Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Post by smerlin »

I know I'm late on this discussion--It's hard to keep up--but I have two main thoughts on the Chicago/Johnstone style conflict:

1) It's good to do both. This has been my motto of late. Both have plusses and minuses and can add to your enjoyment and skills as a performer.

2) When they are well done, it's hard to distinguish between the two. Story/Plot vs Relationship/Character/Theme -- when it's a great show, it has all of those things. Great stories have great Relationship/Character/Theme and great Relationships/Characters are good stories in that they change and move forward. A false dichotomy.

Although when each form is done poorly, they suck in very different ways

Of course, my main two thoughts on the topic are in conflict, so oh well.
Last edited by smerlin on May 12th, 2013, 2:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by sara farr »

smerlin wrote:Of course, my main two thoughts on the topic are in conflict, so oh well.

I would like to suggest you mean that, "it's best to do both, and do them both well," though I don't know if that is gramatically correct.

Damn! There is too much to think about! Therefore, over the next few months, I'm going to focus on UCB's "Don't Think!" moto and ignore everything I've learned over the past year and see what you guys have been able to drill into me. HA!
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Post by mdalonzo »

I'm so glad I finally registered, so I can add comments to a board that was started months ago!

Seriously, though, on this point, I think the idea is that people who trained in a certain style are very partisan to that style, and have a hard time allowing themselves in to another, which is why it's going to be so interesting and valuable to see what happens when these two things merge.

Having been trained in two styles (Second City and Johnstone), I can see what's annoying and sort of disconnecting about both. My biggest pet peeve with Johnstonian improv has always been all about the director being just as much a part of the scene as the improvisor, which always makes me feel just a little like I'm sitting in on a class, and not paying to see a show.

By the same token, there has always been a little too much clever clever for the Harold and such for me, especially when you start breaking them down into smaller formats like an Armando and such. There's such geometry behind it, you can almost see a topographic map of the show if you look at it from the light booth.

But then, I could be completely wrong. I don't know. I just like fucking around.

Last edited by mdalonzo on May 12th, 2013, 2:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Styles combined

Post by cargill »

I enjoy playing both styles, specifically with Johnstone style - I really enjoy playing the same character throughout the duration of the piece and finding out some very interesting information about the character as each scene unravels.

The main difference I have found (for me) playing both of the styles has been the source of inspiration for the piece (in relation to the actor) and how that affects how the piece moves forward. In Girls, Girls, Girls, we focus more on the story being told as our source for moving things forward in the piece, while playing in a Chicago style show, we always look to the top of the piece (the opening or source scene) as our source for inspiration to move things forward. Both have similar qualities and both are fun to watch and play, the main differences I have found seem like the focus of inspiration or source of inspiration.
Last edited by cargill on May 12th, 2013, 2:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Blending of styles

Post by starkserious »

I've had training in both styles and when I think about they both are great when people are supporting each other. The key is not getting lost in your head over what you are doing. Which unfortunately happens to me. But both styles have taught me to respond honestly to your scene situations with emotions. Allow your character or self to be affected by what's happening to you on stage. The long form of chicago taught me to bring a strong point of view on stage and stick with it! It also means creating very grounded scenes from the top and this is Johnstone taught me to establish the who, what, where of the scene and yes and the shit out of it. Long form styles can get tricky if you have to do alot of thinking in them.

I think character vs story related scenes are both subjective. Audiences love stories and they love good characters. The only time I don't like story scenes is when it gets too plot driven and we forget to focus on the characters. I also agree with Mike in that I get irritated sometimes with the directors in a TheatreSports type show.
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Post by ChrisTrew.Com »

I was trained in New Orleans by someone who was heavily trained in Chicago and last summer I went to Chicago myself to do some training.
Train, Train, Train.
Blah, Blah, Blah.

I learn way more about what kind of improviser I want to be by improvising with the people I love and by having fun. If I keep ColdTowne guessing at what I'm going to do next (but really, they know), and at the same time have them completely trust me and know that I have their back no matter what, I'm having fun. And having fun = being happy = good show.

I'm not totally poo-pooing on the need to train, though. Of course, I would be a completely different performer if I had none at all. I think a big decision we all have to make is how much we let the training influence us. Sometimes I hear a tip and I think "No. That's not me, I'm not doing that. I hate training!" But then I'll hear something the next day and *bing!* lightbulb, and it sticks with me forever. Organically.

So, for me, training = good. Thinking about what you were trained to do too much = bad.
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