The Beginning of the End

iO Summer Intensive

Week 5

Instructor- Barry Hite

Monday

 

Our last week. It’s both exciting and sad, I don’t want to say bye to all my new friends. This week’s focus is other long forms, besides the Harold. There is a list of them, I’m not sure how many we will get through. I’m hoping at least a few are ones I haven’t done before though I would enjoy getting to do Close Quarters again.

Barry started the day out chatting with us for a few minutes, having each of us tell the group/him something about ourselves that was not improv or performance related. Learned new things about people. He then recommended that we take one night this week to do something that has nothing to do with improv, preferably something we can look at or watch (like a museum).

For our warm-up we invented out own, based off one we already knew. We started Show Me How To Get Down. To start with, we didn’t change it. As he pushed us to experiment and change it we made tiny changes, but it mostly looked like the same warm-up. Finally, after he pushed a few more times someone got out of the circle, and then things went crunk. It was actually really fun, wish it was something I could replicate but I don’t think I can. It involved random questions yelled, with random (not always fitting) answers, as the group tried to keep the people talking as far apart as possible.

He had us do 2 Person Scenes, with an emphasis on Who/Where. These were burn-off scenes. Several teachers at HUGE would do this and I love it. It’s a chance to get all your bad scenes out for the day and I was glad he brought it out.

We then ran two full Harold’s, each one with half the group. I think he was using this as a baseline for where we are with them, what kind of stuff we gravitate to, our team interactions, etc. He’s responsible for getting us ready for our show on Thursday night and assigning the form or forms we do, as well as the teams.

After that we learned The Living Room. This is a fun form! Half of us got up and set on chairs on the side of the stage. We then got a topic from the audience (I was in the first group and we got Health Care) and then have an actual conversation about the topic, as ourselves. We discussed the topic, hopefully letting everyone say a piece, and then when someone is inspired they jump up and start a scene. We were to do a few scenes, drawing from the theme (not plot and not directly) of the conversation. At any point someone can sweep and return to the chairs, which signals everyone else to do the same thing. Then the discussion continues until someone decides to start a new scene. So forth and so on until time is up.

When you return to the chairs you can go back to the old topic is something is pressing on you but typically its better to move forward, allowing the scenes you just saw to lead you into a new topic. This form is like the Armando in that the scenes are there to allow us to prove or disprove the theme that has been raised. For that reason, it is good to step out with an idea/first line to that end but once that line is said you have to let go and just have a scene- no matter where it goes. He said that we needed to hold onto connection more than detail. These scenes are not to be literal, we are moving the theme to a new set of circumstances, not using the exact same set-up.

Barry also encouraged us to let the conversation expand and grow instead of trying to keep it narrow. To stay polite. Getting fired up is great, but don’t yell over each other. He reminded is that we are human beings, not ideas. We are people, not topics. Don’t become the issue, be a person dealing with the issue. In this form the idea is less (no) history, it’s all opinion. And while we need to honor the suggestions we get, we don’t need to be married them. Expansion is vital.

Barry’s step-by-step of this process-

  1. Take/discuss the topic
  2. Figure out what I think about it
  3. Decide how I feel about it
  4. Find a theme in that feeling
  5. Think of scenes that will illustrate that feeling
  6. Figure out a first line that will get that scene idea across
  7. Say that line
  8. GIVE UP CONTROL
  9. Respond to my partner and follow the scene that happens, not the scene I had in my head

He had us then do Armando’s again because we were struggling with theme, which Barry (in contrast to some of our other instructors) says is always a sentence. We’ve been finding theme in the sense of “selfishness” or “globalization”. However, Barry says those are just ideas. That theme is “selfishness hurts people” or “globalization is inevitable”. That kind of thing- which then gives the premise that we can prove or disprove. I really like this definition. It feels more helpful and useful than a single word, and looking at the Armando scenes as a way to talk about the theme like that gives them a lot more depth. Makes me like the Armando a little more. If it’s done like this.

We then ran half class Armando’s, 20 minutes each. Our specific intent was to find these kinds of themes and deal with them. He said theme is deeper and harder to play than premise (or pulling random details as inspiration) but that it ultimately much more rewarding. He kept urging us to name each other, saying it would help the feeling of being stuck that we were constantly in.

Snatches from today–

  • Honor the choices your team makes by repeating them.
  • Name your partners! Give them odd names, which are easier to remember. Use them repeatedly so that everyone can remember them for callbacks later.
  • Never sacrifice scenes for theme. Theme will emerge on its own.
  • Never play premise. Play the scene.
  • We all have an opinion on any topic that is more than “this is bad/good”. Find it in yourself.
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