Racking Up the Long Forms

iO Summer Intensive

Week 5

Instructor- Barry Hite

Tuesday

Started with Burner Scenes again. Added tag-outs to them. Then had a discussion about tag-outs and their uses. Which I didn’t write down. But basically, tag-outs are used to show a new side to a character, to heighten a specific characteristic, to heighten a game, to show a pattern, or, sparingly, as a joke line. But if you chose to go the joke line route be sure you can keep that character/situation going if your team doesn’t tag you right back out. Tags work best when they are a strong shift. Tags should always be used to follow relationships and ideas, never plot.

Our first form of the day was the LaRonde. It’s named for a French play where apparently a group of people sleep together over the course of the thing, one after another. We lined up half the class (7, though 8 is standard) and the first two people started a scene. Then, after 2-3 minutes, the next person in line (no changing order) tagged one of those people, A, out and there was a 2-3 minute scene between B and C. Then B was tagged so C and D could have a scene, etc. When F was tagged out A came back in to do their second scene, which also connected the first scene to the last scene.

Barry said that while the story can follow a tight the spiral, our first one did (everyone was living in one tiny village), it’s better to let the piece move out and away from the first scene. We have to trust that the final scene will work no matter how far we move away from the first one. We shouldn’t be afraid to make distant connections because anything can loop around and come back.

He also pointed out that the most gratifying tags are the ones where we see a new side to a character that is completely separate from the prior scene. Don’t try to tie them together, the mere fact that one character is the same is all the connection that we need.

The next form was the Typewriter. This form starts with the entire team (half of the class) off of stage right. Two people step out and do a two person scene, 2-3 minutes, and then someone tags one of them out. That person and the one who remained behind do a 2-3 minutes scene, just like the LaRonde. During this first run you are the same character in both scenes that you do, again, like the LaRonde. The main difference here is that there is no set order to who steps out, and as someone is tagged out they move off stage on stage left instead of going back with the team (hence “typewriter”, as the team shifts their way across the stage).

When the last 2 people are done with their scene then anyone can tag in at anytime. However, scenes never have more than two characters. The characters, however, are up for grabs and anyone can now play any character from the first set of scenes, or bring in new characters.

Next was Weirdass. Half team again, so seven people. Two of them sit in a set of chairs that are side-by-side at the front of the stage. They do a 2-3 minute “interview” with a camera they are imagining in the back of the room. Not talking to the audience, this should feel like a documentary interview. Think “The Office”. This is not a scene, don’t let it become one. And know each other. Also, these are character interviews, not actors.

When the interview has had enough time someone steps out and begins a scene inspired by the interview. Just like Armando, looking for themes and ideas, not reenacting what was said. A specific detail is OK, but only little ones. The two who were being interviewed will clear the stage of chairs. They can join into the scenes, but try to let everyone else have a turn first.

After a handful of scenes two different people will grab the chairs and go back out to do another interview. This should be inspired in some way by the scenes, but these are not callbacks. They should have nothing to do with the actual scenes and the two characters should be completely new. This flipping back and forth continues throughout the set. Again, much like an Armando in that regard. And while it may be easy to slide into “how we met’ stories try to avoid it, it’s much more interesting to see two people who have the same passion or quirk or whatever than to hear a story about how they met.

Our last form of the day was Road Trip. This is a form designed for four, but five can work in a pinch. He said to avoid more than that because people start getting left out. Four chairs are placed on the stage to resemble a car facing the audience (stagger the “back seat” out so the audience can see their faces) and the scene starts with everyone already in the car, heading somewhere.

This first scene in the car should be a minimum of 8-10 minutes in length. And the scene will work best if everyone in the car is around the same age (not parents with little kids or something), and know each other well enough to be on a road trip together. When someone in the car decides the scene is over they will peel away and take their chair with them, letting everyone else know to do the same.

Each scene from that point forward will have at least one of the people out of car in it. They can have more, but try to avoid that. The idea is to explore outward and see each of these people’s lives outside the car. When the scene is about the character that was in the car then the same actor should play that person, new/support characters can be played by everyone else. Another reason to avoid having several people out of the car in a scene, there won’t be anyone left to play other characters.

Barry pointed out that while 8-10 minutes is the minimum length for the first scene there isn’t a maximum. It could be half the set, most of the set, or even the entire set if it’s interesting and no one wants it to end. He also said that sometimes one person won’t say much in the car, for whatever reason. He said to grab onto that as an opportunity to have a wild card. Because we didn’t see much about this person they can become anyone in the scenes.

Snatches from today-

  • No matter how dark a scene gets it can always go light again. Let it go light. (This was a specific instruction for our team, we tended to do very dark/depressing scenes/sets) Light to dark- easy. Dark to light- hard, but vital.
  • Plot is the hardest, least gratifying thing to do in improv.
  • You never have to mention or make connection to your suggestion, it’s simply for inspiration.
  • 2 person scenes still need these three things-
    • Know each other
    • Start in the middle
    • Like each other
  • DO NOT FOLLOW PLOT! FORGET THE PLOT!
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