All is lost!

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All is lost!

Postby madi » October 6th, 2013, 1:41 pm

Hey Austin Improv!

First off, I MISS YOU!!!!!!

Second off, I'm looking for some suggestions on working on that "all is lost" moment in a long-form.
Any ideas for exercises, games, whatnots?
I'm with an ensemble right now, and we need to work on "making it worse...and worse...and worse" aka "hitting the absolute rock bottom." Any ideas?

Example: I love in Breaking Bad (no spoilers here) how my jaw drops and I'm thinking wow, that f-ing sucks, it doesn't get worse than that and then Vince Gilligan and his team of writers go aww, Madi, that's cute and then basically explode my brain with how much worse it can actually get.

that's all.

no it's not, I miss you guys again.

love you all, even those I haven't met yet, I love you too!

that's all.
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Re: All is lost!

Postby kbadr » October 6th, 2013, 1:46 pm

What does the character want or love? If they haven't made that explicit, it's hard to raise the stakes or make things worse for the character. If you find yourself frequently in the situation where your group doesn't know what the protagonist wants, work on having them state it explicitly. Be as blatant as you have to until you can finesse it more.

Once you know what they want/love/need, your job is to hurt them. Make it go away. Make them suffer. Everyone's job in the cast (as an improviser) should be to feel where you are in the story (helping or hurting?) and make that happen, either directly or indirectly.

That is a vague answer. I guess for specific drills, you could just circle up and try building a character one attribute at a time, explicitly stating what they want most in the world, and then take turns heightening making things worse for them. Just drill that skill until it's muscle memory.

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Re: All is lost!

Postby madi » October 6th, 2013, 4:23 pm

Yeah! I like your perspective on it, Kareem. Taking the step back to the need.

just spitballing...
Yeah, we probably need to build a stronger foundation by making the "need' absolutely vital, which makes the "all is lost" more deadly. The "need" needs emotion and stakes. Goes back to asking yourself the old "why is the author telling this story? why today? why this moment?" It's gotta be important, life and death important.

So, in that circle exercise you mentioned, we can heighten the stakes by deepening the need.

Dig deeper!

Build the need to it's highest point.

Then starting moving towards "all is lost!"
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Re: All is lost!

Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » October 6th, 2013, 8:32 pm

one thing I talked a lot with the Strange Worlds cast about was a character's "code," or more specifically "what is the one line they will never cross? how close can we push them towards it? and what would it take for them to cross it?" I think so much of that "it can't possibly get worse" comes from the desperation and actions taken NOT to cross that line...or once that line is crossed, the justifying that's done to try and draw a new line and convince yourself that was your code all along. perhaps there's a game in there, of giving yourself an absolute line you won't cross and then having everyone else in the scene push and tempt and threaten you towards crossing it (or making it a naïve game where only you know where the line is), and having to start a new scene with a new line every time you cross it (jump and justify)...until you look back and realize how far you've gone from the original intent you started with. just a thought...
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Re: All is lost!

Postby happywaffle » October 6th, 2013, 10:50 pm

Ruby invented a story exercise called "Ruby's Eleven" that I use occasionally. Stand in a circle and tell a story, one line/event per person. The first person describes something mildly annoying that happens to the protagonist. Second person says something just a little bit worse than that. And so on, so that by the time you get to #11 (but not before), the protagonist is as far down as he can possibly be.

You can then reverse it by repeating the process but having something good happen in each line, so that by the end he's at the top of the world.
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Re: All is lost!

Postby smerlin » October 7th, 2013, 9:19 am

I think the all is lost moment often becomes a struggle between two parts of the improviser: the storyteller, which wants to move things forward, and the observer/audience, who is watching an rooting for the hero. We can't let things get too far because we are too invested and care too much. But that's exactly what needs to happen.

Great question, Madi!

To me, all is lost is about the point of no return or death (literally or metaphorically). The audience, and the improvisers should not be able to imagine a way out, at least momentarily. This is also very scary for the improvisers---because they actually have to improvise for a bit.

Some ideas of exercises:
-Death in a minute--playing scenes where 1 of the two characters on stage dies within the first minute and the other has to keep going. to help practice facing those fears and realizing you can move on even when you think things are over.

-All is lost repeat. Have the hero die/lose and replay it several times finding several ways out of it, after you've let the moment hang.

-Divide players into hero support/hero obstacles and make the obstacle people get to all is lost and the supporters help save things. (Haven't done this, just thought it up just now...)

Mathew Falkenberg did some coaching for GGG and brought up the difference between the rising action in comedy vs tragedy. To paraphrase, In a comedy, things get worse and worse for the hero until he achieves the goal in a climactic turn. In tragedy the hero gets closer to achieving it, until it is ripped from his arms. It would be useful to play with both structures, I think.
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Re: All is lost!

Postby madi » October 7th, 2013, 11:09 am

smerlin wrote:To me, all is lost is about the point of no return or death (literally or metaphorically). The audience, and the improvisers should not be able to imagine a way out, at least momentarily. This is also very scary for the improvisers---because they actually have to improvise for a bit.

This is great: thinking of "all is lost" like a death. And that's what I enjoy most about shows: that moment when I think, It's over. There no way out.
Of course, part of me knows the show will go on, but I'm hooked into watching how the heck they do it.

And I love the idea of practicing "all is lost" both with comedy and tragedy. The plays we're doing right now fall more into tragedy with a resolution back to a hopeless equilibrium. It's very fun. :D

Tragedy seems to have two "all is lost" moments (or at least "all is lost" adjacent moments): one at the top (hero is "lost" in his desires/achievements/ego/"the wrong reasons") and one at the bottom (the tragic fall). A knowledgeable audience member usually knows that a tragic hero who's "at the top" is going to fall. I think the delight for the imp and surprise for the audience comes from finding a way to execute the fall that is creative, inventive, and unexpected, yet based in what you've set up so far.

These all look like great exercises! I'm excited to start working on them!
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Re: All is lost!

Postby sara farr » May 20th, 2014, 11:06 pm

Just reviewed some student animations at the Ann Richards school tonight. We were asked to give strong feedback on their storytelling. One of the things I saw over and over in the shorts was that they were just montages, or a series of events. Where there were those moments with a character, an objective and a character changed, the stories were still missing that "all is lost" moment. I talked to several teams about how they didn't let their hero suffer. They would save him/her for a gag. I made it a point to ask each group who they thought was their MC and why. That opened the floor for discussion on why the story had little or no impact on us, the audience, when the hero just gets what they want.

All the suggestions sound great. I'd add an exercise where the cast stands in a circle and...
names the hero (i.e. Stephanie Super)
states his/her want (i.e. Save the world)
state her strength (i.e. Charm)
state her flaw (i.e. Pride [flip charm])
states what will defeat the character (i.e. world is destroyed [flip want])
states what the character would do after defeat (i.e. be humbled [flip flaw])
... then, let the world be destroyed and see where the hero goes after that.

For example, here was one of the stories I saw:
hero = Mr. Penguin
want = ice cream
strength = determination (how do you show this? obstacles that are met and overcome)
flaw = stupidity (how do you show this? choices gets character into trouble)
defeat = no ice cream... their story ended here. Mr. Penguin got the ice cream, then lost it - the room laughed.
what next = look for more ice cream... we were missing this

via Chuck Jones...
hero = Wile E. Coyote
want = Road Runner
strength = ingenuity
flaw = over thinking it; flaw in design
defeat = no roadrunner (falling from great height; crushed by massive rock; run over by freight train... etc)
what next = back to drawing board & a new design
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