Maestro Suggestions

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Maestro Suggestions

Postby Wesley » April 12th, 2006, 6:34 pm

As you all know, Maestro has been kicking serious improv ass lately, consistently selling out for more than two months. I think it is safe to say that, at this point, it is our flagship show. But who's to say we cannot improve on success?

I had a few ideas on Maestro and I was wondering what you thought of them. Good as we are doing, there is always room for improvement and this really needs to be our strongest show since it draws the most new and curious faces. Some of the ideas are easy, some less so, but I think they'd all lead to a tighter, stronger, better show (not to slight in any way the quality of the show now. It has been awesome and the players have been great).


1. Players show up at 9:00, ready and focused on warming up and developing a group mind.
We have historically had a problem with players showing up late, avoiding warm-ups for whatever reason (eating, smoking, chatting, watching other shows), or doing minimal warm-ups.
I'd love to see everyone arrive on time (unless mentioned in advance that you'd be late) and getting into warm-ups ASAP and staying focused on warm-ups with a strong mentality of building a group mind for the cast that night. Even very experienced players can seem out in the cold if the rest of the cast has a group mind they missed out on.

2. Directed warm-ups.
Especially if we have two directors, I would love to see one running warm-ups from 9:00 to show time. This really helps in specialty shows (Future Maestro, Musical Maestro, etc) or in Maestros that will be utilizing new or specialized games because the director can steer players toward the mindset that they want to see for the night.

3. Games Practice
Personally, I like half warm-up and then half games practice. The director can quickly run games that we will play later that night so that players who don't play a lot of games can get a refresher on the logistics and technicals of a game. I also find that talking about the technicals helps bring them out and keeps everyone on the same page. We've all played these games before, so I don't think playing them in the Green Room before the show is cheating (and I think it definitely makes for a better show than looking lost when the director throws a game at you before an audience). And we don't even have to play the exact games we'll play that night, but maybe related ones.

4. Director Pep Talk
Corny as it sounds, I've always found director pep talks very helpful. Like a coach before a ball game. Taking a moment to gather everyone up, say what they want to see in the show, and telling us to have a good show and play around can really put that initial spark in the belly that will become a fire once those stage lights hit. It is that official allowance to run wild and play big.

5. Player enthusiasm
Again, this is kindof our flagship show, and the only one selling out repeatedly. We should want to do the best show possible and love (or at least look like we are loving) every minute up there. We should applaud each other after a scene, for example. We don't have to whoop and hollar, but we shouldn't just applaud the scenes we know were 4s or 5s. Support has been on a definite upswing and that adds so much to a show to see players so ready to throw themselves in. We should just remember that the audience can see into the wings and if we look bored, are talking amongst ourselves, or don't clap, they might not get as into the show.

6. Experienced players
We always need experienced players. The cast is often skewered toward the newer end of experience, which isn't a bad thing, but experience can really help. Personally, I love a show with a good mix of levels, but there have been shows when Roy, Kareem, and I were the most experienced people up there and we've only been doing this a little more than a year.

7. Tuesday night jam or Maestro rehearsal
Tuesday night jams are a GREAT way to get ready for a show, especially for players that haven't played a lot of games recently due to long form performances. A Maestro rehearsal would be even better, but probably impossible.


Some of these things already happen on and off, like directed warm-ups or pep talks, but I think that a lot of the time people treat Maestro as the bastard step-child of what we do, or the show to get in if their troupe isn't on the schedule that week. In reality it is our hottest show going and I hope we can make it hotter by putting some more effort into it and building a professional and consistent quality that begins well before we take to the stage. Again, we are doing awesome shows all ready, put I still say we can turn up the heat a little more and blow the public's freakin' minds.
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Postby chicocarlucci » April 13th, 2006, 1:13 am

wesLEE

Sara Farr and Mike Kinald had some fantastic suggestions they were throwing around at the playday. Involving a kind of wagering / lottery of sorts for free tickets to a Thursday and/or Friday show based on who would win Maestro.

Basically -- and sara and mike can correct me if I'm wrong -- they all write down their name and who they think is going to win Maestro on a slip of paper that evening while the first category die is going on.

At the end of the evening, the votes that chose correctly are put in a pool and a winner is chosen by lot. And what does the winner win? More improv! Yay!

The reason I liked this idea more than anything was not really to attract more audience members to Maestro (not necessary) but rather to help with what you were talking about last Maestro regarding getting the audience members to possibly widen their range of awarded points for the improvisers. I think people might be more critical with their responses if there's something at stake.

Or this could simply be the worst idea ever to be suggested on the forums. In which case, it was all Sara and Mike's ideas.. those dumbasses..
:)

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Postby valetoile » April 13th, 2006, 7:09 am

And don't forget the most crucial part of the plan: bikini girls announcing the rounds!
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Postby Brian Boyko » April 13th, 2006, 9:04 am

My brain has switched off.
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Postby Wesley » April 13th, 2006, 9:45 am

The other idea I forgot was having the light and sound people in the green warm warm-ups. They are improvisers, too, they can set the tone for a show, and they should get in the same group mind as the on-stage players.

Also, bikini girls would be awesome.
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Postby Mike » April 13th, 2006, 10:51 am

I would say that we put more diverse music on the sound room PC. It has 20 Radiohead songs, and some others, but not a great variety to either use fir a scene with no words, or to sometimes set the mood. I may have missed some of the files, but the ones I have had to work with all seem too full of the same band.

I'd also like to see a more audience-themed ( ? ) first game. Category Die is fine, but when we had the audience throw out suggestions for short scenes ( William Shatner fighting the Civial War with Barry White) the audience seemed to be really upbeat the whole show.
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Postby beardedlamb » April 13th, 2006, 4:49 pm

Sara Farr and Mike Kinald had some fantastic suggestions they were throwing around at the playday. Involving a kind of wagering / lottery of sorts for free tickets to a Thursday and/or Friday show based on who would win Maestro.


i support this initiative.
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Postby Jastroch » April 14th, 2006, 12:09 pm

I think some "mandatory" Maestro game practice would be a good thing. It's improv, so you can obviously jump right into any game. But it'd be great to play these games and get notes before you go on stage.
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Postby valetoile » April 15th, 2006, 7:57 am

Originally, the Tuesday Jam was designed to be Maestro rehearsal. Now it's become more of a "welcome to Austin Improv" experience. I think the warmups before hand with some game rehearsal are very important.
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Postby sara farr » April 15th, 2006, 5:55 pm

WARNING -- long post...

valetoile wrote:Originally, the Tuesday Jam was designed to be Maestro rehearsal. Now it's become more of a "welcome to Austin Improv" experience. I think the warmups before hand with some game rehearsal are very important.


Here is my version of the origin of the Tuesday Jam...

About a year ago -- around this time -- I and some other folks were finishing up our Improv 201 class at the State Theatre. I had just returned from a business trip to San Francisco where I attend the "Game Developers Conference". While I was in San Fran, I saw as much improv as possible. That included attending the San Francisco Improv Co-op's "Monday Night Jam" and "Tuesday Longform Lab".

I just showed up, paid my $5, and got a bit of semi-formal coaching and socializing with some pretty heavy hitting improv folks. Only having taken 1.5 improv classes, I was nervous about going. But it was really fun and I enjoyed the training AND getting to socialize with the other improvisers. I was overly impress with how quickly I was accepted into the community. They wanted to talk with me about Austin's improv scene, too, but I was clueless and couldn't tell them about what happened to the Big Stinkin' or the troupes like "Well Hung Jury" and "Monks' Night Out " -- but everyone there remembered them. The cool thing was not only did I get some good improv tips, I got the inside scoop on the improv that was happening in the city, the shows I should not miss, and some info about touristy stuff I should see.

When I returned, I was fired up about Austin starting up a Jam or Longform Lab like the one in San Fran. Luckily there were several other people itching to do the same thing. Andy Crouch, Dave Buckman, Shana Merlin, Rachel Madorsky, Vince (?) and I met to talk about how to make this happen. Everyone had different ideas on what the "JAM" could be. The hope was that it would grow into a SHOW with paying audience members, where experienced improvisers could come showcase their skills and improvise with other folks outside their troupes.

But it had to start somewhere, and we the newbies had the time and drive to make it happen. After we were able to successfully bring in larger numbers of audience members to a month of Micetro/Maestro shows, Andy allowed us to use the Hideout's greenroom on Tuesday nights as a communial improv space. And with that, James, Vince, Wes, Roy, Kareem, and a few others dedicated our summer to getting the Jam up and running.

So the JAM was born. It began as a place where new improvisers could congrigate, practice improv, and build community. It was a place for us to play and practice the skills we'd gained from improv classes (some from the State School of Theatre, some from the Heroes School). Most of the time we had to wing it based on what we had learned in our classes. Ocassionally, experienced improvisers would come and lead us in "new-to-us" games and scene work. Always it has been a community experience, where anyone can suggest things they'd like to work on and then we make it happen.

Over time, as the group got more experience, there was an interal push within the JAM to rehearse games we saw in "Maestro" so that we could play in the show and get some stage time. After that, several of us joined troupes and started rehearsing with our own people.

OVERALL it has provided a VERY valuable resource to the community. It has continued to thrive without the original 6 and is self-sustaining. It brings people together through our common interest of IMPROV -- new and experienced, young and old, Austinites and visitors, alike. It gives current students a place to try out their new improv skills, both in the classroom and on stage. It gives more experienced improvisers a place to practice their directing skills, try out new lesson plans, and spread the word about their workshops. It gives others who are unfamiliar with the current community a taste of what we are.

But the JAM is what we make it. I agree that Maestro has benefitted from the times when we practiced games and did psuedo Maestro run-throughs. It makes for a better Maestro show when you don't have to explain the game to the improvisers and they can play with the form rather than try to learn it.

However, I don't know if I like the idea of losing the free-form Jam to a structured Maestro rehearsal. It seems like with a growing community we should be able to support both, though I know people already have trouble finding a free evening to spare.

Hm.

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Postby nadine » April 15th, 2006, 7:44 pm

sara_anm8r wrote:That included attending the San Francisco Improv Co-op's "Monday Night Jam" and "Tuesday Longform Lab".


Oooh. I would love a Longform Lab.

Sara, you mentioned paying $5. Was there one coach, or people were just all giving feedback?
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Postby valetoile » April 15th, 2006, 8:42 pm

Thanks for the history, Sara! I remember way back before the Jam, when everyone was wishing there was a weekly micetro rehearsal. Some people suggested Tuesday or Thursday nights, but Andy seemed doubtful it could happen. Then, a little later, there was the Tuesday Jam, and I assumed it grew out of that. Thanks for setting the record straight.

And I was in no way implying that the Tuesday Jam should become maestro rehearsal. I was just musing over history, and putting in my vote in favor of some sort of maestro rehearsal/warm-up, probably right before the show.
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Postby Brian Boyko » April 16th, 2006, 3:17 am

Oddly enough, the Tuesday Jam --

I really hate the warmup games on Tuesdays. They take an hour and they are designed to get the energy pumping - but on Tuesdays after work (especially if I haven't had anything to eat all day) I really can't stand an hour of zip-zap-zop and Soundball and "boisterous Brian" (and there are no good verbs that begin with B...)

For some of us, Tuesday isn't about preparing for a performance - it's just about having fun and goofing off and joking around with friends.

Don't get me wrong. I know about the importance of working on the fundimentals, getting a group mentality, and the idea of getting the energy up before you play, and if Tuesday Night Jam had an audience, I'd agree. But Tuesday warm up games seem to me like a hour of batting practice before sandlot stickball.
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Postby Brian Boyko » April 16th, 2006, 3:22 am

Also: Let's get the game formats settled WAY ahead of time. Like - days.

Actually have a schedule - and have it be in the booth:

Category Die
4 Players - Good/Bad/Ugly Advice
3 Players - Helldub
3 Players - Sit/Stand/Lie
- No Elimination
4 players - Translation
4 players - Pan Left/Pan Right
2 players - He Said She Said
- Elmination
2 players - Silent Scene
4 players - Radio Scene
- Elimination
Beastie Rap
- 1 player:

etc, etc, etc,
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Postby valetoile » April 16th, 2006, 8:34 am

You can't necessarily have a game schedule ahead of time because you don't know how many people will be left in a given round. I also think it's important for the directors to be able to choose a game tailoredto the strengths of any given set of players who are randomly drawn. I know that I and most other directors have always had a list of potential games prepared ahead of time, and that I've given players a heads up or overview on any unusual games, but it's freakin' IMPROV.

Even if you've never played a game before, you should be able to adapt your skills to do well as long as you understand the rules. Some of the most brilliant scenes have been things where the director comes up with a crazy new idea on the spot, and throws it at a brave and willing player who ran with it. Be brave! take risks! fail sometimes! ok!
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