and the easiest way was Chicago style because truly that is where longform modern improv originated for American culture.

I doubt there will ever come a time the term (geographic region/city name)improv is used. There might be a vibe of where a group was cultivated, but as far as a defining characteristic, probably not.

I think the idea of community in Austin is what serves Austin improv best, rather than having A style. Austin does everything.
- I was a member of the club and i felt like a f*cking fool- Bukowski
http://biglittlecomedy.weebly.com/
http://www.newmovementtheater.com
http://www.pdogs.com
User avatar
PyroDan
 
Posts: 347
Joined: August 25th, 2009, 6:25 pm
Location: On Earth

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Roy Janik » May 7th, 2013, 11:35 am

I can't speak to anyone else, but I've always taken Chicago-style to mean (and when I say it I mean) improv that has its roots in the improv coming out of Chicago... and usually (unfairly to Second City and others), improv that has its roots in the Harold, Truth in Comedy, and/or Del Close. I've definitely never used it as shorthand for all longform, and when someone does around me it's one of the few things I'll actually take people to task for (reason number 50 why I try not to even use the terms shortform or longform anymore).

More commonly I'll say Annoyance-style, iO-style, UCB-style, etc... but that's only if the people I'm talking to have that context.

All labels are imperfect, I guess. I'll sometimes describe The Institution as Annoyance-style, for instance, but I've never even seen a show at The Annoyance, so who knows if that's fair. The Institution's improv is Institution-style, and Sarah Marie's improv is Sarah Marie-style (Thanks, Jill Bernard!).
Submit to the Free Fringe, Thursdays at 10pm. http://hideout.cc/freefringeform
User avatar
Roy Janik
 
Posts: 3850
Joined: August 14th, 2005, 11:06 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 7th, 2013, 11:43 am

IMPROV GANGNAM STYLE!

(...sorry, I have nothing useful to contribute anymore.)
Sweetness Prevails.

-the Reverend
User avatar
Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell
 
Posts: 4215
Joined: March 17th, 2006, 6:50 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby BriHo » May 7th, 2013, 5:20 pm

I really like that, Roy! Annoyance style and iO style wouldn't be distinguishable when Del Close was alive and kicking (so to speak)... almost all of the improv forms I learned at Coldtowne as Chicago style were actually in reality either one of the mad rituals of The Family (invocation, movie, la round, et al) or the equivilent of a Cagematch that got canonized ("Armando" being shorthand for Armando Diaz Experience) by pilgrims to improv Mecca... kind of like how the monoscene started becoming a thing here after someone saw Death by Ruu Ruu. Anyway, not to keep bringing up y'alls Improvised New York podcast, but when the Swarm (a Harold troupe) was performing The Movie, that form was developed at both Annoyance and iO, but is now thought by many to be a UCB form, or by outsiders "like a modified Harold"

That last paragraph basically tells me this is just the complicated mess that is non-narrative longform, which is why people do what people usually do: they make allusions and Proper Nouns to describe what is very difficult or complex for the sake of simplicity. This is normally most definitely a good, perhaps preferable, thing to go about doing, except that it tends to describe and include ONLY non-narrative longform. Narrative, as people in Chicago and New York see it, is either by definition bad improv (Ian Roberts likes to make a point of making a point of this*) or seperate from "Chicago style" or "longform" or however it is described based on location. In my opinion, this needs to change, and with time it will, I think. Otherwise, artificial boundaries get set up in the art of improvisation, or worse, hipster camps of internet and theater trolls.

Whatever, trolls or not, even the core UCB can only manage to seperate longform into precisely TWO forms: premise based (Armandos, Asssscats, Stool Pigeons both artivcles and interviews) and organic (Movie, Monoscene, Invocation, No Suggestion, Trainingwheels harold) and though both are very complex and have their own rules, they do NOT differ based on region. Rather, they shouldn't. Therefore, if we are to reject such labels, or even if its just me, I would then say "Austin style" would be defined as a diminutive "committed but linguistically and emotionally laid back improv", if I can borrow the sentiment, echoed to me personally at a workshop in LV, expressed to an Austin improviser taking an intensive in Chicago: "I really like your laid-back Texas style of improv!"




*As in, "If it was good, which I'm sure people aren't just lying when they say that, if its good you might as well just write a play, rather than 'improvised french revolution' unless, of course, you're writing a sketch or sketches from the improv, in which case I would say 'why not shortform, then?' If you're pidgeonholing a narrative arc or pigeonhole ANYTHING, what I typically find is, again, bad improv. That's the point of why we emphasize the Game and the Game alone, because that's what good improv WHATEVER IT IS OR WHAT YOU CALL IT, that's what good improv is using" -- [Modified Quote] Ian Roberts answering the narrative question at several DCMs, two podcasts, and my interview with him
BriHo
 
Posts: 119
Joined: January 27th, 2008, 4:32 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Spots » May 7th, 2013, 6:17 pm

Chicago style, longform, and narrative will never be satisfying descriptors for me.


Going off the style or product of individual theaters is best. But even THAT will fail as the theaters become more and more versatile.
Image
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby valetoile » May 7th, 2013, 7:28 pm

Maybe we need a Meyers-Briggs style description system. But I don't know. When I start thinking about the different dichotomous categories we might use (quick vs. patient, comedic vs. heartfelt, structured vs. loose, just as top of the head possibilities), I start thinking, well, where would my own troupe fall in those? And we're both, for every category, often within a single show. We'll have long patient heartfelt scenes, and quick gamey silly even blue scenes, all in a narrative, which has a certain amount of structure, but develops organically. But I think you could say a Pgraph show feels different than a Knuckleball Now show, which feels different than a Spirit Desire show, which feels different than a Glamping Trip show, which feels different than a Girls Girls Girls show. How would you slot all these folks together? Maybe we should go more with perfume or wine style descriptions. "That group tends to do shows with an earthy robustness and hints of mischief, layered with strong notes of absurdity and commitment."
Parallelogramophonographpargonohpomargolellarap: It's a palindrome!
User avatar
valetoile
 
Posts: 1421
Joined: August 15th, 2005, 1:31 am
Location: Austin

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby bradisntclever » May 7th, 2013, 8:23 pm

BriHo wrote:Even the core UCB can only manage to seperate longform into precisely TWO forms: premise based (Armandos, Asssscats, Stool Pigeons both artivcles and interviews) and organic (Movie, Monoscene, Invocation, No Suggestion, Trainingwheels harold) and though both are very complex and have their own rules, they do NOT differ based on region.


Not to go too far off-topic here, but it's very possible to have organic scenes in an Armando and premise-based scenes in a Harold (most UCB Harold teams use openings to generate premises for scenes and group games). You shouldn't try to classify entire formats in this process. I've seen improvisers initiate scenes with a full premise without any sort of a suggestion before.
User avatar
bradisntclever
Site Admin
 
Posts: 1747
Joined: February 27th, 2007, 2:25 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby BriHo » May 8th, 2013, 4:30 am

I'm using the parlance of UCB's upcoming book, and its how they use their terms. Assssscat's are premise based, which means the audience knows what it is based on, that they are latching onto ideas everyone has seen and heightening. Organic scenes are from scratch, just a suggestion if that, and necessitates the troupe working in its first year at least three times a week for rehearsal (something I feel would be an aberration here, rehearsing that often), but yes, I see how 'premise' as we'd define it is exactly as you say.

They also have a radical redefinition of game, and I think if you are open to listening to improv podcasts you'd see quickly what I am taking long in confusing the issue... if you don't mind: http://ucblongform.libsyn.com/rss >> The Achilles Episode (I took an intensive with him and it was mind blowing) is a good example, if only because they, if I recall, use several of their reworked definitions and, I think most demonstrative of how they believe things should go, as they try to show the "right way" to do the pattern game, something UCB takes more seriously than absolutely anyone here possibly can (going A to C is the point, and though I agree, I can't really apply that standard onto others like they can... anyway, for them, if you aren't low level and you do A to B (and even if you are low level, honestly, WTF?! Have fun retaking 201!). In other words, if I go 'Salt' pointing to you and you say 'Pepper' their philosophy is that you are offering absolutely nothing, three thumbs down, you epic fucking failed... needless to say, it would be wayyyyy past the point where I should condescend to yesand anything but calling your offering out... as an onstage coorelary, there's the oft-cited: "I am SO mad at you.... UNFORGIVEABLE" and partner responds, "Here, have an apple" so the goodnatured improviser thinks, "I must yes and" and so goes on to say, "Ok, thank you, I'm calm now." No, according to UCB, you just said "no but" to yourself, the correct response would be, "I see your fucking apple, how's that to make up for you getting us thrown out?" or whatever.

Sorry again for the length, but you pointed out something that in Austin would be accurate but would be, if not baffling, not right to those writing their curriculae, and since it IS the only curricullum that is accredited, perhaps there is something to it. Organic scenes can involve game, and so do relationship scenes, even scenes with a narrative arc. "If this is true, then what if" is their sketch-to-improv concepts to be used in conjunction with improv...

Keep in mind also that monoscenes, the form where everything either takes place in one place,* are organic shows (except when Roo Roo does their "worst thing ever" audience interviews, in which case, its premise based)... http://www.ucbcomedy.com/podcasts/ucbtny >> I think you can still go here and listen to my favorite Roo Roo, Gemberling, though the Besser interview goes into unboring things. I'll not mention which shows talk, way back in 2010, the financial and tax advantages to setting up theaters certain ways, but you should find most of these enlightening, though I know most people have heard all this stuff before.

*Not really, but when all improvisers are onstage, they are in same reality and same room, though there are split scenes and time dashes I've seen sometimes, including the infamous 9/11 show alluded to in Gemberling.
BriHo
 
Posts: 119
Joined: January 27th, 2008, 4:32 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby bradisntclever » May 8th, 2013, 10:55 am

Brian, I'm a current student at UCB. I'm in the Advanced Study programs after completing both the improv and sketch basic curriculum. Achilles was my 301 teacher and I agree, he's great - he's a game machine and a really talented writer.

Yes, they categorize longform improv as either premise-based or organic. I was just trying to explain that even in premise-based shows, it's quite possible to see scenes that lack a premise. You also miscategorized the "training wheels Harold" (I know some people in Chicago call it that, but they don't refer to it like that at UCB) as organic. The way they teach the Harold, which gets introduced with the Pattern Game (I do prefer the way Achilles describes the pattern game in that podcast - that's the way Besser teaches it), allows students to develop premises for scenes in the opening before first beats. Even though you start with a single suggestion, there's still an opening to develop premises, so it becomes premise-based longform. Many different types of openings are used on Harold Night to develop premises. I love the way some teams do the invocation up here, for instance. It looks radically different than the way I learned it at ColdTowne.

To further clarify, there's three types of scene initiations you can offer in premise-based scenework. I'll explain them through the lens of an Armando:
1) a premise - you found the core irony in a part of the story and turned it into a great idea for a scene (eg - an older authority figure who is a huge toy collector and won't let his kids play with anything). It's got a who, what and where you can easily fire off in one line for an initiation
2) a half idea - just pulling a character or concept directly from the monologue and hoping it will go somewhere. It's not fully cooked, but you can point to a funny idea from the monologue and find a way to build a scene around it.
3) chaff - one stray detail from the monologue. Besser went even farther in a lecture and called chaff initiating with the suggestion directly. My 201 teacher taught me chaff would be pulling something like "banana" if the monologist mentioned bananas in passing and starting a scene involving bananas. Sure, it came from a word in the monologue, but it's so far removed from whatever was funny or interesting about the monologue itself.

When you initiate with a premise, it's like using a shortcut to start your scene. You can start with a who/what/where and even a funny/unusual idea right away and start to explore everything with your scene partner. Think of it as a pitch for a scene - you haven't scripted the scene, but it's a fun idea that you get to explore with your scene partner right away. In scenes that lack a premise, you've got to spend time establishing who/what/where/etc. as well as more time discovering what the unusual thing about the scene is.

The goal is to aim for initiations with full premises the entire time, but you will see initiations that are half ideas and chaff pop up from time to time when improvisers exhaust their premise ideas. When you initiate with a half idea or chaff, you're not initiating with a full premise and game can be much harder to find. Just because a show is premise-based, does not mean every scene begins with an actual premise, if that makes sense. That's what I'm getting at.

Also, please understand that premise is not game. That's a huge mistake. Premise can often lead to game, but they are not one and the same. Game is a repeated pattern of unusual behavior. Another way I've heard it described: "The premise is the what of the scene, the game is the how of the scene."

As for the Roo Roo shows, the first half isn't a monoscene... It's more premise-based scenework derived from an interview with an audience member. It feels like a montage more than anything else. The second half is often a monoscene that develops organically from a single suggestion.

Rather than try to categorize entire longform formats as premise-based or organic, realize that any longform improv show with an opening has the potential for premise-based scenework.
User avatar
bradisntclever
Site Admin
 
Posts: 1747
Joined: February 27th, 2007, 2:25 am
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby nick » May 8th, 2013, 11:27 am

I've also gone through the UCB sketch and improv program, and I typed out a longer response, but Brad said pretty much everything I was going to say. I would add that from my experience, it's more often initiations that are classified as premise-based or organic, not shows or even scenes.

And their standards for students are also much lower than you're describing. Rarely does anyone get held back after 201, certainly not for being bad at the pattern game.

there's the oft-cited: "I am SO mad at you.... UNFORGIVEABLE" and partner responds, "Here, have an apple" so the goodnatured improviser thinks, "I must yes and" and so goes on to say, "Ok, thank you, I'm calm now." No, according to UCB, you just said "no but" to yourself, the correct response would be, "I see your fucking apple, how's that to make up for you getting us thrown out?" or whatever.


I don't think that's a UCB specific thing. Wouldn't most improv schools tell you not to change your emotion so quickly without a justification? Also, I think everyone I've worked with here would tell you that you should take the apple. You could eat it angrily, but if someone gives you an apple, you should probably take it.
nick
 
Posts: 188
Joined: June 29th, 2007, 3:16 pm

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby SarahMarie » May 8th, 2013, 11:36 am

poltergasm wrote:The Austin Style is "gorgeous." As in:

Out-of-towner: So, what's Austin's improv style?
Us: Gorgeous. Just gorgeous.


This. Love it.
Instructor - Improvisor - Pixie - General Manager
http://www.theinstitutiontheater.com/ --- http://sarahmariecurry.com/
User avatar
SarahMarie
 
Posts: 1152
Joined: February 24th, 2009, 12:02 pm
Location: Austin, Tx

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby Spots » May 8th, 2013, 6:37 pm

Without knowing the particulars of the UCB curriculum, I agree with "premise-based" vs. "organic" initiations.

Premise-based means that I'm stepping onstage and initiating, with the hopes that my scene partner sees what I'm setting them up for. Their antenna is up and scanning.

Organic is building a scene brick by brick. The initiator doesn't need to drive the scene.



I'm curious if the phrase "organic" is spoiled for newer generations of imps. After seeing a few Harolds where the "organic opening" was totally forced.
Image
User avatar
Spots
 
Posts: 1442
Joined: September 1st, 2009, 1:08 am
Location: New Orleans

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby PyroDan » May 9th, 2013, 3:56 am

You know, one thing not discussed in all this is the end means. In places like L.A. and Chicago as well as New York, many performers are using improv as a launching pad for something else. I think Austin has a purity in it, improv wise as this show is what I am working for, and not a nod from a casting director.
- I was a member of the club and i felt like a f*cking fool- Bukowski
http://biglittlecomedy.weebly.com/
http://www.newmovementtheater.com
http://www.pdogs.com
User avatar
PyroDan
 
Posts: 347
Joined: August 25th, 2009, 6:25 pm
Location: On Earth

Re: Is there an Austin style of improv yet?

Postby nrp » May 9th, 2013, 11:39 am

How do you guys define style? What makes up style?
nrp
 
Posts: 2
Joined: May 9th, 2013, 11:27 am

PreviousNext

Return to Improv Theory & Practice

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron