More and More Characters

iO Summer Intensive

Week 2

Instructor- Marla Careses



Marla started us out with a game that destroyed out minds. It was the promised Part 2 of the Name Game and it was mind-warping. We did a couple of rounds take make sure we all remembered each others motions, with 16 people it is a lot to keep track of, especially over several days. All that meant was that I would do my own motion, then someone else’s, then they would do their own and then someone else’s, etc. After a minute we dropped doing out own, just passing the focus around the circle by doing any other person’s name and motion after someone did our own. Not complicated.

Then, we switched to doing it silently. That was much harder. I had to pay close attention, and it suddenly became clear that eye contact was vital to communicate our intentions to each other. This is when Marla got mean. She had warned us to make the movements very crisp and clear, which we only half listened to. Then she took away eye contact! When we did a motion we were not allowed to look at the person who we were passing the focus to, we had to make eye contact with someone else. Let me say this- not easy. Plus, it’s hard to not respond when someone looks in your eyes even if they are doing someone else’s motion.

Then it got worse. We were still passing focus with movement- but we had to make eye contact with a second person while ALSO saying a third name! I could feel my brain melting. It was insanely hard. Because we were slowing down too much, wanting to get it right, Marla made it elimination style. Interestingly, getting it wrong was fine. You could only be eliminated if you hesitated or if you judged yourself. Which is how I got out. This is a game I will store away for if I ever need to destroy a group of people.

Then we did Soundscapes. We started in groups of eight, laying on the floor. One person would start a sound based on the suggestion and everyone else would come in with a complimentary sound. This can grow and change, about 3-4 minutes long. Then we switched to doing them standing up, and we added physical movements to them. After we had gotten the hang of it Marla told us that we were doing organic openings. Tricksty.

In that, she gave some guidance-

  • As an opening it should typically have three stages, plus transitions.
  • After the third stage we should organically find an edit to move into the first scene, as a group.
  • Lock onto the FIRST thing and heighten, heighten, heighten. This leads to finding new patterns faster.
  • Match your energy to the highest energy person!
  • Keep the stage picture balanced.

We then did Good Morning. Two players sit in chairs, asleep. At good morning we were to wake-up and look at each other, staying silent until we had a read on the other person and the energy between us. No suggestions, and we could stay in bed, get up, get dressed, whatever we wanted. The idea is to stay with the emotion discovered in the first few lines, or before, and to not make a plot.

Dinner With The Family was next. It was a similar exercise except it as with four people and when the scene started we were at a supper table together. We were to put relationships first, and to call out subtext when we found it. These scenes were really fun, very rich. Marla gave me a note after this exercise and told that I am very good at providing specific details to flesh out characters and situations. I hadn’t realized that, so it was nice to hear. Sometimes, especially when we are doing a lot of stuff I haven’t done before, it’s easy to feel like the worst improviser in the world. So getting a little, honest compliment in front of the class felt really good.

Marla then spent some time going over the concepts we’ve been working on all week, slow and deep play, thoughtful and heavy stuff, and how to combine that with the speed and “jump to it” attitude that we will be expected to have on some teams or at auditions. Between her and us we came up with the following list-

  1. Lock eyes with your partner ASAP, even while still off-stage, to get an emotional read on them, then work from that reaction.
  2. Go with your gut reaction, trust your instincts.
  3. Follow emotion.
  4. Stay with whatever comes up in the first 1-3 lines.
  5. Do NOT complicate things! Let the scenes be very simple.
  6. Resist the urge to make the scenes “about something”.
  7. Heighten what you have, don’t add more.
  8. Discovering info and details is a must but inventing them is bad and will leave a bad taste in your mouth. People can tell if the info you are adding logically follows what has come before or if you are just trying to force something.
  9. Fast doesn’t equal false.

The other topic Marla covered before we left today was the fat that we need to take ourselves as seriously as we take the others on our team. That my ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s. That it is not only my right but also my responsibility to hold onto my own words and actions as gifts, just as I would anyone else’s. And that hearing and responding to my own words is just as important as doing the same for my teammates.

This is very hard for me. I either don’t notice what I say or do, rushing past in fear or nervousness, or else I do notice but when I get ignored or the topic drops I let it go. I don’t want to push my agenda on someone else so I just let myself get trampled. For example- in the bedroom exercise today I did a scene with a guy and I said something like, “Oh, I thought you’d reconsidered.” I had an idea that he’d given some thought to us having kids. But he didn’t hear me and kept going, so I let it go. I didn’t want to force him to go there. A minute later Marla stopped us and asked me what I had meant by that because she had seen genuine pain on my face and the audience wants to know why. So, I brought it back up. And he made the smart move of saying that kids were off the table, he just hadn’t bothered to tell me yet. And then I got to play upset and hurt and furious, which was lovely and fun. And we almost missed all of that because I dropped my own shit.

I rob the scenes, and my partners, all the time by letting go of my on characters, ideas, and words because I want to “be polite”. My teammates deserve me at 100% on stage and I am diluting myself when I do that. I need to give 100% of me, as well as 100% support, when I’m on the stage.

Snatches from today–

  • There are NO mistakes. ALWAYS support your teammates. This is the only rule.
  • Asking is weaker then telling, it puts you in the place of less power. That’s not wrong, but it’s something to keep in mind.
  • In Who-What-Where, the What=what is happening between these people? If you can answer that early in will hook the audience and they will be willing to wait for the rest of the answers.

Recap: Week 15

One Million Words Challenge

Week 15

I have no excuse, I just forgot. Getting ready for Chicago and quitting work cut into my writing time, and I forgot to post.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,736
  • Letters 112
  • MPs 6,840
  • Black Dog 2,220
  • Total 11,068
  • YTD 212,279
  • Where I should be 287,700

I’m back

As you can see, blogging is a habit that is not coming easy for me.

On the other hand, that means I don’t spam your inbox! That’s a plus.

This is not really a post, it’s more of a notice that posts are coming.

Consider yourself warned.

Where are all the good ideas?


When someone says to me, “I don’t have any good ideas… I’m just not good at that,” I ask them, “Do you have any bad ideas?”

Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. Finding good ideas is surprisingly easy once you deal with the problem of finding bad ideas. All the creativity books in the world aren’t going to help you if you’re unwilling to have lousy, lame, and even dangerously bad ideas.

The resistance abhors bad ideas. It would rather have you freeze up and invent nothing than take a risk and have some portion of your output be laughable. Every creative person I know generates a slew of laughable ideas for every good one. Some people (like me) need to create two slews for every good one.

One way to become creative is to discipline yourself to generate bad ideas. The worse the better. Do it a lot and magically you’ll discover that some good ones slip through.

~Seth Godin, Linchpin


This applies to every creative area of my life. And yours too, I’d wager. I immediately thought of improv and of how very often I freeze on stage. I don’t know what to say, nothing in my head sounds right; I shuffle through eighteen different phrases and then I realize it’s been too long and now the pause is awkward. I will say nothing rather than risk saying the wrong thing.

But while I was typing up the paragraph I realized how many other areas of my life this applies to as well. Blogging, for one. How often do I lament that I can’t think of any good ideas for posts? (answer? Every day) Yet how often do I sit at the table and write 25 terrible ideas down, just to see if a good one slips in? Almost never.

It’s too scary. If I have a good idea then I have no reason to not write. And if I write I have to post. And if I post you can read it. And if you read it you might not like it, or might think it was a bad idea, or might criticize it, or might even laugh at me (meanly). And if you do those things I might go into a spiral of hysterics and never recover. So simply avoiding having ideas at all is a much less mentally and emotionally dangerous.


I’m still alive

Despite evidence to the contrary I am alive and this blog has not been abandoned.

I could offer you all sorts of reasons why I haven’t updated, some actually valid.

I’m not going to do so. This blog, if nothing else, is biting hunks out of my pride. I know, normally blogs build pride issues. And I’m certain that if I posted regularly and had tons of comments I would feel proud of myself and my skills. But since I cannot manage to post when I say I will, struggle to find anything to say, and get little to no feedback it becomes something more of a pride crusher.

I am, however, stubborn as a mule. Or so I’ve been told by most everyone who has been an authority in my life. So I am digging in. This blog will not beat me. If it dies it will be because I decide to let it go, not because I just drift away or give up.

All that to say- I am beginning again. Again.


Goals are important to me. I set goals every 6 months and I’ve been doing this since I was about 16. The number varies, it’s been as low as 6 or as high as 25. I never make them all. In fact, there have been times I’ve made none. Fail.


However, even those times where I gave up or didn’t care or whatever happened I still had something to measure myself by, a list to show my laziness or lack of effort. Or, other times to show me how much I did succeed, even if it didn’t feel that way. I’ve made long-term goals a few times but I have found them less useful. Trying to pin down what I want to have happen in 10 years is difficult when I don’t even know what I want for supper. 


Jon Acuff, over at Stuff Christian’s Like, did a post last Dec about his 40 by 40 list, 40 things he wants to do before he turns 40 (this was inspired by his turning 35). That was only a few weeks before my 27th birthday and it inspired me to make a similar list- 30×30.

  1. Visit all 50 states (remaining- CA, OR, NV, ND, MT, AR, DE, RI)
  2. Be married
  3. Write 3 more novels
  4. Publish a book, sell 500+ copies
  5. Write 3 movie scripts
  6. Take belly-dance or strip class
  7. Take ballroom or Latin dance class
  8. Take martial arts or fencing class
  9. Buy a handgun, learn to shoot
  10. Spend a week in D.C.
  11. Do 100 push-ups, 200 crunches, 5 pull-ups 
  12. Run a 7 minute mile
  13. Spend 2 weeks in Europe
  14. Be out of debt, have investments started
  15. Start a blog   04/16/11
  16. Take/audit a class on a new topic
  17. Join Toastmasters
  18. Try acting
  19. Sew a jean skirt by myself
  20. Take a cooking class
  21. Read my Bible in a month
  22. Memorize a chunk of Scripture
  23. Have and be a mentor
  24. Quilt a full-size quilt by hand
  25. Learn another language conversationally
  26. Have my teeth fixed
  27. Get a massage
  28. Get a tattoo
  29. Be a regular, sizable supporter for a missionary
  30. Be self/alternatively employed

A month later I was packing to move to MN and found a “dreams list” of 100 things I wanted to do during my life that I had written for a class assignment at BCOM and then promptly forgotten existed. The items above that are in bold are things that were on that list. I think that if they stuck with me for 3 years without me realizing it then they are the ones I should really focus my efforts toward. I’m going to make a new page on here to keep a running tally and update this list as I accomplish my goals, and now y’all will know if I make it or not. Let’s use this peer-pressure for good!

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