Friday, March 22, 2013

I played a show tonight - and it fit me like a glove.

Let’s say tonight was the first night in a long time that I improvised to my potential.  If we believe that this is true, surely it wouldn’t be difficult to assume that I felt quite satisfied by the experience.  Looking back, I agree with all the choices I made during various moments in scenes in the show and am certain the result was fun for everyone involved.  One could presume arrogance on my part, but that one would be a fool for I am honorable and what I speak is truth.  A hey o na na nay.  Teaching improv over the years has shown me that people respond and grow more quickly when positively encouraged.  Teaching with the cans and wills and the does, man.  i'Takes patience, lord; it feels easy and natural to incline toward the negative, but turning your energy toward the positive is truly worth the mental struggle it takes to overcome a negative mental space and more – embrace confidence and temper it with objectivity. 

   oooooo  Hay ah ah oo oh, Hai ah ah oo oh, Hai ah ah oo oh, Hay!  oooaah

After this short paragraph of pertinent and valuable information, please watch the video of the show and then read the rest of my blog post to be “in on the post show notes”. For the sake of clarity in those, by the way, we’ll call the players MO, TT, KL, KE, SU, ML, TG. I’ll describe the moments now just before the camera was turned on and the video starts. Make sure to turn the lights off and the sound up, you silly gooseberry! This video is our 40ish minute free form Harold type thing, which was open to player’s choice edits. We played to a house of 90 or so at the UpFront and after an intermission and a rockin’ Satellite set, which put on a performance that yielded plenty of earnest post-show compliments, we took the stage to a lively crowd. Lively in a good way, not like… talkative lively. Anydamn, TG got us the suggestion of Beard and we began from a blackout. I chose to just stay standing in my line spot as the lights went down because I wanted to greet the first scene as the sun rose - KE almost ran into me but he didn’t cuz we are black out pros.

Post show notes: (hypothetically)

“Great show guys!”
“That was a lot of fun, people.”
“Nothing wrong with having a great show now and again!”
“If you leave here craving notes or information from me because I’m your artistic director, know this: if you crave growth you should evaluate your own play, every choice if you want, and consider alternate options and how they would have altered the outcome of the scene. Reconsider each decision made during the show, which most fucking certainly includes the choice to go on to the stage and the choice to stay off of the stage. Those one are important, mates. And decide for yourself, ‘did your choices have the impact on the scene that you thought them capable of having done?’ and ‘was my line received by my scene partner the way I intended it to be?’ Upon consideration of your answers to the previously mentioned questions, was the impulse that led you to make the decision in questche a good one or a bad one?  Answer with honor!  Deal with how you feel about the result of the last question!" 

                              oooooo A heyo na na ney, I heyo nah nah heyyo nah nah new, hayo nanna new.  wwwww

Love you,
Dilby kjvhp

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Satellite Session 02-16-13

This week in the satellite jam session the ensemble members worked in two groups of six on Harold openings, and each group played an open free form 25-minute improv set. The rest of our time was spent warming up and discussing the improv. No names are mentioned so you are more inclined to be objective and empathic.

I had the groups working on a “static line” free-association opening. The goal of the opening is the players will popcorn words and ideas back and forth for 45 to 75 seconds before morphing into the first scene of the set by someone stepping out of the line and initiating the first scene. Challenges in this opening are to stay connected by keeping eyes up off the ground and on their fellow players.  Words should be spoken with decisiveness and clear enunciation. The purpose of the opening is to litter the stage with offers, that they may be picked up as in-the-moment inspiration throughout the improv set. The pacing of the piece is greater than that of bringing a good or creative offer to the mix. Hit the beat when it needs to be hit, and try not to overlap. That's the whole game, the content is secondary to the flow. 

1st Set Notes:

A scene starts and a player sits typing with determination, the second player immediately kneels beside them, watching over and concerning themselves with their scene partner’s task. The kneeling improviser will enjoy more success and momentum in scenes when they think before acting, not just following their first impulse. Their initial direction of focus when the scene starts should be in agreement with the co-created reality of the scene. Say to yourself I agree with what's going on here. And then the only decisions needed to be made are in regard to how you'd like the scene to progress, choosing the paths you are interested in taking, and then developing opinions about the offers that come up in the scene and being surprised and changed by them. All other energy goes to being playful and scenes thrive.
A couple scenes started interestingly with fun, productive, scene moving offers and as they walked the path, progress fizzled. They experienced a sense of, “Well, what do we do now?” The note here is that the offers given at the beginning of the scene are integral to the scene as a whole, and as long as we are paying attention in the moment we will give ourselves gifts to use later in the scene. Follow through with the games you create for yourself! A scenic example of this opens on two players huddled behind a block at center stage. They concernedly discussed and gossiped about what was happening around them, referencing people getting shot instead of just fired. A third character entered and joined the two behind the box, asking for a Sprite. At this point the scene fizzled and ended oddly. There was no need for the scene to fizzle. The world they had created had two major things going on. The severity of the world outside of their bubble was contrasted with the childlike nature of drinking sodas and gossiping while hiding behind a mini-fridge in an office. In these moments players need only play and heighten both sides of the world to follow the productive, wide-open path. The world around them becomes more severe and their bubble becomes more innocent. Rinse, rather, repeat.
The set ended with a lengthy callback scene about a couple who, in the first scene, had been about to get married and the Groom had walked in on the Bride and they ended up having brown-chicken-brown-cow relations right then and there, mere minutes before the service. In this second scene, the Mother was laying into the Daughter about the state of her wedding dress during the service, and the Daughter eventually confessed to making love with her Husband before the ceremony. The Mother was shocked and outraged and a third character entered with the wedding tape, which, as he described, was mainly just thirty minutes in the Bride’s quarters before the Wedding. The Mother was outraged and furious and then the Husband comes in and the scene became heated between he and the Mother. The Father of the Bride entered the scene and, oblivious to the facts, became quite eager to see the wedding tape. At this point the Mother was trying to stop the Father from viewing the tape and the Husband wanted the Father to watch. This pattern looped until I side-coached the Mother to stop arguing (1) and then we got to see the Father turn on the tape and have a reaction. After he turned on the tape but before his reaction, a player swept the scene yet I side-coached to have the scene continue and ignore the edit. The Father could have chosen any honest reaction and it would be the best response, and it was, he was okay with it because they were both adults.
The notes for this scene are  the two side-coached moments.
1) Roadblocking forward movement in a scene is fine, momentarily, if a character disagrees with a course of action; support, though, comes from allowing the scene-partner to make up their own minds about what they want to bring to the scene after the roadblock has been expressed. A player should be opinionated with their character points-of-view and allowing of space and time for response.
2) The scene edit happened to come right as the journey was finishing, which would have disallowed the audience a chance to see a moment that was being built up to. Regardless of the length of the improv set, if you cut the scene now to come back to it later the audience will never see the Father's particular response; they may be informed of what it was but the don't get to be in on it. Let them be in on it. We drove all the way to Disneyland and right when we got inside the gates BOOM. Edited. And we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to view the Father reacting to watching the tape. Put in the work to buildup an idea, and then enjoy the spoils.

2nd Set Notes:

A scene starts with a nervous character being welcomed into a Disney Tattoo Parlor by a confident tattoo artist. The scene was a negotiation of what type of tattoo was going to be given and whether the artist was capable or not. The tattoo artist made a couple of bold offers in the scene but did not revisit them. One of the bold offers came after the customer claimed to want a tattoo of Mickey and Minnie, to which the artist stated, “Dirty.” The setup the tattoo artist immediately provides for themselves with this offer is for any time the customer makes a choice the artist can state their judgment of said choice. The second bold offer came after the artist drugged the customer. While describing the tattoo procedure and noticing the effects of the drugs in the customer, the artist stated that she was a man. The setup here is that the artist has given herself the go ahead to reveal secrets to the customer while the customer is drugged. These things should be continued. The artist will enjoy more success and momentum in scenes when they play along with the tune they’ve created for their own scenes.
Another scene took place between a Mother and Daughter. At one point, the Mother turned to her daughter and, although she was several feet away, the Daughter said, “Don’t touch me!” The Mother agreed and continued along with the story. The note here is to be aware that the “Don’t touch me!” offer is bigger than face value, and implies subtext that doesn’t so much need to be addressed as respected. If the Daughter is saying “Don’t touch me!” she is either over-dramatic or has real concern because of things that have happened in the past. The awareness of the undertone is key for the success of the relationship between the two improvisers. This lesson was echoed in another scene, where a child flinched when their parent arrived to take them away. The parent character can continue to act nice and kind and doesn’t need to address the flinching but being aware of the possible truths behind it, without selling it out as nothing, is paramount. Awareness brings choice-clarity.

I hope the notes are helpful to your own improv. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Improviser Metaphor

Prepare your offers as if you were a chef preparing the ingredients of a meal. Your carrots, for example, represent an offer you are about to make, and the meal is the scene. You get to decide how you should prep your ingredients before you present them. What kind of thought do you want to put into your offers? With improvisation you can become a chef who, while following the right path, may be able to chop more and more swiftly and precisely until eventually you just look at the carrots and they fucking cut themselves into perfectly cubed pieces and you didn’t even mean to. The trained improv mind will minimize the time needed for choice consideration and impulse checking before the line is delivered. This minimization relates to the time it takes to cut the vegetable; the time needed to be safe cutting near your fingers while holding the tool steady. The untrained mind is erratic displaying various levels of severity, which could range from the chef slashing the carrots wildly to throwing them in whole without rinsing to slicing their finger and giving up on the offer or the scene or themselves.

Your scene partner is your co-chef in the kitchen, occupying the same level of hierarchy with no difference in status. You build the meal together. Of course, in the scene you would have characters that would have varying levels of status, sometimes similar sometimes not, but person to person, regardless of skill level or experience, the players, as people, as chefs, should be equal in status. Line by line you build the scene, you cook the meal. 

Your combined outspoken lines of dialogue make the scene; they are your meal finalization and delivery. Playing a show is like creating many different meals for many people with, depending on the show, a plethora of co-chefs.

Also, this metaphor is not recommended for permanence as having a healthy variety of processes for thought and action while improvising will positively impact ones play and ones heart. Experimenting in your kitchen, finding new recipes and improving your ingredients will yield new lines, new laughs, and renewed interest. Find ingredients that are satisfying, that people appreciate and avoid the stale ingredients or the ones that taste good immediately but eventually make you feel like shit.

How do you want to operate in the kitchen? What’s your process? 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The secret to improv, believe it or not

The secret to improv is to believe in what you and your scene partners say and do and feel. Bold statement, right? Well, dernit, I feel it in my heart.

In short, belief brings sincerity. Sincerity makes people care about watching and when they care about watching a person they laugh delightedly.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Billy's Improv Notes: Post 4

Be Playful

In my first blog post I wrote that part of the fabric of my improv toolbelt was -Be Playful- and I wasn’t joking around. I bet if you asked hundreds of people what they think being playful means you’d get hundreds of answers. Well, of course you would. But I mean hundreds of DIFFERENT answers. What does being playful mean to you? For me it’s a very serious word, not a synonym to wacky or goofy but instead a word that encompasses an energy of good-natured mischief, a willingness to be foolish, and an awareness of the game (even if there is no game). Are you able to become playful when you want to? Or is it a state of being that comes upon you occasionally and is otherwise elusive? When improvisers warm up before a show, they’re warming up their playfulness. You play improv games to warm up. Certainly, they also get you connected to your fellow players and can help you get present, taking the place of whatever it is in your life that preoccupies your brain, but the most valuable part about getting ready for an improv show is to get PLAYFUL. Maybe for you that means meditating on the floor for 5 minutes, to center you chakra’s and shit, and maybe for me it’s dancing circles around you while you meditate singing an explicative version of Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer (hopefully we’ll both get playful if I ruin your meditation this way).

All these things are inner-connected; when you get playful you become present in the moment and stop paying attention to your head noise because you are just playing. Combining playfulness and vulnerability creates the ultimate improv energy, heightened by the sincerity you bring to the moment. I’ve heard it said that some people just won’t ever be in the category of a good or great improviser and, although I disagree with that statement wholeheartedly, I believe that the people that get put into that category have trouble getting playful. This can be seen in how someone plays improv warm-ups; too focused that you miss what’s going on? too concerned with how other people might view you’re warming up? Also, don’t confuse playfulness with competitiveness. The competitive person who is not playful takes the game too seriously and is subsequently hard on themselves or mad at themselves when they don’t win or angry at the winner for winning. They should focus on taking the play seriously. Especially in improv warm ups, there is nothing to win or lose, and accepting that fact frees you up to win or lose the best you can (yes, this is even true in the improv games that have a clear winner). Improvisers who warm up aggressively and trying to be the BEST at the warm up game invoke a feeling of mistrust in their fellow improvisers because they are saying, “I will do anything to be the best at this game.” rather than “I will play this game the best I can.” One of those ways of thinking is supportive, the other is not. I am way more interested in improvising with people who are being playful and trying to do their best versus improvisers who are being competitive and trying to be the best.

Be playful, seriously, and be serious, playfully. All else will be fun.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Billy's Improv Notes: Post 3


Here’s a quick post about Sincerity. In whatever character I play or whatever situation I find myself in I want to react from a place of sincerity. Sincere reaction is noticed and appreciated by an audience. (To react sincerely an improviser must be vulnerable!) Keeping in mind the improv tenants of saying yes and accepting the reality and supporting your scene partner, reacting sincerely adds realism and weight to what’s going on. I often think that what separates a “naturally talented” actor from someone who “tries real hard” is the amount of sincerity the actor brings to their work. An example is when an improviser makes a BIG offer to a scene; something like, “I want a divorce.” or “I’ve been sleeping with your sister.” Regardless of the choice you make in responding to this offer, if it’s done with sincerity, drawn from your emotion, it’ll be the right choice.  A common impulse here is to be funny and offset the depth of meaning in the divorce offer with a nonchalant response like, “Okay, who is going to get the dog?” This bypasses the strength of responding sincerely, never touching the emotion it may bring out in you. I’m not saying that to respond to this offer with sincerity you need to be an emotional wreck, but caring that your wife/husband is telling you they want a divorce will lead you to discovering how to respond. Caring about what your scene partner is telling you is the key to reacting sincerely. Don’t assume that I’m saying you should care more or less in relation to how big or small the verbal offer your scene partner makes, rather everything your scene partner says to you has meaning so it is up to you to determine how much you care about any offer. By that, I mean even an offer as simple as “I saw that the mailbox was empty.” is something that you, in your character, could care about hearing and be affected by. I try to open my ears to my scene partners offers with the thought why is it important that they are telling me this. This is a gateway thought to caring about what my scene partner is saying to me.

Get sincere people, it’s much more engaging and REAL. Be vulnerable, start to care, get sincere, enjoy what happens!

PS And as fake-Alastor Moody once said, it takes "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"