Six Degrees of Parallelogramophonograph

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Six Degrees of Parallelogramophonograph

Postby kbadr » February 21st, 2006, 2:45 pm

Hey,

My troupe's attempting a 6 Degrees format. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions about what's really worked (or hasn't) when you've done this format in the past?

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i love this form

Postby Dave » February 21st, 2006, 2:52 pm

this is what i always tell people who are about to do this form:

1. you HAVE to choose a character that you will like and will like to play.

2. assume your character already has a history with everyone else's in the show.

3. when tagging in for the first time, do you partner a favor and show a different side of their life. if the previous scene takes place at work, show a side of them at home...or vice versa.

4. give lots and lots of endowment, especially early on. "Nice purple courderoy shirt, seargeant.", "You're half-blindess nearly cost us the mayonaisse account.", etc.

and

5. resist the urge to have every scene reference the previous scenes. try to have strictly relationship-based scenes and not make the point of a scene be about furthering the plot. the bake sale or the bicycle race at the end of the show is going to inevitebly happen, don;t push it, spend the early scenes fleshing out charcter traits and relationship dynamics. the plot or story points usually takes care of themselvs.

good luck, k
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Postby beardedlamb » February 21st, 2006, 4:09 pm

don't feel the need to do full and complete scenes at the top of the show in those first "six dgrees." i feel like when heroes did this several years ago we were bound down to doing a full scene in that first section. this often slowed the pace of the show and sapped the energy from the opener. i think it's alright to just see a glimpse of some characters (1 to 2 minutes) because they're going to be revisited anyway. vary up the length in the beginning.

this may actually be breaking the format, i'm not sure. it's the one thing i'd do differently although i don't know if that's cheating.

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it's not cheating at all

Postby Dave » February 21st, 2006, 5:19 pm

jeremy's right, quick scenes are good in this opening, for two reasons.

1- there's six (or however many people in your group) of you to get through. By the 3rd or 4th person, the smarter folks in your audience have figured out the game you're playing and they ahve figured out that all of you have to run through this charcter turnstile. The quicker you can get back ahead in front of the audience's intelligence and imagination, the better.

2- Also, as soon as a character is well-defined, for 1) the player, 2) the other improvisers and 3) the audience. It's time to edit. Anything more than that is going to start writing the show. All you should want to do is make sure all three know each character's name, what their deal in life is and clearly defined realtionships to the people tagging-in before and after you.

yay forms!

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Postby Wesley » February 21st, 2006, 5:44 pm

So, do you not recommend explaining the form to them, even in a style show?
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Postby arclight » February 21st, 2006, 7:24 pm

The Heroes would ask for the title of a play that's never been written and announce that they were presenting that play and just start. There's no need to explain the format to the audience because they don't have to do anything but watch and enjoy.

Also, take notes of people's names. Forgetting people's names is a pain in the ass and it's all too easy to do if you're trying to play vs memorizing everything.
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Postby Wesley » February 22nd, 2006, 1:52 am

Even in a style show, though?
It seems odd to have a style show and not inform the audience what a style is or what style they will be seeing.
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Postby arclight » February 22nd, 2006, 9:12 am

Well, if the Style Show normally explains what the style for the night it, sure, explain it briefly. I prefer less explanation than more to keep the audience's energy up. My feeling is that the audience gets it and/or doesn't care that much about the format, so as long as the show is interesting, they're happy.

It might help to tell them that unlike "Who's Line...", you'll be creating a never-before-seen play from a single audience suggestion, so they don't get any funny ideas about shouting stuff out mid-show.

It might be challenging to do Six Degrees/La Ronde in 30 minutes; you need to find out who the story is about early and have the other characters support that, keeping subplots from taking too much time & focus.
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Postby mcnichol » February 22nd, 2006, 12:54 pm

arclight wrote:Well, if the Style Show normally explains what the style for the night it, sure, explain it briefly. I prefer less explanation than more to keep the audience's energy up. My feeling is that the audience gets it and/or doesn't care that much about the format, so as long as the show is interesting, they're happy.

It might help to tell them that unlike "Who's Line...", you'll be creating a never-before-seen play from a single audience suggestion, so they don't get any funny ideas about shouting stuff out mid-show.


I agree wholeheartedly with Bob. Audiences just want to laugh -- unless they are an improvisor, they don't care how you accomplish this. I agree you might want to briefly mention that's its different than Who's Line, and it's one suggestion, but otherwise the mystery of how you're making all of this up will be (more) intact if you reveal less about how you're doing it.
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Postby acrouch » February 22nd, 2006, 1:09 pm

I disagree vigorously with both Bobs. One of the things that we consistently fall short on is helping people engage improv by explaining up front what we're doing.

A show like Six Degrees has a format for a reason. Explaining the format and even a little of the reasoning behind it in a simple, entertaining way can only add to the audience's enjoyment of the improv.

Sure, a great, hilarious show can transcend the initial confusion of the audience, but wouldn't they enjoy it even more if they were with us from the beginning. And a show that is simply good and funny (which is where most of our shows are right now) cannot put the audience through that confusion and expect to come out the other end with all of them on our side.

In conclusion, I support simple, entertaining explanations of format.
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Postby Wesley » February 22nd, 2006, 1:29 pm

I have to agree with Andy.

One of my biggest concerns from watching audience members that aren't improvisers is that sometimes they just don't seem to get it. But even if we are OK with the audience being in the dark most of the time, a "Style Show," by definition, seems like the one place where the style itself is front and center and should be highlighted. It will also encourage troupes to set styles and stick to trying them.

Before knowing what improv was, the best shows I saw set up the format very clearly, if concisely. And I've seen many an audience seem to drop an energy level over what we think is the most routine "improv" thing in the world. For example, taking a suggestion. One time I actually heard an audience member complain to his wife over the suggestion being turned. The suggestion he gave was BBQ. Without explaining what was being done or why, the improvisers launched into a word association game and then started a scene about ice hockey. The guy leaned over and said something like "I said BBQ, didn't I?" I don't think he laughed but a few times during the show after that.

Personally, I have no problem with pulling back the curtain and trying to show some of the magician's tricks. The mystery of improv might be why we have trouble filling up classes. It looks so impressive that people think there is no way they can do it. Hell, after seeing some of Tight's and Knuckleball's recent shows, I wouldn't sign up for a class because I would have said "there's no way I could do that!" But, if we let the audience know that there are skill sets and formats and structure to the playground, I think they may be more willing to sign on and give it a try.

I tried a little of this when I helped host the audience jam a few weeks ago and I think people liked it (small crowd and mostly improvisers so hard to get a true guage). I ran the status game (hold cards up to your forehead so that you don't know your status, but you do know everyone else's) and opened with explaining that "although we are making it up on the spot un here, we often do so within a set of guiding prinicples. One of those principles is known as status. Often someone in the scene has a higher status than everyone else. Just like in your own real lives where you have a different status relationship with your boss than you do with your kids. This is a game that helps show how status works."

Although, this is all side topic to the original discussion. Thank you for the suggestions. We had a mini-rehearsal last night and used a lot of them. It really helped. Thank you!
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Postby kaci_beeler » February 22nd, 2006, 3:05 pm

I agree with Andy as well. As much as I like to not know about say, a movie before seeing it, improv is different. It's nice as an audience member to see what the improvisers are working towards. I think the improv is easier to appreciate and become engaged with that way.

The first time I ever saw a herald (a few years ago) it wasn't explained to the audience what was going to happen and I spent a lot of my time puzzled about whether these weird interrupting monologues were true stories or made up on the spot. Why was the same person doing the monologue everytime? Etc. It pissed me off that I didn't know what was going on and it made the experience very unenjoyable.
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Postby arclight » February 22nd, 2006, 4:06 pm

I believe developing a more sophisticated audience is a good thing and it's something the AIC should be doing. My worry is that too much exposition at the top of a show tends to drain the life out of the room and can make the audience resent getting lectured at.

I'd rather that standard formats get a brief explanation by the host with a deeper explanation both online and in the program. Since the point of the style show is to introduce or showcase a different specific style each week, the audience should expect a little more explanation than normal.

I think it's good to demystify some of the art to attract people to classes ("Really, you can do this...") and I think the style show is a great way to gently introduce new forms to the audience. As a player, there have been times I've wanted to strangle the host or director for nattering on so long that the crowd was pretty much dead by the time we got to them.

Kaci: I'm just curious - what attracted you to that show in the first place?
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Postby kaci_beeler » February 23rd, 2006, 11:33 am

arclight wrote:Kaci: I'm just curious - what attracted you to that show in the first place?


I didn't specifically go to see a herald, I just went out to see some improv because I hadn't in awhile and it was what was going on that night.
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Back on the tangent bandwagon

Postby Wesley » February 23rd, 2006, 12:39 pm

I spent a lot of my time puzzled about whether these weird interrupting monologues were true stories or made up on the spot.

That's a good side point. Truth vs. fantasy. I think the audience never knows for sure when we are doing one or the other and they err on the side of thinking we are making it up.
I can see shows with people I know and formats I'm familiar with and still not know if they are being honest or not. But there is a lot of power in truth and I think that we, as improvisers, shouldn't be afraid to be clear about when we are being truthful and shouldn't be afraid to be brutally honest and open while in that mode.
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