confession

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby valetoile » November 17th, 2005, 7:55 pm

I am very excited about all this. I'm really interested in different forms of story telling, non-linear narratives, and ways to communicate, and art, and all that crap. And beer. And leftovers.

And Wes, if you think Minnesotans aren't into story-telling, please please let me lend you my copy of Lake Wobegone Days. And tune into A Prarie Home Companion on NPR, instead of that crazy-person radio you listen to.
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Postby mcnichol » November 18th, 2005, 10:28 am

I'm a sucker for that show, as well as This American Life (out of Chicago's WBEZ) which has been on NPR (actually PRI) for about 10 years. The (usually true) stories can be funny, heartwrenching, and are never less than interesting (well, maybe once in a awhile). Nevertheless, one of my favorite stories ever is from TAL. The one that the guy tells about the production of Peter Pan from his hometown in the 1970's is amazing. TAL did a show on the theme of Fiasco, and what makes a fiasco (when it goes past chaos, through disaster, into fiasco). The Peter Pan story alone is about 25 minutes long and my stomach hurts from laughter after every time I hear it.

Actually, there's another show on First Days, about people's first days somewhere, where a cop tells about his first day on the job and having to deal with a squirrel in someone's house. It's hilarious and could have easily fit in the Fiasco show...

Check them out here if you have some time: http://www.thislife.org/pages/favorites2.html (Fiasco and First Day are on that page somewhere)
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i lost my sh*t

Postby erikamay » November 18th, 2005, 11:16 am

the first time I heard the peter pan story. its is one of the funniest things i have ever heard, and ira glass' dry sense of humor just propels the observation of the unfolding fiasco even more. please check it out.

it occured to me that valerie's post regarding the excitement for the possibilities that follow a disaster dovetail perfectly with the construct of these stories. after each successively more disasterous occurrence, you think, "ok, things are about to get better now..." and they just DON'T.

ah friday...
e
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-- Del Close
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Chicago Re-visited

Postby sara farr » November 22nd, 2005, 1:53 am

Q: Do I want to see a mix of "Del Close" and "Keith Johnstone" styles of improv here in Austin?

I interpret this to mean, "Do I want to see a mix of "character/emotional driven" and "action/plot driven" improv?"

Short answer:

Yes!

Long answer:

Yes, definately. Both have value. Both make for rich, emotionally involved theater.

As a character animator, I have learned that ALL MOTION COMES FROM EMOTION. Meaning, until you know the emotion behind why the guy is running, you won't know how to make the character move (status, body language, etc). Is he... happy to see his lost friend... sad that his lover is leaving... angry that his enemy has just killed his buddy... scared that his child is about to die... all those emotions will create a different looking "run" animation.

In film, my favorite "Action" movies (drama or comedy) are the ones where you come to care about the characters. You want to see them succeed or fail because you see how they emotionally respond to things. And that emotion is something you can identify with. Likewise, the best "Character Study" movies (drama or comedy) are the ones that take the character through a life event. By doing that, you get to see them responding to different situations and other characters, which in turn gives you a multi-dimensional picture of who they are.

I think of this mix as a cubist painting, or a Robert Altman style film. By giving the audience a facetted look at the event, you are revealing more about the characters and the story than you could get with A) just one plotline with just one main character, or even B) a series of situations & characters linked only by thematic content.

***Side Note***
I just got back from Chicago with my troupe Wooden Nickel.

We got to see some improv on Friday night, including an 8pm show called "Whirled News Tonight" (with a Q&A with the performers afterwards). We also got to see the Midnight showdown of the "Cage Match! Quarter Finals". On Saturday, WN performed in the CIC Improv Showcase with both "Stewtopia" (another improv troupe), and "Q-5" (a Sketch trio).

Both nights were really fun, but what impressed me the most was our Friday night workshop. It was a four hour intensive with Jason Chin and we intended to cover all of IO's classes -- levels 1-5. It ended up being a R&D session with our form. We tried a few new things and got a lot of great feedback and notes. The result is that we may change our form to a
Deconstruction or Harold so we can keep our stories grounded in reality (and not get too wacky).

Personally, I had an "Eurka" moment when Jason told us the three things I should be thinking about as an improviser were:

1) What is the implied relationship of the other people in the scene with me.

This comes naturally. You already make this assumption and, even if you don't say it out loud, you know in your head if the other imp is your mother, your sister, your boss, your co-worker, etc.

2) What are they REALLY saying under all that dialogue?


3) How does that make me feel?

Before I can act, I need to recognize what my gut, emotional response is to that truth. That emotion will tell me how I should re-act to my scene partner.

**Jason also told us that that during the start of our show I really only had to remember the details from one of the monologs.

Of course, after all that, Jason then told us we were to forget everything and just play the scene. Which is a common coaching tip.
***

~Sara

P.S. You can read the history of the popular Reese's candy on the following website.

http://www.hersheys.com/products/detail ... ercups.asp
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Thanks Sara

Postby cargill » November 22nd, 2005, 12:48 pm

The Chicago trip was really fun for everyone and the bonding was awesome. My favorite part was watching all the Nicklers watch the shows: the Harolds, the Dream, the CageMatch and what I especially loved was hanging out at the Improv Olympic after all the shows were over until 2am with about 75 improvisors all embracing and welcoming the Austin kids. They really enjoyed meeting everyone and are super excited about hearing what we are building here with mixing our styles, our improvisors and creating our own unique shows.
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Postby Wesley » November 28th, 2005, 1:33 am

What is the Dream?
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Postby mcnichol » November 28th, 2005, 11:33 am

Wesley wrote:What is the Dream?


There might be other names for this, but The Dream is a short game that IO teams perform during the Harold shows -- I'm sure it's performed a million other places too, but this is where I learned it. Between the two or three teams playing in a given show slot, whoever is emcee-ing that night brings up a volunteer from the audience to talk about their day. The emcee has the volunteer walk them through their day in detail, prodding where some details may be skipped or vague. They also ask some other stuff about significant others, things weighing heavily on your mind, etc. The emcee also allows any of the improvisors to ask the volunteer a question or two for clarity.

Then the teams (all two or three teams perform this together) get up and show what their dream that night might be like. One of the players assumes the role of the volunteer and is up on stage throughout the 5 minute (more or less) piece. Ideally, it's an organic piece where improvisors are coming in and out as parts of the dream/nightmare based on details from the person's day or life. It works best when they are not reenacted, but rather made bizarre the way dreams can be, with various elements of your day/life mixing, inanimate objects coming to life, etc. The pacing is usually where an improvisor comes out, makes it clear who they are supposed to be, gets straight to a fairly quick laugh that hits and is hazily (i.e. dreamlike) editted by another person with a quick laugh and out. And so on. All this goes on for a few minutes and then a blackout.

It's been a great way to get the audience involved more with the shows. And it had been a great way for various teams to intermingle on stage.
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Postby deroosisonfire » November 28th, 2005, 12:21 pm

this sounds like a fun game to try during the cage match while votes are being counted!
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Postby kaci_beeler » November 29th, 2005, 5:15 am

deroosisonfire wrote:this sounds like a fun game to try during the cage match while votes are being counted!


Yeah, I think you're right Christina. That would make it certainly a lot less of an awkward stand-a-bout-the-stage during that time. Maybe it could be worked on at the jam?
Interesting.
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Dream Workshop

Postby cargill » November 29th, 2005, 9:05 am

I wonder if we could workshop the dream a few times to put in shows ? Maybe at the Tuesday Jam or a Saturday after the Co-Op meeting ?
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Postby Wesley » November 29th, 2005, 10:46 am

There might be other names for this, but The Dream is a short game that IO teams perform during the Harold shows

Ahh, it sounds similar to the long form idea our troupe had.
I'm all for giving it a shot at the Cage Match sometime. If it can be played in 5 mins or less, maybe it would make a good 2nd round Maestro game.
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Maestro

Postby cargill » November 29th, 2005, 10:49 am

That sounds like a fun idea. It can definitley take less than 5 min, but I think the prep (interviweing the person) takes a bit. It would REALLY be fun to do as a musical this Saturday..............hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........................
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Re: Maestro

Postby mcnichol » November 29th, 2005, 12:23 pm

cargill wrote:That sounds like a fun idea. It can definitley take less than 5 min, but I think the prep (interviweing the person) takes a bit. It would REALLY be fun to do as a musical this Saturday..............hmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........................


I'm all up for it being played whenever...

Know that the interview part can take a little bit though. The best Dreams are when lots of details are given out during the interview (itself, 5 - 10 minutes) because a) the person being interviewed is willing to open up, be vulnerable, and is not attempting to 'ham it up' on stage and b) the interviewer is able to prod for more details when things are vague or missing. This just gives the players so much more to work with and makes for a richer piece. When the interviews are rushed or vague, the Dream pretty often sucks.

It's fun, it's fast, and the audience is happy to be included. And it seems good to play between teams, as it break up the pacing of the show in a good, 'reset button' sort of way.
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Postby Wesley » November 29th, 2005, 1:10 pm

It reminds me a lot of the Eulogy game that Wallace(?) had us do once. He got three improvisers on stage, then asked for a volunteer. He brought them down in front of the stage and interviewed them for about two minutes. Names of friends and family, their job, their hobbies, their dreams, etc. He didn't tell us what we were doing and there was so much information that it was overwhelming.
Then he basically said "Good. Oh no, you got hit by a truck and now you're dead. Go sit down." Then he made the three improvisers use the information to give a eulogy at the persons funeral. Kareem made a maseterful jump being her riding instructor (her hobby was horse riding, though she never mentioned the instructor, which is why taking on that character was nice after myself and another player directly played someone she actually had mentioned).

Anyway, we should definitely work on games like that more.
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Postby valetoile » November 29th, 2005, 6:59 pm

This also reminds me of Playback theatre- an audience member gets up and tells a story, is gently interviewed to fill in more details, and then the players play the story. Sometimes they'll change the ending if the teller would like them to. There's a whole book on this in the co-op library.
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