Improv 501 ~ June 2017

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Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Justin
Welcome to Improv 501.  Excited to chat about this class over the next couple weeks!

Class Roster:
Emily Arienoff
Tim Buddinger
Kim Candray
Aaron Farber
Rafi Herreras
Shanna Leonard
Gerry Morgan
Linda Ray
Jeremy Schultz
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Re: Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Gerry
In this class I want to explore new ways to be creative within the Harold structure. The "TIM Inc" opening feels very different from the verbal pattern game that we used in 401. I like the idea of riffing on a theme by going deeper into it rather than widening the focus onto new themes. It means that the ideas for first beats have been truly developed by the group rather than by a single player A-to-Cing a word. On the other hand, the 401 method generated a glut of ideas to choose from in first beats. So it will be interesting to work some more on moving from the TIM Inc opening to first beats.

I'm especially looking forward to using emotional mapping. I think it's going to be a real blast to use this technique in scenes. It allows the players to focus on their relationship while the humor naturally flows from the incongruity of the players' emotions.

Looking forward to Week 2!
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Re: Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Gerry
In reply to this post by Justin
Another thing that occurs to me about the "Tim, Inc opening" is that, for audience members unfamiliar with verbal pattern games in general, it might be intuitively easier to understand than the verbal pattern game that we use in 401. It's good to avoid structural barriers that alienate the audience.

On the other hand, perhaps a verbal pattern game that is well executed has an intuitively obvious structure, as does a well-executed Harold.
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Re: Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Gerry
In reply to this post by Justin
My Week 2 notes for those who were unable to attend class...

WEEK 2

First Beats to Second Beats, Part 1

We looked at two strategies for getting from first to second beat. The first was analogous scenes but we covered this in 401 and so did not go into detail. In a nutshell, an analogous scene involves playing the same game in a different situation and with different characters. An analogous scene can be a good choice if the first beat had a strong game.

The second strategy was time dash. A time dash puts the characters from the first beat in a related scene that is happening either earlier or later than the first scene. So it's either a prequel or a sequel to the first beat. A time dash can be a good strategy if your first beat characters are strong.

If the second beat takes us back in time it should serve to provide context for the first scene. If it takes us forwards if should serve to show the consequences of the first scene. For example, Shanna and Emily played a scene about two sorority members who are stealing from other, much richer sorority members. In the second beat they took us back to when the two characters met for the first time and were taking the Target labels off their clothes so that no one would know they shop at Target. Alternatively, the second beat could have taken us to the future when they are (for example) stockbrokers stealing from their clients.

Important: Make the first line of the second beat a strong one so that your partner immediately understands your idea.

Some other tips from Justin that came up in class:

- Make the second beat positive, and avoid arguments. If your characters from the first beat are millionaires who have lost it all by the second beat, find a resason why they are pleased to have lost it.

- If you find that the ideas in your scene have dried up, go back to the relationship between your characters.

- After the first beat, decide what to do in the second beat, and think of your first line. Then relax and enjoy the Harold! (Perhaps easier said than done, but that should be our goal).
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Re: Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Gerry
In reply to this post by Justin
And my Week 1 notes in case they are useful to anyone...

WEEK 1

Openings and First Beats

We learned an opening that is referred to at TIM as the "TIM, Inc. Opening" (after the TIM team that first used it). It consists in the following:

- Audience gives a suggestion
- "We see a ..." (place inspired by the suggestion)
- More suggestions about the place.
- "We see a ..." (object inspired by the suggestion)
- More suggestions about the object.
- "We see a ..." (person/character inspired by the suggestion)
- A player steps out to be that person.
- More suggestions about the person/character.
- The player mimes the suggestions as they are given.
- The player who stepped out buttons the scene with a line.

So it's place/location, then object, then person.

After every suggestion, the other players *succinctly* repeat what was suggested. For example:

One player: "On the table is a white vase containing a single red rose".
All: "White vase with a single red rose".

Only say "we see a" for the *first* thing about the place/object/person. It is intended to be the cue for the other players (and the audience, if knowledgeable) that we are making that transition.

Go deeper, not wider. If the place is a library and someone describes a book on a table, we want to know more about the book before moving on to something new in the library. In other words, we should riff on the book for while.

When riffing, everything said must service the idea we are working on. Root the scene. Add details. Add contrast.

This opening is intended to inspire three first beat scenes, each about either the place, object or person that we painted in the opening. If possible, do them in order (place, then object, then person), but this is not a strict rule.

Do not introduce any people when painting the location or the object. The only person in the opening is the one we introduce when we have finished painting the place and the object.

Openings are important. They set the energy level for the show.

We also worked on emotional mapping. This is where we graft the emotions of a different scene onto the one we are playing. For example, a scene in which one player is breaking the news to the other that their car needs serious repair (but played with the emotions and linguistic features of a scene in which their child is seriously ill). Or a scene about deciding whether to cook dinner together (played with the emotions of a couple deciding whether to have a child together). Emotional mapping can help us derive humor from the contrast between the base reality and the emotion of the scene.

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Re: Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Gerry
In reply to this post by Justin
For anyone who missed the 501 Week 3 class last night, here is my summary of our discussion at the start of class. Notes on the class itself are below.

We started with a discussion inspired by a comment that Del Close made in the interview that Justin suggested as a homework exercise.

http://splitsider.com/2010/09/1986-public-access-interview-with-improv-godfather-del-close/

In the interview, Del Close says improvisers should not play a character but, rather, be themselves. We didn't reach a conclusion about this, but here are some of the comments that I remember:

- Play a version of yourself, even when not playing yourself. Talk about things you know about and react as you would react.

- We don't always have a choice about whether to be a character or not. Our scene partner might make us a character that we would not normally choose.

- For actors playing a drama, a character can change during the course of the action (this is sometimes an important element of a play). But in an improv scene characters must typically remain the same. Otherwise their relation to the game might change.

- When playing a character, ground the character in reality. Don't be a caricature and don't fall back on overused devices. The specific example discussed was that older people are sometimes played as having dementia and needing a walker. And their younger relatives are played as hoping for death and inheritance.

- Following on from that, when playing a character from a different demographic group than your own (such as: different ethnicity, different socio-economic group, different sexual orientation, different gender or gender identity, and so forth), play them as a person who happens to have those traits, not as a caricature, or as a person defined by those traits. In other words, ground the character in reality.

- You can make yourself any character you want to (subject to all the above), but you should not make your scene partner a character that might make them uncomfortable).

- For that reason, we should know each other, and know each other's boundaries. Teams should openly discuss with each other what each player finds acceptable. Some players might have topics they wish to avoid, or might not want to be physically touched in certain ways.

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Re: Improv 501 ~ June 2017

Gerry
In reply to this post by Justin
501 - WEEK 3 notes for those who could not attend.

First Beats to Second Beats, Part 2

We discussed two more strategies for getting from first to second beats: character pulls and spreads.

In a character pull, a third player initiates a scene with one of the players from the first beat. To do this (as the third player), motion for the player you need to come out on stage. In the context of the Harold it should be clear to that player that you need them to play the same character they played earlier.

Character pull is a good strategy when one of the characters in the first beat was strong and interesting. In a sense, that character embodied the game. You are helping the game to migrate from first to second beat through the vehicle of the character who embodies the game. You can also think of a character pull as a "cut-to", where we cut to seeing the character in a new situation. Or perhaps even as a tag-out, where a third player brings a new situation to one of the characters on stage, without the other character

A spread involves new characters and a new place. A strong line of dialog leads back to the first beat scene, but not necessarily at the start of the scene. Think of a spread as a "superfun future scene".

Here are some examples of each:

First Beat: Two artists in a studio complain to each other that no one is buying their work. One artist accidentally steps on one of the paintings, leaving a shoe print. They realize that the shoe print improves the piece. They then deliberately step on all the art, in an esthetically pleasing way.

Second Beat (spread): Two different characters in the Louvre comment on how much better the art is now that there are shoe prints on the Mona Lisa, etc.

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First Beat: One character has a bag of potato chips and will not share them with the other character. She considers it normal not to share things.

Second Beat (character pull): The previously non-sharing character has driven her vehicle into someone else's car, and considers this normal behavior.

Alternative Second Beat (spread): We could have done a spread in which two different players play teachers in a school where sharing is a bad thing and children are punished for sharing.

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First Beat: Two people on a farm watch ants, realizing that the ants are leaving. As the two people mourn the departure of the ants, they became sad and nostalgic about the past.

Second beat (spread): Two different players play ants who become aware that two people are observing them. For fun, one of the ants plays dead. The other ant tells him not to do that because the people watching them are looking very sad about his apparent death.

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First Beat: A baseball player puts on his equipment. He is using breakfast foods as armor. He has a waffle as a faceguard. It turns out that this is because "breakfast is the most important meal of the day".

Second beat (spread) : Two different players are having a problem with their car. They fix it with foods that you would eat for lunch. It turns out that this is a "power lunch". The phrase "power lunch" is used later in the scene, but ties the scene to the first beat.

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Summary of getting from first to second beats:

- Analogous scenes are possible if the game is strong.
- Time dash is possible if the characters are strong.
- Character pull is possible if one character embodies the game of the scene.
- Spread is possible if there can be an alternative world that makes sense in the context of the earlier scene.
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chess metaphor homework response

Rafael "Rafi" Herreras-Zinman
In reply to this post by Justin
I think that the chess metaphor is perfect for long form, but isn't true for short form.