hard work

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hard work

Postby Lindsey with an E » June 10th, 2013, 8:22 pm

How do you work hard, really HARD, at improv? Just like anything else there are always things to learn and work on. But I've been feeling dissatisfied lately, and I finally pinned it down to the fact that I miss working my ass off like I've done in scripted shows (especially musicals - those things are so. much. work. and so. so. satisfying.). I want to sweat through my clothes. I want to not even notice that my ankle has swelled to the size of a baseball (that happened in a musical five years ago; unfortunately when it happened in Maestro the other night I was fully and completely aware*).

I'm taking Dave Buckman's workshop right now and he's definitely putting us through our paces, but that's only two hours a week. We do some challenging stuff in rehearsals but when it's just one day a week and sometimes five days before a show it's almost like it never happened. And that all works really well with my full-time work/part-time school schedule. But I'm not getting the thrill out of performing without the, the...personal sacrifice. Do I just need to accept that I'm not going to get those jollies for now while I can't put the time in? If I could still do my best performing without it it would be okay, but I don't feel like I do, and that lets down the folks I'm playing with.

What do YOU do to really get your adrenaline flowing for a show?

*This most recent time it wasn't the size of a baseball. But it hurt like it was.
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Re: hard work

Postby Roy Janik » June 10th, 2013, 8:49 pm

This sounds flip, but it is not, I assure you.

Doing the Marathon will be a HELL of a workout, and will be very, very good for your improv.
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Re: hard work

Postby Lindsey with an E » June 10th, 2013, 8:58 pm

Yeah, as I was typing this I was like, duh, marathon, dummy. But I went ahead with it because this is very much on my mind at the present moment.
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Re: hard work

Postby Lindsey with an E » June 11th, 2013, 8:39 am

But also, it's only one weekend. After that it's back to two or three hours a week.
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Re: hard work

Postby happywaffle » June 11th, 2013, 8:53 am

Hell, part of what I LIKE about improv is that the time commitment is a fraction of what scripted theater requires. Sure, you could start a troupe that rehearses for ten hours a week, but you'd probably drive each other crazy.

It's an interesting question. Improv surely feels like hard work, but it's not on the level of ditch-digging. I fill my improv-free time with… more improv: teaching 1-2 nights a week, going to jams, watching shows, and of course performing.
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Re: hard work

Postby Lindsey with an E » June 11th, 2013, 10:26 am

I'm not explaining myself adequately. I don't want to rehearse ten hours a week (the real comparison would be 15-20+). What I want is to be gasping for breath, high as a kite, and about to burst into tears at the end of every show. Okay, not every, I'm not that naive, but most. That can result from putting hours upon hours of work in, but it also comes from seemingly insurmountable challenges overcome, a huge output of physical energy, connecting with/moving an audience, and so on (I'd love to see what other people put on this list!).

That feeling is why I perform, and I almost never get it from improv, but I think it's possible to, and I want to talk to people who do. And play with them. And take classes from them.

I'm probably just in a funk because I'm too busy with other things to put as much as I'd like into it, and in the fall I'm going to look back at this and be really embarrassed.
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Re: hard work

Postby happywaffle » June 11th, 2013, 10:30 am

Makes sense. No need to feel embarrassed, but Roy's right, it's a certainty that the marathon will scratch that itch. :)

Reminds me of this post from Andrew just yesterday: http://yesandrew.com/2013/06/10/the-sad ... in-improv/

Good question. How do we feel exhilarated at the end of a show, assuming we don't execute the Perfect Improv Show every time? Is it an energy thing? Is it just a limitation of the art form?
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Re: hard work

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » June 11th, 2013, 10:40 am

I feel this way sometimes, too. I like the discipline of theatre, the hard work, the break down and build up, the intensity...the issue at hand, as I see it, is that our community has a mix of people with that attitude and then people who are just doing it to have some fun or blow off some steam, etc. and that's FINE! that's great, in fact. but it does present a separation in the approach to the work. the Marathon is fantastic for that, but you're right...it's a short term "fix." forming troupes with like minded people is good. tackling formats, either as a troupe or in a mainstage show, that involve more practice, rehearsal, and training than "two people come out onstage and talk" is great. on the smaller scale, give yourself little diagnostic challenges in shows you do (or find someone you trust to give them to you). go out and make bigger and more physical choices. commit to playing side support. decide to burst into song at least once per show for a month. anything that pushes your body and mind that little bit further, especially into uncomfortable territory.

and if all else fails and improv just ain't scratching that bug...go do a scripted show. then come back to improv to have some fun and blow off some steam. ;)
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Re: hard work

Postby Lindsey with an E » June 11th, 2013, 11:43 am

Thanks, guys!
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Re: hard work

Postby jillybee72 » June 16th, 2013, 4:02 pm

Play with your heart on the outside if you're in the mood to take some bumps.
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Re: hard work

Postby Spots » June 19th, 2013, 4:16 pm

Give yourself momentum. Fight for stagetime. When you are not playing, rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse.


It doesn't take an incredible time investment. Maybe 3-4 hours a week. 5-6 tops. It's your commitment to doing it *weekly* and as consistently as possible.


It has an accumulated effect when you do it more often and on a regular basis. You become tuned in, focused, connected. You lose any apprehension you have. If you played Thursday and Friday night... why on earth would playing on Saturday night feel like a big deal? You have momentum now and won't question the process. You will become more playful and natural. Find the momentum by finding ways to rehearse, play, or sit in on classes as many times in a week that you can. Think about your favorite players. Do they do something like this? Try to do it too. Do this regularly.

There's no magic "ON" button. It will take hard work. And momentum.
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Re: hard work

Postby Asaf » June 20th, 2013, 7:14 am

I think for many who work hard at their improv it's about doing lots of things that aren't improv that can influence their improv. People watching, reading plays, taking dance classes, studying movies, etc.
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Re: hard work

Postby Alex B » June 20th, 2013, 2:20 pm

Lindsey with an E wrote:I'm not explaining myself adequately. I don't want to rehearse ten hours a week (the real comparison would be 15-20+). What I want is to be gasping for breath, high as a kite, and about to burst into tears at the end of every show.


Yes, you should try to find improvisers who share that desire, and play with them and learn from them.

But I think the kind of hard work you're talking about (crying at the end) is related to the kind of hard work you're not talking about (lots of rehearsing). An emotionally-deep show doesn't just come from the improvisers deciding upfront to "play with their whole goddamned hearts" (whatever that means); it requires strong players that really connect. Strong players that really connect are built from the toil of rehearsing and long-term experience. (I'm not saying that's sufficient, but I think it's necessary.)

I think what you're after requires commitment to the long haul of mastery.
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Re: hard work

Postby mpbrockman » June 20th, 2013, 5:18 pm

Alex B wrote:I think what you're after requires commitment to the long haul of mastery.


+1 (and still working)
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Re: hard work

Postby ratliff » June 22nd, 2013, 9:42 am

Alex B wrote:
Lindsey with an E wrote:I'm not explaining myself adequately. I don't want to rehearse ten hours a week (the real comparison would be 15-20+). What I want is to be gasping for breath, high as a kite, and about to burst into tears at the end of every show.


Yes, you should try to find improvisers who share that desire, and play with them and learn from them.

But I think the kind of hard work you're talking about (crying at the end) is related to the kind of hard work you're not talking about (lots of rehearsing). An emotionally-deep show doesn't just come from the improvisers deciding upfront to "play with their whole goddamned hearts" (whatever that means); it requires strong players that really connect. Strong players that really connect are built from the toil of rehearsing and long-term experience. (I'm not saying that's sufficient, but I think it's necessary.)

I think what you're after requires commitment to the long haul of mastery.


I'm with Alex. Intensive rehearsal isn't the only way to build group mind, but it's the most straightforward and probably the fastest.

That said, different people have different ideas about rehearsal. I think because a lot of us fell into improv sideways, and because we're constantly told it's supposed to be fun (which it is), there's a tendency to be pretty slack about what constitutes a rehearsal. But a lot of it depends on you define "fun." For me, getting better at improv is more fun than not getting better at it, and getting better means doing things badly in order to learn how to do them well. It's not that every single second of it is fun, but falling down and getting back up repeatedly eventually leads to playing well, and playing well is fun.

When groups say "That was a great rehearsal," what they often mean is that they played a really good show, just without an audience. How is that a good rehearsal? What did you learn? Are you better than when you went in? For me, a good rehearsal is everyone really committing to developing our skills together, and there are a lot of ways to do that that don't involve playing a show. I don't have any objection to running one at the end of rehearsal to try to integrate new things we're learning, but I learn a lot more working on specific exercises than I do just playing. (To be clear, I'm talking about long-term groups that have been together awhile and are already out playing shows. Groups that for whatever reason haven't played together much -- ad hoc groups, new groups -- can usually benefit from doing so in rehearsal.) It's amazing to me how many people get bored or irritated with every part of a rehearsal that's not playing scenes.

I'm also a big advocate of exercises and drills that may never actually appear in your shows. The quickest way to destroy the value of an exercise is to question out loud what relevance it has to your shows and how it's going to look onstage. (This is one reason that teaching organic work is so dfficult.) Working hard on anything together will make you better improvisers. The exercise may not show up when you play, but the work will.

The idea of the process as an end in itself is something that can get lost in rehearsing for format-heavy shows. Because the director already has an idea of what's going to be in the show, working on anything else can feel like wasted time. And because those shows require a lot of work that's not strictly improv-related (mastering the technical demands of the format, learning what characters and plot patterns fit, and any other work that can be completed or prepared beforehand), there's often not that much time spent on rehearsing improv, because it's assumed that everyone already knows how to do that. So the idea of intense rehearsal for a show that's completely improvised can be a little baffling to people who've only been in shows with extensive formatting.

I realize this answer may have strayed from your original question. But I wanted to second the vote for rigorous rehearsal as a great way to commit to improv, get better at it, and yes, have fun (assuming you share my fairly expansive idea of fun). That feeling you describe comes from pushing yourself beyond your limits, but if everyone onstage is pushing in different directions it doesn't work. The more you rehearse, the more you're all pushing in the same direction, even if nobody knew that direction existed before the show started.
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