A brief rant on Maestro's Unwinnable Final Rounds

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Postby bradisntclever » May 25th, 2011, 12:15 am

Everyone talking about whether players should worry about winning Maestro is overlooking the more important part of Dave's argument: some members of the audience do worry about the score. I know this because I was one of them when I used to see Maestros before taking classes and as a student. (I also recall the occasional moment that Shannon describes when one player can't possibly win because her score is lower than the scene partner's.) Worrying about the score as an improviser may be silly, but it's one way audience members get invested. If a person goes ahead to where it is mathematically impossible for them to lose, the suspense of the final round typically dissipates.

But it's also kind of silly to argue about how the audience as a whole perceives or reacts to something. Some audience members may be entirely objective. Some audience members may pick favorite improvisers early and score scenes accordingly. I'm sure there's a camp that honestly doesn't care about scores that much and just wants to laugh a lot.

Maestro succeeds and sells out regularly because the shows are good. Have some faith in the directors and the choices they make. They are supposed to take risks, just like the players and support, and there was probably a good reason behind the choice.

And finally, reflecting on my thoughts as an audience member caused me to think of my favorite scene from back then. Amazingly, there's video footage of it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ2BcwLLThg[/youtube]
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Postby Roy Janik » May 25th, 2011, 1:12 am

Oh man. It makes me so happy to hear Buckman laughing in the Maestro audience in that video.
(and also a little sad)
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Postby Spots » May 25th, 2011, 2:27 am

bradisntclever wrote: I know this because I was one of them when I used to see Maestros before taking classes and as a student.


There are audience members that consider EVERY possibility. You and I.... we could never predict, we could never anticipate the audience's thoughts and feelings. Someone will hear an opening line and think, "Oh this scene will be about dinosaurs." And it never happens. The sentiment is left in the dust. Those possibilities are part of why improv is so fun to watch live.

Brad, do you think you ever would have gotten involved in improv besides Maestro??? It's sort of an intriguing "parallel universe" question for me because I happen to think Maestro is a bad first impression of improv, both for the players and the audience. I mean it works.... the human contraversy element hooks the person into getting more emotionally involved.


But the second there's an audience member who is pitting one improviser against another improviser... they've missed the boat. The concept is sort of lost yea? The show is great. I'm sure there are repeat viewers. But there's one poor bastard for every show who now thinks "improv is about one performer despite all the other performers".

That guy is in the audience, sure. I once invited my sister to Maestro and she was one of those people. She was saying this & that about performers she thought were great, and performers she thought had no business performing. I listened to her, nodding my head. I explained to her those people were my friends. Ever since that moment I haven't felt the need to do another Maestro. Fuck people like my sister. Just have fun.
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Postby Ruby W. » May 25th, 2011, 3:25 am

Brad Hawkins wrote:There was one time I was in the wings, and whispered to Ruby that I hoped I'd get a five on this next scene. She replied (and I have no idea how she remembered this) that I couldn't win anyway. This did indeed take the wind out of my sails a little, which I think is what Spaz was suggesting.


So I don't know if this was me, or the other Ruby. But if it was me, let me just clarify that I feel my comment is being taken a bit out of context. My intent would have been only to express my personal belief that the scores/winnings don't matter at all. So when Brad said he wanted to get a five, my way of saying "don't worry about the score" was telling him that the score didn't matter. I in no way meant it to be received as a negative, discouraging or "competitive-heavy" comment. Sorry Brad if I hurt your ability to have fun in your scenes that night.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » May 25th, 2011, 7:27 am

eliz.rubywillmann wrote:So I don't know if this was me, or the other Ruby. But if it was me, let me just clarify that I feel my comment is being taken a bit out of context. My intent would have been only to express my personal belief that the scores/winnings don't matter at all. So when Brad said he wanted to get a five, my way of saying "don't worry about the score" was telling him that the score didn't matter. I in no way meant it to be received as a negative, discouraging or "competitive-heavy" comment. Sorry Brad if I hurt your ability to have fun in your scenes that night.

Oh, no. It was the fact that you were relaying, not the way in which you relayed it. I could tell that you were being positive.
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Postby bradisntclever » May 25th, 2011, 9:42 am

Spots wrote:There are audience members that consider EVERY possibility. You and I.... we could never predict, we could never anticipate the audience's thoughts and feelings.


That's more or less what I was trying to get at in my second paragraph. We should have respect for the audience and how smart those people are, but everyone in that group is free to interpret stuff however they wish. I don't think there's a correct interpretation to Maestro.

Spots wrote:Brad, do you think you ever would have gotten involved in improv besides Maestro??? It's sort of an intriguing "parallel universe" question for me because I happen to think Maestro is a bad first impression of improv, both for the players and the audience.


Absolutely. Maestro wasn't my first exposure to improv. Improv kept popping up in my life until I finally admitted to myself it would be fun to actually take classes, rather than do that game of "if I had more free time, I'd probably take improv classes."

Spots wrote:But the second there's an audience member who is pitting one improviser against another improviser... they've missed the boat. The concept is sort of lost yea? The show is great. I'm sure there are repeat viewers. But there's one poor bastard for every show who now thinks "improv is about one performer despite all the other performers".


If I recall correctly, this is from somewhere in Sean's Tao of Maestro post: "If Maestro was for the improvisers, there would be no scoring and no eliminations." The show exists primarily for the audience's enjoyment. We shouldn't tell them they're wrong for caring about how they score scenes or if they have a few improvisers they find particularly funny. That's not missing the boat, that's just another sign they're actually invested in the show.

Spots wrote:Just have fun.


As a player, this should be all we're actually worried about. The scores exist for the audience, not for us, etc.
Last edited by bradisntclever on May 25th, 2011, 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 25th, 2011, 9:55 am

sara farr wrote:You should TRY TO WIN MAESTRO. Right??


nope. in my experience, that's the last thing you should be trying to do. not even from a Jedi "there is no try" perspective. the people who win Maestro the most, in my experience, and who have the most fun and do the best scenes are the ones who don't care and aren't trying. they're just playing the show (sometimes i like to play a CHARACTER who cares about the score and the win...but i'm usually setting him up for a fall. ;) ). that's why i think so many people have won their first Maestro...because they don't think they have a shot of winning so they're not trying to do anything but have fun, play the games, do good scenes, etc. i talk to people who've won a few or several Maestros, and their response is typically "it doesn't matter/it's just a game/the competition is the box", etc. the people i've talked to who are fixated on winning like it's some kind of actual prize or measure of their worth as an improvisor? more often than not, they've never won.

so yeah, be charming, be playful, be sexy...play the hero, play the villain, play support...but the second you start actually CARING about winning, you've lost it.

sara farr wrote:Wanna win Maestro? Get a bunch of people who love to watch you improvise to come see the show and cheer you on!!


no, you're thinking of the Cage Match. lol!

Katherine wrote:I like Davis's idea and can see that it would be a very useful tool in the director's bag of tricks. It's a great way to keep the hard core score watchers in the audience engaged.

Another thought is this... as an audience member and as a cast member I have often wished the audience could vote to bring one eliminated player back to compete for the final round. They could be the Wild Card Player or something. I've only been in Maestro a few time, but I've seen it a lot, and I'd say the desire to see someone return to the stage hits me the vast majority of the time. If this seems sacrilegious to mess with The Almighty Point System, perhaps that person could play, but not for points. (For the record, I have always been eliminated in the first round, and while I've wished I could do some more scenes with everyone, I've never thought I should be the one to be brought back from the Maestro dead.)

A few weeks ago was one improvisor's last show for a while, so when she was eliminated, she gave a little speech of thanks to the audience for several years of support. Another eliminated cast member began to chant, "Let her stay! Let her stay!" The audience agreed and she stayed on. When she was eliminated again, the chant started again, and she was allowed to stay but not play for points. That scenario was an unusual one, but I think it shows that even the audience wants to overrule the score board sometimes. (This connects with Matt's point that every once in a while, the prize does not go to the top scoring player.)

I know one of the tenants of Maestro is that it's not fair. As performers, we have to be ok with that. As audience members, that unfairness is usually part of the fun of the show, but sometimes they so clearly want someone to stick around. What do you think of revivifying one player per game before the final round?


every once in a while i enjoy something like that, because it plays into the mischievous side of Maestro. so it's something to have in the bag of tricks, but definitely not something you want to pull out too often nor something to plan for. moments like that play best when they arise organically.
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Postby jillybee72 » May 25th, 2011, 3:40 pm

It is nothing personal, it's not how the performers feel at all. This is about how it looks to the audience. If there's a blow-out, everyone leaves in the 7th inning. It is not dramatic. Create dramatic tension.
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Postby LuBu McJohnson » May 25th, 2011, 4:28 pm

jillybee72 wrote:It is nothing personal, it's not how the performers feel at all. This is about how it looks to the audience. If there's a blow-out, everyone leaves in the 7th inning. It is not dramatic. Create dramatic tension.


Well, it's not baseball. If you feel the need to create dramatic tension you can do so (tanking, trying to get a 1, etc.). But the show has been entertaining, despite the fact that a blow-out is apparent, many times.
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Postby jillybee72 » May 25th, 2011, 8:33 pm

LuBu McJohnson wrote:Well, it's not baseball. If you feel the need to create dramatic tension you can do so (tanking, trying to get a 1, etc.). But the show has been entertaining, despite the fact that a blow-out is apparent, many times.


Then why do you have points?
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Postby LuBu McJohnson » May 25th, 2011, 9:41 pm

jillybee72 wrote:
LuBu McJohnson wrote:Well, it's not baseball. If you feel the need to create dramatic tension you can do so (tanking, trying to get a 1, etc.). But the show has been entertaining, despite the fact that a blow-out is apparent, many times.


Then why do you have points?


Points put asses in seats, the improv keeps them there.

Also, I didn't wanna be rude or anything, of course. I'm just saying that baseball might not be a good metaphor to use. I think people would stay in the stadium if the team that was losing real bad then decided to employ the "Loss Dragon," which would fly around the various seats and breathe ice cream onto the children.
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Postby bradisntclever » May 25th, 2011, 11:36 pm

LuBu McJohnson wrote:But the show has been entertaining, despite the fact that a blow-out is apparent, many times.


The shows aren't often blow-outs. In the instances where this becomes an issue, it tends to look like this: Person A is ahead of Person B by one point heading into the final round. In the final round, the directors call Person A to go first - she gets a 5 on her scene.
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Postby jillybee72 » May 26th, 2011, 1:02 am

It's not a huge dramatic deus ex machina being proposed, it's a simple selection of order to create the best finish. The "Loss Dragon" is far too big a metaphor. A right-sized metaphor would be the "Designated Hitter" which is a real thing that they use to make baseball more interesting.

The objection I'm hearing, in summary, is: "Who cares?" The answer is: "The audience, because they'd like to see a show that ends with a big finish." Your reply is, "The ending is a big finish no matter what!" and I trust you because you've seen more Maestros than I.
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Postby Justin D. » May 26th, 2011, 2:42 am

First, everyone should play to win. And by play to win, I mean play to the best of their abilities and have fun. Also, it helps to get put in scenes with people as funny or funnier than you. So, yeah, go for that too.

jillybee72 wrote:It's not a huge dramatic deus ex machina being proposed, it's a simple selection of order to create the best finish. The "Loss Dragon" is far too big a metaphor. A right-sized metaphor would be the "Designated Hitter" which is a real thing that they use to make baseball more interesting.

The objection I'm hearing, in summary, is: "Who cares?" The answer is: "The audience, because they'd like to see a show that ends with a big finish." Your reply is, "The ending is a big finish no matter what!" and I trust you because you've seen more Maestros than I.


Yeah, David's idea isn't bad at all, and it's a good note for the directors. Players don't have to worry about this at all.

Chuy! wrote:I try my damndest not to think about anyone else's score but my own... You can damn sure bet I was completely aware that (with the help of some great players) I was one scene away from perfect fives on Saturday (even though I think the audience did vote five on the scene that was diplomatically for shape of show given a four by our esteemed director. A great directorial decision by Justin).


One of the benefits of being completely deaf in my left ear is that I can legitimately claim that I sometimes can't tell the difference between applause for one number and applause for a neighboring number when the amount of applause is close. I also try to not count hoots and hollers.

Brad Hawkins wrote:
shando wrote:The shape of show thing that I see at the end of Maestro that can drive one nuts is say you have 4 people left, or 3, and some tie scores. And then people tied get put into a scene together and there can be no separation between them in the scoring. Like I said I haven't been in a while, so maybe that doesn't happen anymore, but it used to drive me bananas.


Chuy and Noah's dueling-preacher scene was one of those. There seem to be fewer non-solo scenes in the final round these days.


That was very much on purpose though because Jon was set to win no matter what at that point. Marc and I even playfully debated over who got to direct whom since he directed Noah in a solo scene in the last round, and that's why I just called them both out there. There were some damn good lines in that dueling preachers scene too.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » May 26th, 2011, 9:08 am

Justin D. wrote:First, everyone should play to win. And by play to win, I mean play to the best of their abilities and have fun.


those are two very different ideas in most performers' heads, though...

a good mantra for Maestro, for me anyway, is "Don't win the game...win the show."
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