Proof that you can put whatever you want in a book

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Proof that you can put whatever you want in a book

Postby beardedlamb » March 4th, 2006, 7:29 am

so bill has started taking classes at improv olympic. he had his first class last week with charna in level one. required reading for the course is the book she co-authored with del close, truth in comedy. he's been reading and agreeing with various points, disagreeing with others. one that we both disagreed with was the conception that The Harold is what all longform is based on. But it was the first line of her bio in the back of the book that pisses me off the most.

"Charna Halpern
The only living creator of long form improvisation, Charna Halpern. . ."

WTF? How can she have the gaul to claim to be the only person alive to have created long form improv? First of all, the term 'long form' is so loosely used that it applies to more than just the antiquated form she developed with Del.
There are plenty of people in this prov game that have developed and used long form completely independent of Chicago schools. I didn't even know what a Harold was (nor could I get people who DID know explain to me what the hell it was) until I finally saw one at IO a couple years ago.
i discussed it with bill and he brought up that saying you're a creator of long form improv is like saying Newton was the creator of physics. it's not an invention so much as a discovery but even if someone said she discovered long form improv, that still doesn't seem to make sense to me. what it should say is that she is the only living creator of The Harold, and I'm sure there are a couple other people alive or dead who would claim they had a hand in it's creation as well.
Kids playing 'house' is long form improv.
And what about Keith Johnstone. Damn. just cuz a guy's British and lives in Canada doesn't mean he doesn't exist. most of the time. which opens up a whole other can of worms; americans are soooo short sighted. our understanding reaches only as far as our borders. beyond that, things are too often ignored.
i'm just cheesed that someone can just say something, print it, and have people believe it, as i'm sure most who read that do. kind of like a lot of american history thats been scrubbed clean of our accidents and faults.

and i'm not trying to take away from what the improv olympic has accomplished. it certainly is amazing and they've trained so many great actors and comedians and managed to stay open showcasing strictly improv. and i'm sure charna is a nice person and a great teacher. but just because you run the world of 3541 N. Clark, doesn't mean you can write false history.


this is partly why i don't read improv books.

b
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Postby erikamay » March 4th, 2006, 10:46 am

well, jeremy.

i am the only living creator of pancakes.

buy my book.
"I suspect what we're doing is performance art, but I'm not going to tell the public that."
-- Del Close
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Postby beardedlamb » March 4th, 2006, 11:32 am

SOLD!

damn. that was too easy. i should write a book.

we should all write books!
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Postby arclight » March 5th, 2006, 1:04 pm

"Truth in Comedy" is essentially the manual for the Harold which IMO is it's only real value. My review in one line:

How to perform a Harold. Name-dropping and self-congratulatory tone mar an otherwise useful explanation of the classic Del Close format.


I mean to reread and review the book at some point, though I think I lent my copy to Ed Piston. Note to self: I must get some kind of lending library software installed to track this...

Anyway, the reviews are part of my larger project, completing my All Improv Books Suck wiki page, started about three years ago. Note that this was all written before Napier's book came out - that is far and away the best book of the lot.

I keep my Improv reading list updated. There's a number of non-improv books in there that I think are important or useful and I hand this out whenever I'm TAing a class or giving a presentation on improv.
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Postby Jastroch » March 5th, 2006, 1:27 pm

For a more detailed look into the life and work of Del Close, check out Guru by Jeff Griggs. Not the best written work, but entertaining and insightful.It also places Del Close's work in the greater context of improv history.

Del Close may not have invented improv, but as a director and a teacher, he certainly had an enormous and lasting effect on the world of improv. His work with "long form" goes much deeper than just inventing the Harold, just as a long form show should be much, much more than just a bunch of scenes strung together.

Truth in comedy is a useful manual for doing a long form--not the greatest book ever written--but it is about more than just the Harold. It's how to do long form improv.
--Jastroch

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Postby arclight » March 5th, 2006, 2:08 pm

beardedlamb wrote:we should all write books!


Actually, I'd like to a write a book that covers the gaps between these books, maybe something that focusses more on becoming or being an improvisor rather than about improv theory & instruction or just a big game list.

Bob's Imaginary Improv Book Outline:

Give a brief history of improvisation from oral history and commedia dell'arte through Hull House, The Compass, Second City, The Theatre Machine, The Committee, Ace Trucking Company, The Loose Moose, IO, Annoyance, and UCB.

Start with a short definition of improvisation with a wide range of examples, then narrow the focus to theatrical improvisation for performance.

Talk a bit about performance forms (short/long, narrative/organic, genre), explain a few specific formats, and throw in a pile of personal opinion on each from a number of viewpoints.

Discuss the main theoretical schools: Spolin/Sills, Second City, Close/IO, Johnstone, Napier/Annoyance.

Aside: I feel the body of the text should be non-sectarian but people with strong opinions should get a sidebar. At the end of the book, have each commentator explain what forms, theories, & schools they like & why. A reader should be able to get the facts from the main text and if they identify with some of the commentators, they can pursue a path they're more comfortable with based on the commentator's recommendations at the end. This makes the book generically useful as a reference but also keeps it lively and personally relevant.

There should be a chapter on classes: choosing classes that match your goals and budget, how to evaluate a school (the top 10 questions we wished we knew to ask before we started), the typical program structure (levels 1 through 3/5), continuing education. Advice: get some stage time between/while taking classes after level 3 or so.

Talk some about performance: crowd & show energy, taking suggestions, differences in venues (theatre, barprov), stagecraft, edits, blackouts, working with a lighting or musical improvisor, direction, hosting, warmups, post-mortem notes. References to lists of games & warmups. This should be focussed on advice and experiences of the individual.

Troupe dynamics: formation, rehearsal, coaching, for-/non-profit, decisionmaking and conflict resolution, auditions, hiring, firing. This should be focussed on working with and as a group.

Community dynamics: working with venues, festivals, other troupes. Promotion & marketing, getting paid, exclusivity agreements.

What do you want and how do you get it: Read this chapter after you've taken your Level 3 class. Read it again after you've been performing for a year. Read it again every 2 years thereafter.

Close the book out with final commentary, references, appendices, epilogue, and a goddamn index.

~ fin ~
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Postby arclight » March 5th, 2006, 2:43 pm

Jastroch wrote:For a more detailed look into the life and work of Del Close, check out Guru by Jeff Griggs. Not the best written work, but entertaining and insightful.It also places Del Close's work in the greater context of improv history.


Guru kicks ass.
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