Are you inside-out or outside-in?

There are two basic ways of building a character with emotion in improv-

1) Inside-Out

Choose an emotion to feel as you enter the scene. Allow that emotion to influence what you do. Example- I choose angry, and let myself feel angry. That leads to walking stiffly, breathing heavy, and knocking over a chair to make a point.

2) Outside-In

Chose a posture to hold as you enter a scene. Allow that posture to influence how you feel. Example- I choose to walk stiffly and breath heavy, knocking over a chair as I enter. That leads to me to knowing that I feel angry.

Both work. I’d say that great improvisers use both, but everyone has one that works better for them. I didn’t understand the second method when I heard about it and so the only method I thought I tried was inside-out. I did outside-in exercises in a class I took but I didn’t understand that you could use that to make a character, I thought it was just to practice showing the emotion you had already decided on.

Then I took a physicality workshop in December and he talked a lot about the second method, of doing things and seeing where that leads. He then had us do an exercise I’d done several times before, leading with different parts of the body.

Eureka!

For the first time I understood the point of the exercise; as I shifted from leading with my head to my hands, or even from my eyes to my chin, I could feel the character change, and also the feeling behind that character. More though, for the first time I understood that you could use that in a scene. I didn’t have to try to feel sad, I could just look sad and do what a sad person would do. Then I’d be sad.

I am definitely an outside-in sort of person.

 

Finding the game

I was watching Leno last week and he had Dana Carvey on the show. I was bored and tuning most of it out, Carvey was making a lot of political jokes that weren’t very funny and I was about to change the channel when something caught my eye.

They were playing a game. Not a traditional game, no chess pieces or cards. No, they were playing a game called “I’m going to do impersonations and you are going to pretend to try and cut me off and I’m going to walk over you but you don’t really mind”. And they played it beautifully. I never would have noticed that in the past. I would have thought Carvey was just being a jerk or whatever. But the body language between the two of them didn’t look like they were arguing, it looked like a tennis match. Leno would wait to the right moment to cut him off, Carvey would wait until Leno said just enough to be funny before starting again.

In improv one of the 1,000 things you are supposed to do simultaneously in the first 10 seconds is to “find the game”. I’m terrible at it. Apparently I set-up games and then don’t follow through on them, or I ignore games that other players offer me, I just don’t see them. I didn’t get what a game was, despite having been told, and shown, over and over and over. I catch on to some things sooooo slowly. But once I had my revelation during Leno I started looking for them on other shows and finding them all over the place. Finally it clicked!

Sitcoms are where I’m having the most success spotting them but they should be in dramas too. Every good scene should have one. I saw less than one minute of a muted Andy Griffith Show episode and still found the game between him and Barney, it was completely physical. Barney was playing the “for every three feet you get me to walk I’m going to step back a foot and turn, shaking my head” game. It was just that measured once I was looking for it and didn’t any dialogue to distract me. And then the example above was from an interview. I don’t know how often they come up in situations like that, I suspect it’s most likely when he’s interviewing a comedian or actor, less so if it’s a political figure or an athlete. Someone who, like me, would complete miss the offer.

Now I’m looking forward to my next practice, see if I do better at this. Even if I’m still too distracted by everything else going on to play the game I at least understand what I’m looking for now!

Imagination Dogs

Seth Godin stepped on my toes last week. Talker’s Block. Go read that link right now.Ouch.

I know he’s undoubtedly onto something here- I’ve been doing Morning Pages for 2 months now, 3 pages every freakin’ day before I even get dressed, and I have to say that I’m already getting into a groove and not getting stuck like I was. Not that it’s easy most days. I can think of 150 things to do with that 30-45 minutes while I sit there, it takes stubbornness to keep my butt in the chair. It’s worth it though, so very worth it.I have been thinking about writer’s block a lot lately because I have a lot to say but when  I  go to say it nothing happens, I leave with a blank screen. Short stories stay in my head because I can’t seem to get them onto the page, nothing sounds right. I’ve heard the advice to just write, whatever. I’ll claim to do that but I don’t really- the voice in my head is tricky and it says, “I’ll pretend this is free flowing but secretly I’ll plan it so it’s witty and fun when it comes out”. Which never works. Improv has started calling me on that game. I can try to be smart and plan things out while I stand on the sides, but as soon as I step onto the stage the person I’m working with will fail to receive my telepathic signals that I have this great trash truck idea all worked out and will start yelling for me to rescue his hamster out from between the couch cushions. Busted, and now scrambling to catch-up.

I am attempting to switch that over into my writing and it works both beautifully and terribly. Terribly because it’s some of the worst writing I’ve ever done. Beautifully because it’s by far the best writing I’ve ever done.

Apparently good writing is like having these little imagination dogs living in my head. I feed them ideas and books and adventures and then they produce writing and leave little piles of it scattered around in my mind for me to put down on paper. Piles of imagination dog crap, with itty bitty gold flakes mixed in. The more crap I collect, and write down, the more gold flakes I get; but also the more crap I have to write down and then deal with. That’s one reason I now have a pile of legal pads by my desk, pages filled with inane ramblings and disjointed, repetitive thoughts. Getting out the crap.

What’s Your Post-It Question?

That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? . . . Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Identify one of your biggest challenges at the moment (ie I don’t feel passionate about my work) and turn it into a question (ie How can I do work I’m passionate about?) Write it on a post-it and put it up on your bathroom mirror or the back of your front door. After 48-hours, journal what answers came up for you and be sure to evaluate them.

Bonus: tweet or blog a photo of your post-it.

(Author: Jenny Blake)

Part #2

It’s been a couple of days and I’m ready to list the ideas that have come to me. Some are of more value than others, some focus on the fun side while some focus on the motivation side.

  • Take a martial arts class

  • Take a dance class

  • Find a friend or two to work out with

  • Buy a bikini and make myself try it on every few days and look in a mirror

  • Buy some awesome music for my iPod that I can only listen to while I’m working out

  • Set up rewards for reaching certain goals

  • Find some really fit women and hang their pics on my wall for inspiration

  • Buy some nicer, more comfortable work-pot clothes

  • Hire a personal trainer

  • Blog about my progress, or lack thereof

  • Bet people money

  • Go to the local geek fitness events

  • Join the geek gym/club

Have any ideas for me that I could add?

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