Intro to 501:
We had a discussion about the perceived pros and cons of the Harold format. While the structure can be comforting to some, it risks becoming rote. As Baryshnikov put it, "Fundamentals are the building blocks of fun." 501 is going to be our (for some) long awaited opportunity to really geek out about improv.
We practiced an alternative to verbal pattern loops in which we built a Where, a What, and a Who based on a single suggestion. These became the basis for our first beat scenes. As each layer is offered, we reinforce it and build the rhythm and timing as well as creating a visual for the audience. During the character loop, one person steps out and accepts the gifts of the rest of the group. When the character is sufficiently drawn, they button it with a one liner.
We practiced two person scenes in which a game is established, but one person has a secret want. This one allowed us to work on getting on the same page. It requires listening, eye contact, and playing to the top of your intelligence.
Bring your questions and observations about long form for next week's discussion.
I only had a chance to watch the first two videos (Opening and First Beat) - they did an Opening similar to the TIM Inc. one we did last week, but did a PPO order instead of POP. I thought they lost some "pop" (get it?) by ending with the stethoscope instead of the person (the reluctant doctor as a child) who would come back in the First Beat, but the callback of other stethoscopes waiting outside was still clever.
I've seen teams from TIM and other theaters riff and it's usually been at least interesting (and sometimes magical) to me as an audience member, so I loved the opportunity to riff with everyone in our class exercise. I'd love to do more of it!
I'm looking forward to riffing more this week. It is a great way to find games before we even start the first beat scenes (i.e. we can see what about a character or object gets laughs in the opening, then apply that to scenes.
Holly, I'll watch that video and bring thoughts to class tonight!
This week on the Hidden Brain podcast, Shankar Vedantam interviewed Alan Alda of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (Stony Brook University) about his new book "If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?" Mr. Alda encourages the scientists in his program to take an improv class to learn empathy.
Hearkening back to our discussion this week about pretty much the same thing, I wondered if there were other published observations about improv and empathy. Jackpot! UCB alum Will Hines wrote about this very subject.
He suggests testing yourself by trying to play a realistic, intelligent character with values opposite your own, and yes-anding seemingly combative characters. You can read it in full here: