hard work

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Re: hard work

Postby Spots » June 23rd, 2013, 3:08 pm

ratliff wrote:It's amazing to me how many people get bored or irritated with every part of a rehearsal that's not playing scenes.


My neurotic side has a thought about this. The higher you reach, the further you have to fall.


A rehearsal is an investment. Furthermore it's an investment towards a desire that could damage the ego. The desire to put yourself on display and be vulnerable? To meet expectations? This vulnerability is at odds with a person's sense of control.

So there's a perceived risk in rehearsal. In commitment.


I'd wager it's not uncommon that improvisers develop a fear of success because the more they put into the investment (rehearsal) -- the more they also put into the risk of failure.


Know anyone who says something like this?

"I'm only doing this for shits and giggles. I'm not all that serious about this thing but it's fun so I keep doing it." (because being serious means that I am vulnerable to expectations. other's or my own)


This is a safeguard.

When it comes to rehearsals the risk is clearly an illusion. Rehearsal is always MORE reward than risk. Because shows are the REAL risk. Rehearsals are a controlled environment. How could rehearsal be a bad thing? Is a rehearsal like gambling where you strike it rich on a hot streak and then cash in your chips? "No need to keep doing it because I struck gold that one time." That's the reasoning we follow when we rehearse only sporadically. We safeguard ourselves from failure with a simple illusion.

You had a good show once. OK. Do what you did (rehearse) to have another good show.

We all *know* that each rehearsal offers a new experience based on previous experiences. We grow little by little based on these experiences. Every time. Every time. Rehearsals encourage actual strength. But often enough-- a human's perception of fear won't allow them to latch onto this objective reasoning. And worse yet, the person's ego pushes to stay in the spotlight. "I'm good because... me."

The ego resents rehearsal because it reflects back our own fear that we aren't good by default. To stay sharp you gotta stay sharpening. This goes against our desire for universal acceptance and approval.

So you end up with a troupe of different commitment levels and often-- fear levels of success. You have to push through it with an "everyone all onboard" attitude. We ARE going to invest into this passion of ours. We will make ourselves vulnerable to failure. There's no safeguarding failure with a "too cool for school" attitude. Fuck that. That's weakness trying to disguise itself. That's insecurity.

You gotta have a troupe cheerleader and hopefully all have each other's backs (genuinely) to spot when someone develops a perceived risk that isn't living in an objective reality. To lift each other up. Above our insecurities as humans.


I say commit to the things you love. People who are "too cool for school" are the ones wearing billboards for their own insecurities. Push them past it.
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Re: hard work

Postby PyroDan » June 23rd, 2013, 8:44 pm

I agree with Ratliff.

My college troupe rehearsed 9hrs a week. We did so, because we were teaching ourselves, and had a continuous attrition every year.

We also challenged ourselves continuously working to hone our selves and performance. We did shortform and longform in almost all our shows and our shows were in the 2hr range most nights. We worked very hard at the craft of performance, not just improvisation. But we also spent a lot of time together, hanging out, seeing movies. As a troupe we spent a good 20hrs a week together, and not all of it was improv, but it helped define our improv and greatly increased our intuitive group mind. When we had shows, afterwords at a party/bar/or my house, we would often comment on when a move was made that 2-3 of us had the same inclination to do it.

Because rehearsal and shows was an escape for most of us from shit jobs and academic studies all the hours "working hard" didn't feel like we were working at all, instead we were energized from it, and that may be the same thing you feel to some extent.

If you want a hard workout creatively, improv/performance wise, then I would suggest doing all the things you feel unsure about, or that you believe you are awful at. If you can't sing, make your next move a song. Or accents, or character, or movement. Always do the things you feel are the worst in your wheel house and you will get the most out of it.

When I teach, especially if we are warming up, I do things that NO ONE in the group is comfortable with or likes, until they do. It takes them out of control and comfort and that's where we learn/grow. That's where the hard work lies.
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Re: hard work

Postby JediImprov » July 1st, 2013, 11:52 pm

Why? Why do you want it to push yourself so hard that your ankles swell? Why do you view that as necessary? I think there is, perhaps, a journey all its own by just diving into the why of your question(s). Why do you not feel as satisfied? If you're not, why not dive back into scripted work? Why improv? I just LOVE Jill Bernard on so many levels but probably the number one reason is the simplicity of her teachings. She wrote just a little and yet it could easily take any of us a lifetime to master what she wrote. Why do you need to work hard?

Although I think professional theatre training, degrees or any number of other polished skills can shape and package improv, does amazing magical organic improv find its life through such shaping/packaging? Does stupendous improv have to be hard? During the run of LNI and then later that year, the marathon, I'll never forget some comment Marc Majcher made about good improv being that moment when the filters come off. In my experience, that is less about "hard" and far more about surrender. I think the greatest challenge that improv throws down is its simplicity. What is it that your looking for beyond the tears at the end of the show? Who are you not as an actor, but as a human being doing improv when all your filters are not needed and you're simply doing a Maestro?

Why?

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Re: hard work

Postby ratliff » July 2nd, 2013, 12:19 am

JediImprov wrote:
Although I think professional theatre training, degrees or any number of other polished skills can shape and package improv, does amazing magical organic improv find its life through such shaping/packaging?


Yes. Yes it certainly does. Not packaging or shaping, but by working those muscles in rehearsal. If improv were just something everyone automagically knew how to do, there would be no need for improv schools or, for that matter, this forum.

Improv is an art form. If you're naturally gifted, you can coast for a while, but after a certain point you can only get better and find your voice by practicing with intent. You can also just fuck around and have fun forever, and more power to you, but at some point you'll stop getting better, at least at any meaningful rate. The better I get, the more fun I have. So I practice.

I agree with you completely that improv is about surrender. But it must be a lot easier for you than it is for me. As a friend of mine once said, "Surrender is not just going limp." I had to work hard for seven years to achieve even the minimal amount of agreement and surrender that my scene partners can currently count on. I'm not even remotely where I want to be, but it was absolutely worth it.
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Re: hard work

Postby PyroDan » July 2nd, 2013, 1:05 am

To further Ratlif's point a bit...

I've seen a ton of naturally talented people succeed quickly in classes/rehearsals/shows and then seen those with less natural talent surpass them, because those with less talent work harder and hone the craft. The majority of those with talent that don't work hard, and have some amount of ego often quit because they often feel surpassed by lesser talent, and it feels humiliating.

I continue to put in work, because I want to get better, and because I want to stay ahead of all those I was already ahead of as well as surpass those performers I admire. Not in a competition manner, but out of respect for the work and the art.
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Re: hard work

Postby jillybee72 » July 2nd, 2013, 1:11 am

HOLY CATS LINDSEY
Have you read "Improv For Everyone" by Greg Tavares?
I think you might really like it, although obvs I don't know you really.
http://www.amazon.com/Improv-For-Everyo ... r+everyone
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Re: hard work

Postby JediImprov » July 3rd, 2013, 12:58 am

ratliff wrote:
JediImprov wrote:
Although I think professional theatre training, degrees or any number of other polished skills can shape and package improv, does amazing magical organic improv find its life through such shaping/packaging?


Yes. Yes it certainly does. Not packaging or shaping, but by working those muscles in rehearsal. "

Lovely Mentor, you argue with yourself. I did not focus my commentary on practice nor dedication, I focused it on theatre craft. I always love it when someone that has no training and just brings utter honesty to the stage, rises above all other in terms of the audience reaction. Our schools of improv bang the drum over and over again, that state, its in your mistakes and doubling down on those imperfections, that the audience will find delight. And then with each other, we throw that out the window.

Yes, 100% agree, improv as at art form takes constant practice, much in the way an athlete practices, but shaping/polishing/packaging/suffering, I contend that is the polar opposite of the magic that is improv. Have I mastered surrender? HAH! Anyone who says that is a liar. But improv gently and brutally encourages me to do so and as I do so better and better each year, I grow and my Prov grows. The non art form that is an amazing art form, the rules that have no rules, the magic- the AMAZING magic that doesn't happen on a MainStage, thats where I find improv.
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Re: hard work

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 3rd, 2013, 2:49 pm

well, as someone with one such degree and training of that nature, it was certainly helpful for me. everyone has their own path and learning style, I suppose, and everyone's goals in improv are different...but for me, I get so much more out of throwing myself into projects, working myself to the point of exhaustion, breaking my body and mind with the work so that I can put myself back together again. I do this in practice so that onstage I can break through all of that and be as effortless and organic as possible. it's like running drills or conditioning work in athletics, swimming or running with weights, working against resistance in practice so that in performance you fly. that's how I get to the best magic myself. your mileage may vary.
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Re: hard work

Postby PyroDan » July 3rd, 2013, 5:25 pm

As someone who holds a degree in theatre and taught both theatre and improvisation I will say working on stage craft gives you an advantage. Not so much in the honest emotional depth required, or honing your perception which influences your work, but in performance prep. Akin to shooting free throws over and over.

Projection, blocking, holding for laughter, finding your light et al.

I have been backstage and witnessed great improv moments lost because of performers being turned upstage, too caught in a moment to open up and share with the audience or enunciate/project enough for the house to catch it. These skills are super important and often glazed over in improv class because we are working on breaking so many social strictures and anxieties to perform.

This stuff is important, I don't think anyone on here is arguing it is more important than following the feel and flow of a show, but after all we are talking about a show, and a communal experience with an audience. These things enhance your performance as much as reading or seeing other art and incorporating that.

Something as simple as traffic flow and props on/off in a sketch show requires attention. Knowing where the spot lights are positioned. Or how dampened the sound may be from a full house vs a thin house.

I would be willing to bet those improvisers you admire or learn from have a lot of this in mind when they do a show.
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Re: hard work

Postby ratliff » July 3rd, 2013, 5:51 pm

PyroDan wrote:These skills are super important and often glazed over in improv class because we are working on breaking so many social strictures and anxieties to perform.


Also because a lot of us aren't trained in them. I have no theater training and now I wish I did.
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Re: hard work

Postby PyroDan » July 5th, 2013, 3:03 pm

At one time I was going to do an Acting for Improvisers class and the focus would have been on these skills, but there is rarely enough people interested in doing this work to warrant a class. I think if I were to rework a syllabus again I would make a lvl 2 or 3 class 3 weeks longer and focus those 3 weeks on this type of stuff.
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Re: hard work

Postby Spots » July 5th, 2013, 3:25 pm

Machine A's got a workshop that's getting some good buzz. These are both theatrically trained improvisers, Cecile & Chris K, but what's interesting is that all the theatrical elements (using space, being effected, etc) are tied in heavily with the game. Rather seemlessly.


So you can do a theatric-leaning workshop and slip it right under all the comedy folks noses. Saw it done and it was one of the best workshops I'd ever seen. It helps to have a specialty format or troupe that people recognize this trait and want to try it too.
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Re: hard work

Postby Lindsey with an E » July 6th, 2013, 8:35 pm

Wow, I stopped getting emails when people replied and I thought the topic was dead when in fact I started a DISCUSSION! Woo!

And now it's moved on and I'm going to bring it back to the original topic.

I think this comes down to different personality types and learning styles. Uh, I'm not very savvy with the forum quoting and such, but Yes! Ratliff and Alex and Jordan and Roy. Jedi (Heiberg? Is that bad - you can stay anonymous if you want!), it's not that I want to be miserable, but I find satisfaction in trying and trying and wearing myself down until BOOM! For a long time I had this impression that trying doesn't work in improv, and I tried to not try, and that was making me miserable and sucking a lot of the fun out of it.

So anyway, I'm finding what I was looking for! Finding it in goal-setting before shows, and rehearsals with skill drills, and in that sweet workshop with Dave Buckman where he made me start like a thousand scenes in a row til I wanted to quit and storm out and then my mind-filter finally broke. For those of us who came into this later in life with lots of bad habits in place that can be a hard, hard breakthrough to make. And in the marathon, where I got to practice a lot and had fun for the first time in a while.

Thanks for the therapy sesh, y'all. Much love.
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Re: hard work

Postby Alex B » July 8th, 2013, 11:40 pm

Lindsey with an E wrote:For a long time I had this impression that trying doesn't work in improv, and I tried to not try, and that was making me miserable and sucking a lot of the fun out of it.

So anyway, I'm finding what I was looking for! Finding it in goal-setting before shows, and rehearsals with skill drills, and in that sweet workshop with Dave Buckman where he made me start like a thousand scenes in a row til I wanted to quit and storm out and then my mind-filter finally broke.


Cool stuff. "Trying doesn't work in improv" is too vague to be helpful. Trying--in the sense of taking classes, rehearsing hard, watching shows and analyzing them afterward, self-reflecting about a show--are good ways to improve. They're work. Often fun work, but still: work.

I think the mantra of "don't try" applies most readily when you actually step on stage to play a show: that's when you want to have fun and let the training pay off.

Would of loved to have seen those thousand scene starts.
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Re: hard work

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 9th, 2013, 1:35 pm

PyroDan wrote:At one time I was going to do an Acting for Improvisers class and the focus would have been on these skills, but there is rarely enough people interested in doing this work to warrant a class.


I've thought about this as well...but while I love and think I'm fairly adept at DOING both, I don't think I'd do we'll at teaching either (let alone both). I think Audrey Sansom taught one a while back, and Mike Ferstenfeld is tackling it now. We'll see what perspectives they can generate! :)
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