Heat in Maestro

Thank you, Number Three

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Postby Marc Majcher » July 8th, 2008, 11:13 am

kbadr wrote:First, a quote from Sean Hill's 'Tao of Micetro':
Principal #1 - The Show Is For The Audience
First and foremost a Micetro show is for the audience. Living by this principle means the needs of the audience are put ahead of the needs of the improvisers.

It's good to be reminded that someone as experienced as Floyd knows the sting of being eliminated early. It's part of the show. It means nothing about an individual's worth as an improviser (clearly)


Indeed. I encourage everyone (myself included) to go back and read Sean's Tao of Maestro now and again. I was about to say that I don't necessarily agree with everything in there, but looking over it again, I find that I can't. It's all good. Take it to heart.

I want to emphasize again, however, the bit about everything being for the good of the show. I know all too well that if Maestro is your primary source of stage time, and you get bumped early, it sucks. You've come out on a Saturday night, warmed up for an hour, played a short scene or a game or two, and now you have to just sit and watch. It's not fair. But recognize that it can't be fair, because Maestro isn't really a competition - it's a show about a competition. If it's good for the show to bomb out or take a dive, awesome. If it's good for the show to rock the motherfucker out, awesome.

You're not a lousy improviser or a bad person because you went out early, it's just how the (pretty much totally arbitrary and/or random) scoring worked out. Sometimes you get bad streaks, sometimes you get good streaks. The thing to remember is that it's all for the show. William Hall made an excellent analogy in the workshop he gave here a few months back; if you were part of a regular play, and you only had a line or two, you'd still be showing up for every rehearsal, and stay the whole time to come out for the show, be on stage for a couple of minutes, and do your part. Maestro's the same way. Even if you're only on stage for a short time, you're still an important part of the show. That's just how it works, and we're grateful for everyone who puts every little bit in to make it what it is.

Also, in conversation after the show, I was reminded that a similar fake-out early elimination was pulled in a Maestro here a couple years back (by Phil?), with similar results. So, now we know, again. Those who don't learn from history, etc, etc. I'm still playing with the right amount of heat to throw down for maximum fun, but I think, for me at least, it's a bit less than that. Let the audience build up some sympathy for the "characters" before giving them trouble, and let it come from the needs of the show, don't let it be a planned bit. For me, anyway - your mileage may vary.
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Postby nadine » July 8th, 2008, 11:15 am

I was in the audience and I thought that Jordon really did get mad at Marc... (great acting). And I was wondering if Jordon had a bad day, and was proud of Marc for standing up to Jordon, but also worried about future relations with OOB and IFE.

So.. I didn't appreciate being fooled. Though I did appreciate the acting.

The audience member next to me was like: "He's really mad!!"
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Postby bradisntclever » July 8th, 2008, 12:49 pm

Kathy Rose Center wrote:...contributed to the problems we had later in the show with audience heckling & disruptive commenting.


I only watched the last 10 or so minutes of Saturday's Maestro, and the audience was quite disruptive. It wasn't an example of just one or two people, otherwise I could have used my magical wand of house managing powers to smack them upside the head. The entire vibe in the room felt different.

I don't think all comments are disruptive, but ones that are meant to derail/hijack your scenes (e.g. - telling one player that it doesn't matter what he/she does because another will win, or telling one of the Australians he should move to New Zealand [though the guy totally took the comment in stride and rolled with it]) definitely are worthy of quashing or director intervention.
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Postby Wesley » July 8th, 2008, 12:51 pm

Mike wrote:If you want to eliminate, let the crowd do it...


If Kareem hadn't posted it, I was going to. I love risk and experimentation, but Maestro in particular is a show for and about the audience. And elimination in particular is something they should always have a hand in, especially the first one. It is the tone setter for everything to come. If they don't get to make the call, you've already short-circuited everything you told them about how the show works and the value of their scoring. And if the player goes out mad, that's a double whammy of "not only are we underminding your opinion and scoring, but you see how angry and hurt people feel when they get cut...so enjoy taking the responsibility for cutting them from now on!"

I didn't see this incident, so I can't speak to it, but I was there for the Phil thing and that was also great acting that blurred the line between real and stage...and it absolutely destroyed a lot of the subsequent show. It set a negative tone early on that was never shaken for players or the audience. Plus, it made the audience think they weren't in control. You ask them to eliminate, but they're thinking "why does it matter? You'll just kick out people randomly or that you don't like any way."

And to respectfully disagree with the good reverend, the thing that transforms comedy improv into theaterical improv is not illiciting mere emotional reactions in the audience. It is a thorough understanding of the effect of every dramatic choice on the audience's emotions, expectations, and wish fulfillment. It is the generaton of targeted and purposed emotional reactions that you predict, manipulate, control, an deliver for a specific reason or effect. Yes, incidents like this spur an emotional reaction, but if it isn't the reaction you want then what's the point? Don't merely deliver to them an emotional experience, deliver to them the exact emotional experience you wish them to have. That is control and mastery and that is theater.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » July 8th, 2008, 1:24 pm

to present the other side of the argument...i LOVED Phil's ejection and considered it to be an incredible moment. so while some may take the comparison to that incident to be a "warning of past mistakes," i consider it to be a great compliment.

and having done a few Maestros, i don't think my ejection contributed to any of the heckling. obnoxious people drinking beer and wanting to be more of a part of the show did that, as it occasionally does.

Wesley wrote: And to respectfully disagree with the good reverend, the thing that transforms comedy improv into theaterical improv is not illiciting mere emotional reactions in the audience. It is a thorough understanding of the effect of every dramatic choice on the audience's emotions, expectations, and wish fulfillment. It is the generaton of targeted and purposed emotional reactions that you predict, manipulate, control, an deliver for a specific reason or effect. Yes, incidents like this spur an emotional reaction, but if it isn't the reaction you want then what's the point? Don't merely deliver to them an emotional experience, deliver to them the exact emotional experience you wish them to have. That is control and mastery and that is theater.


except...for the most part, it WAS the reaction i wanted. i wanted people to be a little unsure whether it was real or not and set up that uncertainty for the rest of the show, that sense of "what else might 'go wrong'?" because as an audience member, i love moments like that so i was quite proud to create that. the only thing i wasn't expecting was the rather vocal gentleman who kept calling for me to come back (i can only assume he enjoys jerks...because i was purposefully trying to set myself up as the villain so Marc's ejection of me, while harsh, would make him the good guy). but even that can be theatrical, it's that magic of live performance that you CAN'T absolutely control every reaction. that a straight line randomly gets a laugh one night. that a flubbed line leads to some amazing moment of emotional honesty and poignancy. so i disagree that it's entirely about emotional manipulation. there still has to be room for surprise there.

as for it only being for the audience...i had a few audience members come up to me afterwards to specifically tell me how much they enjoyed the show and my part in it. the only complaints i've heard have been from improvisers, so...i don't know, something to think about.
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Postby Justin D. » July 8th, 2008, 1:36 pm

majcher wrote:But recognize that it can't be fair, because Maestro isn't really a competition - it's a show about a competition.


That's such an important distinction that I felt the need to quote it. It's a really simple, but astute observation.
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Postby Wesley » July 8th, 2008, 3:54 pm

the_reverend wrote:the only complaints i've heard have been from improvisers, so...i don't know, something to think about.


And likely they're all you'll ever hear. People who are dissatisfied with a service or product complain to other people far more often than to the providers of the service or product. For every one or two that came up and said something, ten or twenty left silently and what will they tell their friends and family about the experience?

As I said, I didn't see this incident so I can't speak to it specifically. If you were happy and if people were complimentary afterwards, good for all involved. I can't say if audience members were or were not excited by it.

My only points were that, having done a lot of Maestros myself, those early moments set a tone for the show that, if set incorrectly, is really hard to overcome. And, doing my share of marketing, customers are fickle things that do have expectations and I think the real risk in an elimination they have no say in is less in if they "enjoy" it or not and more in do they now believe anything you said before the show began about their score mattering, the show being improvised and unplanned, and so on.

That said, I'm all for experimenting to find out what works and what doesn't and this is just more research on that.
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Postby Floyd VanBuskirk » July 8th, 2008, 3:59 pm

I haven't quite figured out how to use all this new fangled technology with all the cute little quoty boxes and stuff so I'll have to work from memory.

I get a little uncomfortable when I hear conversations about manipulating an audience emotionally. Especially when there is alcohol in the equation. We are not generally qualified to engineer specific emotional responses in an audience. We are there to entertain an audience. That's what they bought a ticket for. If we can be on stage and be comfortable enough with one other to take ourselves into deeper emotional realms, even into some scary and seemingly dangerous ones and do it in a daring and playful way, then an audience will usually follow us. We can manipulate ourselves emotionally. That's what we are ethically allowed to do even if we may be under qualified to do it. An audience needs to feel safe enough to take a risky ride with us. For that to happen they need to see that we feel safe enough with each other to take the risks that they can vicariously experience from their seats.

I may be wrong but I think that generally the only audience members that will come up and speak to you after a show are the ones that did enjoy it. Any one who felt uncomfortable at a show will probably not linger long enough after the lights come up to tell you so. They'll more than likely head for the door and get out as quickly as possible. Although, I'm pretty sure it's not too likely that any person is going to sustain long term psychological damage from watching a rogue improv show running amuck.
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Postby LuBu McJohnson » July 8th, 2008, 4:10 pm

I think the idea should be to generate heat on the directors and not the cast. That was the primary difference between the Maestro a week ago and this last one.

A week ago we started slow, making members of the cast suffer for a bit and then pulling out a completely arbitrary elimination. At that point, the audience got much more involved in the show because they started to sympathize with the cast against the directors.

I think this didn't work as well last week because yes, we eliminated Jordan early. This kind of ultra-early elimination would only work if it is really sad, which would probably make the audience madder than they should be. Since Jordan reacted so negatively to being eliminated, I think that it might have given the audience a more negative bent towards the cast in general, and so they felt more comfortable with heckling. There is no way we could have known this beforehand, of course. We were merely running the concept up the flagpole.

But from what Jordan said, the audience seemed to like it, so I feel ok.
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Postby Wesley » July 8th, 2008, 4:19 pm

To be clear, I don't mean some Nazi-esque, hold-their-eyes-open-and-play-Symphony-No-9, mind-control experiment. I just mean that with any good movie, book, song, sculpture, painting, or play, the experience for the reader/watcher/listener is usually thought out and purposeful. Shakespeare wants you to feel a certain way as Hamlet holds up poor Yorrick's skull and as he murders Claudius. Thus, he wrote the scenes, chose the words, chose the settings so as to push the right buttons to make you feel those ways.

From Oedipus to the Vagina Monologues, from Away in a Manger to NIN's Closer, from The Miller's Tale to The Stand, these things were intended to provoke (usually specific) emotional and psychological responses.

Art manipulates the emotions. That's what art does. That's what art is.

The difference is, with our art, that such emotional reactions occur instantly. We don't get to rewrite, reedit, reshoot, or rerecord when people don't "get" what we were trying to get across. Thus, to truly transcend the limits of the craft we should be hyperaware of what emotional, psychological, spiritual, and intellectual buttons our choices are pushing in real time and determining if those are the responses we truly want to be generating at that point in the show/plot arc.

Maybe manipulate seems like a hard word, but look at it this way...if you don't want a sad house, don't do a scene about beating a puppy to death. Emotions layer, build, and reverberate for the rest of the show, so you have to know at all times the effects you are leaving and the effects you want to leave.
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Postby Roy Janik » July 8th, 2008, 4:25 pm

My preference is almost always for a show where the audience feels safe, taken care of, and utterly free to vote honestly and with their hearts. I think evoking fear and worried sympathy for the cast only serves to make that audience feel bad about scoring low. And portraying the directors as tyrants is really only serves to draw more attention to the directors

My ideal Maestro is a friendly show where the players come off as completely playful and fearless, give 100%, and accept defeat with good grace and a smile. In this ideal show, the directors serve as a conduit between the audience and the players... bringing back up the energy of the audience after a flagging scene, and sustaining and heightening the energy in the room when a great scene happens.
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Postby LuBu McJohnson » July 8th, 2008, 4:52 pm

Roy Janik wrote:My preference is almost always for a show where the audience feels safe, taken care of, and utterly free to vote honestly and with their hearts. I think evoking fear and worried sympathy for the cast only serves to make that audience feel bad about scoring low.


I agree with this somewhat. My thinking though is that the first two rounds of a Maestro should proceed in that fashion. After the first two rounds, I think that people have already picked out specific players that they like. If these players are eliminated because they had the lowest score or lost a tiebreaker thing, then these audience members probably won't be as into the show.

Now let's say that a player they liked was eliminated for pretty much no reason, and this could be rock-paper-scissors or touching your nose last thing. I think this gives any given audience member much more of an emotional investment in the show. And at this point in the show(the later rounds) You end up with scenes that can be slower paced and much more developed. Scenes that the audience will now completely be into because they are so much more into the show than they would have been otherwise.


That being said, I've been thinking lately that this kind of thing is a matter of personal preference. I 'm starting to think that there are some improvisers who like to perform in a safe, comfortable environment and then there are some who like to perform in the terradome.
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Postby acrouch » July 8th, 2008, 5:14 pm

Wesley wrote:Art manipulates the emotions. That's what art does. That's what art is.


I like to think that good art invites people to participate in an experience, often emotional. Manipulate makes it sound like we're acting ON people instead of WITH them.
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Postby Aden » July 8th, 2008, 5:35 pm

for me it comes down to fun. The more fun the audience sees us having... the more fun they're likely to have. laughter is contagious, besides that's what they came for anyway even the "well trained" audiences (by the way... I think training audiences is totally useless).
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Postby Floyd VanBuskirk » July 8th, 2008, 6:18 pm

I'm just saying that we should be jerking each other around and getting ourselves into trouble, not trying to elicit any specific reaction in the spectators. Everything creates an effect whether it's "Artful" or not. If I just stand on the stage and scratch my butt it's going to create an effect in the audience. It might even mean something deep to some people. Although to me, it just means my butt itches and I don't care who sees me scratch it. Any manipulation we do is FOR an audience but TO each other. If we are truly improvising collectively then whatever emotional response is evoked in an audience is nothing we can really control or fashion. It is a by product of whatever occurs on stage. We don't have the advantage of crafting what we say or do in those quick moments on stage to get a desired effect. All we can do is be present, available and vulnerable to that moment and take care of each other, even if taking care of the other means throwing them off a cliff. If we are good natured in elimination or after scene failure then we don't have to worry too much about about how the audience is feeling. If we are okay they're probably okay as well. The heat in a game of Maestro is in the game itself. The fact that ALL BUT ONE MUST BE ELIMINATED provides plenty of heat. The pilot light is lit in the introduction and the heat increases as players fall by the wayside, until we get to the final two who, by that time, are well warmed up.
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