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Your greatest mistake, worst experience, or clusterf*ck...

Posted: December 21st, 2012, 6:55 pm
by PyroDan
...and what you learned from it.

I have always found that while mistakes are often hard to swallow, it is often the best time to learn. That silly time most educators see as a 'teaching moment.'

I want to know what the denziens of the AIC consider their worst experiences performance wise, and how it aided in their own growth.

Posted: December 22nd, 2012, 2:21 pm
by Adam Keys
My first Pick Your Own Path, I was hesitating to jump out after a few scenes. So I walked out and struck a pose at the back of the scene (mistake #1). It was some kind of robot workshop scene, so I stuck my arms out, like a robot stopped mid-gesture. I figured there was some way I'd come to life mid-scene.

Several minutes pass and I'm a little panic-y because I don't have a good way out and my arms are starting to burn. Eventually there was a "all supporting characters die" moment, I made a big dying gesture and got myself back to the dark comfort of the sides.

Lesson: it's OK if you're scene dressing, it's OK to slink off, and no one is going to come up to you later and demand that you explain your seemingly purposeless presence on stage for several minutes. This is why improv is awesome: your mistakes are ephemeral, only as severe as you make them in your head.

Posted: December 22nd, 2012, 6:22 pm
by jillybee72
I had a chance to kiss Dave Razowsky and I didn't.
I will never miss that boat again, which is to say if in a movie the characters would kiss they should probably kiss in this improv scene.

Posted: December 22nd, 2012, 7:19 pm
by Spots
Somewhere in Jackson Mississippi. It was the second stop on a tour so me and my tour buddies were eating in a restaurant / dance hall type establishment. My oldest brother Jon & his wife show up to watch the show.

The troupe consisted of performers from three different cities. We were still working out the dynamics of the troupe but basically there were 2 players who I respected, practically over the moon.

So when I got onstage I was very polite and not meeting them halfway. I'd be afraid to edit their scenes. I would be "respectful" not to do walk-ons or tap outs.

It was by no means a bad show. But I had been too polite. And my family had seen THIS show & their perception of what I do was shaped on this show. I had dialed myself back and put the burden of support on everyone else's shoulders.

I kept thinking about that in the van. That every time you are onstage you are giving a single person in the audience their first impression of an entire art form. I can never take back my brother's first impression.

What I learned by the next stop in the tour was that everyone had my back & benefited from me giving it 100 percent. St. Louis and Kansas City were my best shows for this reason. I dialed it up and decided to "be a worker" in my scenes.

Ever since then I try to gauge how my respect & admiration effects my performance in scenes. It's like being on a film set & not giving a good performance because you want to show respect to the cinematographer & the director. It doesn't add up because you have a job to do.

Posted: December 22nd, 2012, 8:56 pm
by Spots
Dan what's yours?

Posted: December 22nd, 2012, 10:00 pm
by PyroDan
Oh there are so many Jesse. I was interrupted mid-post, so I didn't get to post one when I originally started this...

Well I would say the one I learned from the most was being in my first non shortform scene. It was right after I started to really do improv, and I felt good about my work, but for the most part, I was just comfortable about having the comfort of structure that shortform offers. I was so busy trying to find out what the "game" of the scene was that I totally neglected the wonderfully spontaneous thing that I had initiated. I think I was on stage with my friend Jethro, and I could sense from him that he could see the panic I was having internally and he took the lead. But I blew it, so badly that I didn't jump up in rehearsal, I didn't initiate in shows. I melted away.

Then one day, I just stepped up, but I wasn't cognitive of what I was doing until it happened and I played the scene exactly as it needed to be done. Somehow I became aware mid-sentence that I was nailing it. Not ego wise, but because I just surrendered to what was happening and didn't try to man-handle what was happening, I just was there, in the moment, being attentive and enjoying myself.

While I haven't always nailed it since, I do my best to just allow it to come, rather than searching for it.

2) I auditioned for Second City TourCo, years and years ago. Mick Naiper was directing, and prior to my group going in he had come out to have a smoke, or get a water and he recognized me from workshopping and fests. We exchanged our pleasantries, and he gave me a piece of advice for the audition. He was aware of my troupes uber support play, and told me that the audition process was kinda a "show your ass" thing. Bring out characters, show your strengths, be a presence type thing. There was a panel who were choosing the troupe, not just him, so they needed to see something.

So I went in feeling like I had an edge, and then proceeded to support the hell out of everyone I did a scene with, I was patient and respectful, everything you want in a troupe member, but totally WRONG from the stand point of an audition for a job and completely disregarding the inside info Nick was so nice to have given me.

I walked in to the audition with the confidence I can hold a stage down with anyone and as soon as I stepped off that stage totally know that I throw that audition away, despite doing decent work while on stage.

I look back at it now and think, that is when I should have taken the chance and moved to Chicago originally. I only gave myself that one chance to see if I could make it, and then I flew home to Texas and worked in a gosh-damned theme-park for the next few years.

Jeez, I hadn't even thought about the last one in years. I must have been 22 ish, maybe. I will be 38 next month, so that's how long ago I kinda gave up on myself as a professional actor.

3) In honor of Jill's regret of a missed kiss. When I met Tina Fey in a Chili's in Waco Texas, in 1995, I should have proposed. Blargh, I really let that one slip.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 5:19 am
by Spots
Dan you just reminded me of this scene.

It was the first jam I ever jumped into at New Movement. I had a big head and thought I had a handle on things. You were supporting me for greatness by saying "Oh man. When people don't try his soup, he reacts big time."

And I froze. I basically found the ONE move that denied your gifts of support. And you kept offering me more gifts that I denied & denied.

That scene is when I first started getting my head around what works & what doesn't work for live comedy. And that there are these unseen forces you constantly have to apply to stay ahead of the audience.

I froze and made you look like an idiot. I made everyone else in that scene look like an idiot. It was retroactively embarrassing that I denied your gifts in that scene. That scene became a personal challenge to never let that happen again.

It happened a few more times.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 4:06 pm
by happywaffle
During a Maestro way back when, Ted Rutherford and I were instructed to start a scene with a kiss. We smooched when the lights went out, then lights came up, and I pushed him back and said "You BASTARD!" while slapping him clean across the face. Ted staggered onstage for a moment, I heard later that he was so shocked he actually had to get his composure together. The audience actually loved it, but yeah, I was an asshole for not stage-slapping.

I cringe when thinking about it to this day. What did I learn from it? Don't hit your stage partner.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 4:31 pm
by Roy Janik
happywaffle wrote: I cringe when thinking about it to this day. What did I learn from it? Don't hit your stage partner.
Unless they're cool with it and you know that beforehand.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 4:48 pm
by happywaffle
Roy Janik wrote:
happywaffle wrote: I cringe when thinking about it to this day. What did I learn from it? Don't hit your stage partner.
Unless they're cool with it and you know that beforehand.
Well. Yeah.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 5:19 pm
by Brad Hawkins
Roy Janik wrote:
happywaffle wrote: I cringe when thinking about it to this day. What did I learn from it? Don't hit your stage partner.
Unless they're cool with it and you know that beforehand.
Yeah. The same goes for kissing.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 5:24 pm
by Adam Keys
Ceej had a great warmup last night, wherein he coaches you to slap him in the face just hard enough to make a nice clapping sound. Of course he gets to slap you too. It's fun!

I've found this kind of slapstick mischief just before a show works great to get the low comedy out of my system. Breaking bread is a good way to know a person, but smacking them in the face seems like a sufficient stand-in when time is tight.

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 7:00 pm
by Spots
happywaffle wrote:Ted staggered onstage for a moment, I heard later that he was so shocked he actually had to get his composure together.

From the slap itself, or the fact that he was gifted as a man-on-man predator?

Posted: December 23rd, 2012, 7:50 pm
by PyroDan
I have always preferred actual stage contact.

I did a production of Fool for Love, and we had a slap, it was two feet from the audience, so it needed to be real, and I could take it.

The production was really method, and one night I did something that set off my co-star and she came early and really hard with the slap, but the problem , I was mid-sentence, my mouth was open, and she split my mouth open and blood began to pour.

It was beautiful. My mouth was so full of blood and spit, and I decided to open to the audience and spat out a mouthful, ground it down with my boot, and then left stage (I had an exit already)

It was so intense, but I spent the next five minutes backstage trying to get the bleeding to stop.

One of my most favorite stage moments ever.

Posted: December 24th, 2012, 12:49 am
by Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell
i've been a fight captain for too many productions to condone ACTUAL contact where it's not agreed to, worked out, and PRECISELY choreographed beforehand. the lack of ability to do the third one in improv has always put me on edge as to "real" slapping onstage in non-scripted theatre. even just a slap, the potential for a busted lip, dislocated jaw, or scratched eye just outweighs the need for verisimilitude...