Acting (a follow-up)

9 weeks.

Just over 2 months ago I was seriously and realistically considering walking away from acting and improv. Maybe forever, maybe for a year or two. It hurt. It hurt so much. Death of a dream and all that.

In that place of hurting and breaking I knew something had to change. That was my frustration. That I (me, myself) was the problem. Which I said in that post and people worried about me because I sounded (apparently) like I was super depressed (I was, sorta, but not in the dangerous way) or broken (I was broken). I didn’t say it well. I said it in a way that upset and scared people but I said it. (Take imperfect actions)

I cried a lot. I couldn’t stop. It felt horrible. And I prayed a lot. That felt horrible too. I said, I can’t keep on like this. I hurt too much. I’m not strong enough. I’m breaking. I feel it. Like a brittle tree I just can’t bend any further, I’m splintering. I’m not sleeping. I’m not exercising. I’m not writing. I’m working and working and stressing and being sick. I’m all worn-out. And I can’t keep doing this. I have no hope left.

I know not everyone reading this is a Christian and I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not but God answered me. Not then, no movie moment. For over a week I was there. For over a week I sat in my own sadness and I looked, really looked, at my goals and ideas and I realized that I was trying too hard. Which is weird. Because I am normally all over myself for not trying hard enough. But in some things it’s the letting go that matters. And I’m very, very bad at letting go.

(I need to work even harder at the work. I need to let go of the results. I tend to do the opposite.)

I realized that I wasn’t going to get everything. That hurt. And I realized a lot of other things that generally made me feel even more miserable.

Then I made myself go out to an event a friend had invited me to, get out of the house. I was still raw and still scared and still looking at walking away from it all after that run of classes was up. And feeling very anti-social.

That night I had a random, unplanned, completely chance in the sort of way that’s impossible to imagine, encounter with someone who works in the film/tv industry. She said I was perfect for a role she was casting. Absolutely perfect. As she blindly listed off several things that made me perfect for it (and handed me her card- this was a major house here in Chicago) I just stood there. The things she was listing off were some of the things that were preventing my success. Some changeable, some not.

(The things a talent agent had told me would keep me from getting work.)

The audition never happened- the role was cut.

I don’t care. 

(Well, I do. It was a “launch your career” sort of role. But that’s beside the point.)

It was God. And it was hope. And it was a relief.

Not a promise. I might never, ever get a single role. I might never act in anything. I might never sell a script or produce or ever make any money whatsoever from anything related to theater or film or tv.  

(Except I already have. It’s easy to forget that I’ve been paid for doing improv. Several times.)

Hope. That was all I needed. And from that came a realization that I didn’t say anything about because it’s easy to have a revelation that only lasts a few days and fades. But it’s been 9 weeks since that night and it’s stronger now than it was then.

I am the thing in my own way.

I was 100% correct.

I am what’s been holding me back.

Just, not in the way that I thought.

Not that I lack skill, that’s an objective statement. (One I can fix)

Not that I’m not suited for certain roles- of course I’m not. I’ll never be cast as the sexy lead, or even the cute best friend. That’s not how I read in scenes. (I think I’d rather be the cop or the murderer or the jerk anyway)

Not that people don’t like me. (Some don’t. Some do. That’s life.)

I realized that weekend- in between when she gave me her card and she emailed me Monday to let me know the role had been cut- that I had never once actually believed that was possible. I held her card and I had the realization that despite my occasional fantasies of making a living at writing and acting (these are tied together in my head), I never actually believed I could do it.

Never.

Yeah, I’d daydream about being interviewed on late night shows or flying to Europe to film but I never BELIEVED it. As much as I wanted it I never once thought it was possible.

(I thought I did.)

If you’d asked me, do you think you can make a living writing for tv?, I’d have said, yeah- of course. And I believed that. I thought I believed I could do it.

I didn’t.

I held that card that weekend and I felt something inside me wake up. It uncurled out of the bottom of my mind and only once it was there did I realize that it never had been before.

Belief.

Actual, real belief. That this is possible. I actually, really, truly, fully, believe that for the first time.

Ever.

It’s always been “I want to” and “I’d love to” and “I wish” and “One day” and “Maybe” and “If I can”. That’s how the voice in my head talks.

For the past 9 weeks it’s been “When I”.

That’s nice.

I hear you. I know some of you well enough to imagine that look in your eyes. The one where you want to be encouraging but you know that it’s easy to talk and hard to act. I get that. That’s why I didn’t say anything right away. That’s why I’m debating writing this now.

Hell, I didn’t realize the difference right away. It took a few weeks before I realized that the shift wasn’t emotional. I mean, it was in the moment it was filled with emotion. But my emotions have been all over the map since then for other reasons and this, this whatever it is, hasn’t shifted. It’s not a feeling. It’s… a worldview? Lifeview? I don’t know. It doesn’t need a name to change me.

(I’ve felt this happen before. It was when I was 12 and I wanted a horse and my parents said, sure, if you pay for it. It was unreasonable to expect and impossible for a kid and there were months (years) where all I had was determination-there was no visible hope. (At 16 I bought one.))

I’ve believed for years that I didn’t have emotions. And even when I felt them, deeply, I convinced myself otherwise. That I was defective. Actually, I learned (somewhere) that I wasn’t allowed to take up space (mental, emotional, physical, relational). So I didn’t.

(head full of lies.)

I decided that weekend to try to enjoy what I am doing instead of freaking out over what I am not doing. Ultimately, none of this is going to make or break anything- it’s just what it is. Nothing more or less.

With the belief that I what I want is actually possible I’ve quit fighting for it.

(Working and fighting aren’t the same thing. I’ve been fighting. It’s made me too tired to work.)

In the past 7 weeks, since July 1st, I’ve-

Told probably a hundred people that I’m a writer and/or actress. Without qualifying it or apologizing for it or rushing to assure them that I know how ridiculous it is and I have reasonable descriptions of myself too.

Admitted to someone that I thought her goal of running play seminars as a living was amazing and something I loved. Which I would have done before. Then I basically added, “Let me know if I can help you. I’d love to do something like that, and I’d love to work with you sometime.” Now, it wasn’t that straight-forward in the moment but I still marveled at my boldness that night as I lay in bed.

Been the main character in a friend’s video sketch . She was talking about them, she does once a month, and I said, “I’d really love to be in another sometime.” I’d been thinking that since I had a small role in one in Jan, but before I would never have asked to be in one. Then I did. And then she said, “Oh, yeah. I’ve actually got a role you’d be great in.”

Had several exercises in Meisner class where I’ve had genuine emotional responses. I mean, really felt something. And SHOWED it. I cried. In front of people. And got angry. Really angry. I sent a scene partner scuttling across the room because I scared him so badly. That felt good. And then I said, “that felt good”. To my class. So impolite. Which felt even better.

Signed-up for the two writing classes that I moved to Chicago almost a year ago to take. That I’ve been too scared to take because, what of I screw them up? 

Had an authentic emotional scene in an improv class. Improv. I was sad and scared and upset. It was the sort of thing I always thought wasn’t for me. Out of my reach.

Got a huge laugh in the same class. Without trying. I half derailed the scene where it happened because it startled me so much. I’ve always seen myself as the one who doesn’t really get laughs. And, that’s been true. I don’t get tons. Didn’t. The last 3 weeks I’m getting a fair share.

Finished, and posted, a fanfiction story I started 8, yes 8, years ago.

Auditioned for a big, audacious improv show. I got a callback. I’ve never, not one time, gotten a callback for a show. And now I’m in their 3 week intensive audition process. It’s going well.

Asked for permission to enter an acting class out of order. And I got it.

Signed-up for and am currently attending at out-of-state improv intensive.

Made several big decisions about the next year of my life. (Future posts)

Quit a job that I hated. I just quit. I didn’t wait until I had the excuse of another job or a move- I quit because I was miserable. No other reason. I took a proactive step to care for myself. Which felt real weird.

Scolded a homeless (?) man. He had it coming. It’s a long story- the point is, I’ve spent the first 8 months here ignoring him and keeping my mouth shut. Not to be polite, or out of compassion, or because I didn’t care. Not even out of fear. Rather, out of the idea that I didn’t have the right to have an opinion about the way he talked to me. (I never would have said it that way, not even to myself)

That post 9 weeks ago led the way to all of this because it made me SAY what the problem was. And then ask for help. And then I got help.

I’m still marveling over that.

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I found this yesterday, it the midst of struggling with posting that last entry and class and talking to someone about it.

Sometimes an impulse buy is the right decision.

Acting (my heart hurts)

 

Last week I went home for a week. Sometimes I forget how much I miss my family until I see them again and it all comes back- I didn’t want to return to Chicago. Not because Chicago is so terrible (though there are some parts I’m finding I hate as much as I love other parts) but because it’s so far. Only seeing everyone a couple of times a year is hard.

I came back out of sorts and restless, it didn’t help that my flight had been canceled and there was all that annoyance around getting back. Jumped straight into working both jobs, gotta hit the ground running. Gotta make-up for lost shifts at work. (absolutely exhausted- physically, mentally, and emotionally) Did a Meisner class on Sunday to cover the one I missed on Tuesday and then to my current improv class/show that night.

It was awful. I felt like walking away from acting by the end. I doubted my ability, my possibilities, my aptitude, my training/experience, myself. I not only left feeling like a failure at improv but also as a person. It was a of pain deep inside. Not the acute, “I can’t believe I did/said/whatevered that on stage”. I get those, they fade pretty quick. That is just (just. Hah!) shame and embarrassment. A sharp, stinging failure. But like a slap I’ve found that normally a good night’s sleep will get rid of that. Or at least let me deal with it rationally. This was something else and when I woke up the next morning I was crying in my sleep and felt worse than I had the night before.

More

Make Things Worse

 

“An actor is looking for conflict. Conflict is what creates drama… I am always surprised at how actors try to iron out the conflict that may lurk beneath the surface of the scene, flattening it out instead of heightening it… We are trained as children that the most admirable conduct is that which causes the least trouble, so most of of spend our lives avoiding the conflicts of which drama is made.”

-Michael Shurtleff, “Auditions”

 

I get knocked for this in improv ALL THE TIME. I’m a fixer. Are we lost? I have a map. Is someone sad? I have their favorite cake. Are the keys missing? I’ve got a spare set.

I rip all the drama out of the scene. In my urge to be polite and nice and kind and friendly (aka likable) I forget this truth- drama is conflict. Not always with each other, no one really wants to watch fight scene after fight scene. And arguing is too easy. But there has to be conflict somewhere. Something needs to go badly, something has to go wrong, someone has to be hurt or scared or SOMETHING. That’s not just where drama comes from, it’s also where humor comes from. More

Bryan Cranston on Auditioning

 

The video below struck a cord with me because it answers something that been bothering me over the last few months. I’ve done more auditions since January than I have the entire rest of my life put together (not that it’s a lot by acting standards). This has brought to the forefront an issue I’d noticed before but when auditions are months apart it’s easier to shove the thought away and forget about it than when you have one a week for several weeks in a row.

My issue is exactly what Brian deals with- the attitude to have about an audition. I have two defaults that I swing between, forcing myself into one or the other.

  1. I don’t care if I get in, this audition doesn’t matter. It’s just practice.
  2. I want this role/job/etc SO BAD and I have to convince them to give it to me.

More

Unexpected Rewards

Yesterday was one of those days where I forced myself to go to the drop-in class at iO even though all I wanted to do was sleep. I was rewarded with an experience I’ve never had on stage before.

Several of the students wanted to work on acting/realism so that was our focus. I had this moment where I was squared off with a guy and we were just looking at each other, trying to let whatever was already there bubble up and build something from the natural feelings without judging them or trying to categorize them.

So anyway, we are doing that and Lyndsay was giving us a lot of side-coaching. Telling my partner to breath and to quit fidgeting, that he was defusing all the energy that needed to come out as an emotion through moving around. The same note she gave me several times when I had her during the intensive. So I took it as a note for me as well and doubled-down. Forced myself to stand perfectly still. Both feet flat on the floor, both hands flat on the sides of my legs, no swaying or nodding or chewing on my lip or anything else that would let me move around.

It was freakin’ hard! But I had the chance to work on it because she was talking to him. So I kept staring, and kept forcing myself to be perfectly still. As we finally started talking I wanted to move. Very much. Then I opened my mouth to say something and the urge to move was so intense I felt like I simply couldn’t hold still another second. So I blurted out something instead.

I just opened my mouth and words came out that I didn’t expect, that I would never have said because they didn’t make any sense. But it was that or move and I’d already decided I was NOT going to move. I couldn’t say what I’d planned, to further the story, because that would have meant moving. I think Lyndsay would say that it was because what I planned to say wasn’t honest to the scene, so I wanted to shift around to defuse that dishonesty. Like a little kid.

He blinked. I think I surprised him too. But as soon as I said the unexpected words I felt this rush of energy sweep through me. In that moment, when I chose to not let it out any other way, the reward was stunning. I’ve never like that on stage. The rush lasted the rest of the scene. I was buzzy, electric, with energy. I felt dizzy with it. I kept going with what we’d already started, I didn’t have to think about my answers. I felt like I had control, in a good way. Like, even if he had flipped and done something unexpected I could have held onto my own stuff. Something I tend to not do.

I’m not sure where the balance is in this. I can’t simply stare down everyone on stage without moving. And I tend to come off as nervous quite often, that’s where my energy seems to come from. So I need to figure out how to get that sense of power even when I’m moving or gesturing.

By The Numbers

5 weeks.

5 instructors.

15 classmates.

100 hours of class.

1 writing class audited.

2 workshops attended.

1 city explored.

3 injuries sustained.

20 lunches eaten with friends.

2 threatening encounters with locals.

4 shows participated in.

40+ shows watched.

50+ cups of coffee consumed.

60+ hours spent on the L.

=

One of the best decisions I ever made.

The End

iO Summer Intensive

Week 5

Instructor- Barry Hite

Thursday

Last day of class. I cannot believe how fast time has gone by, feels like I just got here and now it’s over. Which I’d best not spend to much time thinking about or I’ll get choked-up.

Barry woke us up with a shake-out, butts added. My favorite. Then we jumped into a back line to do burners, but with a twist. Following up on the last thing we did yesterday we added scene painting. Two people would step out and paint three things, then two new people would step out and do a scene there. Then, after they got swept they’d stay, paint a new scene with three new things, then two more people would do a scene.

We then ran half class Harold’s where the first three beats were scene painted before they started. Barry told us to get our 3rd beats moving fast, runs are good. We can show anything/everything we want, don’t let these scenes drag or build, that time is over.

We’re not going to get to Close Quarters, just picking up a few skills that go toward it. Which is sad because I love the form but, on the other hand, I learned new forms instead so I suppose that’s better anyway.

We then ran Cat’s Cradle’s again. He really wanted to have one of the teams tonight do one but we just are not enjoying them. I like the form, as do a couple of other people, but it doesn’t play to the team’s strengths. And we were driving Barry half crazy because almost all our scenes were about people hiding…

Before lunch Barry sat us down and explained how tonight would go, and made teams. One half will do an ASSCAT, they will go first, and then the other team will do a Harold. The only rules he’s putting on us are that the ASSCAT can’t have any scene painting and the Harold can’t have people playing objects. That will make it pop more when the other half does those things. He also mentioned that we should feel free to do incantation edits, as we’ve been doing them a lot this week without being prompted.

To decide teams Barry drew names out of a bucket. I ended up on the ASSCAT team with Seth (who will host/do the first monologue), Chris, Rauno, Mihkel, Tormi, and Andres. We’ve had standing team names over the 5 weeks, each group taking whatever one they want as they got up. One has been “Team Girl”, which is what my half will be tonight because I’m going up with 6 guys. The other team will be “Team Shorts”, which will make no sense to the crowd sense they’ll all have pants on. Inside jokes abound in improv, I’ve noticed.

After lunch we ran our forms. And we got chewed-out. Barry got onto us because we were making a ton of newbie errors. He told us we have GOT to QUIT FIGHTING. Especially at the top of scenes. NO fighting at the beginning. It’s a rule for us, because we are out of hand. Also, we have to start our scenes in the middle. We are doing tons of introduction scenes and “Hi” scenes. That has to stop! He says it’s crap and that we are too good for it. We’ve all got a lot of improv under our belts and we have to stop sabotaging ourselves.

It was an uncomfortable few minutes but it was justified. I could tell he really wants us to succeed tonight, and to do that we have to quit this nervous ridiculousness.

Our motto for tonight is “Know Each Other. Love Each Other.”

Snatches from today-

  • Use Harold games to hit on the scene topics. Make tight patterns.

  • If you are scene painting, being thoughts, being an object, etc. don’t let that stop you from editing. You can always edit (unless, maybe, you are physically pinned or holding someone’s safety in your hands).

  • If someone puts something negative on me I should turn it into a positive. Avoids a fight and protecting myself- it’s more fun to be wrong/bad/etc.

  • Armando monologues should be reflective/emotional, not facts.

  • Keys to being a great show host

    • Confidence! Fake it if you have to, but no hesitation.

    • Speak loudly

    • Get room energy up

    • Greet/thank the crowd

Best Improv Form. Ever.

iO Summer Intensive

Week 5

Instructor- Barry Hite

Wednesday

 

We did more burner scenes this morning, Barry’s favorite, and then moved into openings done in a certain style (Art House, Action Movie, etc.). After that we did a long, shared character monologue. Playing with different opening techniques.

The next form we covered was my favorite form I’ve ever done. It’s insane. JTS Brown. I’m going to try to turn my notes into something reasonably easy to understand but this form is complicated enough that Barry added to it in layers so it’s a little tangled up in my notes. Barry said there are about 9 fun things that this form adds to the scenes, if everyone is playing at the top of their game.

The entire set scene changes come through transformational edits only, no sweeps. Anyone can be any character at any time, all characters are common property. It’s vital to make character choices VERY clear in this form, and use names, because people need to be playing each others characters as it goes on. Also, when the scene transforms, if you stay on stage immediately and drastically alter your character. Keeps things clear.

It starts with a shared character monologue. Someone starts a scene from there, this is the one sweep edit that can occur if you need it. Scenes can be one person, everyone, whatever. Any scene can be brought back at any point if you want to continue it. However, in the middle of the set there should be a 4-6 minute two person scene that is not added to, touched, or brought back. This is the grounding scene that everything can go crazy around. When I say “any scene” below this scene is exempt.

Now, on to the really fun “add ons”-

  • At any point in any scene someone off stage can step out and and freeze the scene, then ask any character 3 personal questions. These can range from “How old are you?” to “What is your deepest fear?”. Try to keep them, and the answers, brief but there’s no rule here. Also, anyone in a scene can step out of character as an actor and do the same thing, just stepping back into character afterward.

  • Scenes are STRONGLY encouraged to happen anywhere. Use the entire space, move around the room, play with the audience and get off the stage a good bit.

  • Playing as objects, sentient or not, should be happening. This is a physical form.

  • Entering or leaving a scene transforms it and a new scene starts. If you want to get on or off stage you can do so during those few seconds when a transformation is happening, any other time you’ve changed the scene (so no tags!).

  • Any character can pop out of a scene at any point and narrate themselves (character or history), or whatever is going on.

  • Whenever you find two scenes that can be easily toggled (World Within Worlds) it’s a great game. For example, if something going on reminds you of somethings else (like in freeze tag) you can step out and make it immediately clear that you want them to stay and do this other thing, then step out and hopefully if they’ve caught the idea they will go back to the first scene. You can then step in and out of the scene, toggling it back and forth between two scenes. This one is tricky until the team reads each other well.

  • Playing “ids”. You can step out behind any character and indicate (we used holding our hand over the characters head) that you are that person’s “thoughts”. You can then participate in the scene by playing the things they don’t dare say out loud.

  • “Ed TV”. This is another tricky one to start with. You revisit a scene you already did and make a quantitative difference in it at some point. This can be seen as an alternate reality. If you went left the first time go right this time, if you took the red pill then take the blue, if you fell in love with the hot chick in round one then this time fall in love with her ugly sister. The idea is to explore what could have happened.

  • Stealing characters. Anyone in a scene can “take over” another character, which forces that person to become the character/thing you had been playing.

This form is built entirely on having fun and messing with each other. Hardcore. So everyone has to be on board with that. The trick is to learn to balance things so that the scenes stay up and energetic and everything is getting used, while also letting them have some time to breath. Ground the scenes, hard, and then pile crazy sauce on top.

Barry said in this form especially it is vital to not explain things. Have 10 second scenes, purely physical (silent) scenes, scenes that are more like a Harold game than a scene, dream scenes, repeating scenes, etc. Really and truly train yourselves to allow anything to happen, things that you don’t see in other forms.

This scene played to what my team liked, and what I’ve learned I like over the past 5 weeks. It’s silly and fun, and yet can still have grounding moments. The other half of my team did a set where periodically a pig would run across the stage. Whatever scene was happening would vanish and everyone in the scene would start screaming “Go pig! GO PIG!” and cheering and stomping for it, and then as soon as she scurried off the stage they would snap back into whatever scene they’d been in before. For some reason that was about the most hilarious thing I’ve seen this week.

That took all morning, after lunch we worked on Cat’s Cradle. This is a form where the entire cast stays on the stage for the entire show, everyone is in every scene. To keep that from being to chaotic most people play objects or background characters, most of the time. It’s fine to have a few true group scenes but not every single scene. It has an opening like a Harold, but that smoothly flows into the first scene.

Barry said you have about 3-4 seconds of credit with the audience at the top of scenes to change places on stage, decide who you are, and get started. Edits can be sweeps, as long as you don’t leave the stage. But they can also be focus, or someone simply making a clear move to another part of the stage. Barry also said to do about 4 scenes and then start callbacks. Longer than that it we won’t get to tangle things together as much.

We then did “Oh Mighty Isis”. The entire team forms a line and holds their hands out on front of them, palms up. Then they chant, together, “Oh Mighty Isis”. Barry (or an audience) would then yell out a thing/place/noun. The entire group has to immediately, and with no conversation, create that thing on the stage as a group.

Like, we did an Airplane, Millennium Park, and a Haunted House. Each person should know what part of the thing they are. In the above I was a wing (piece), a fountain, and a “stabby person” (because what haunted house does not, somewhere inside, have a person stabbing up and down with a knife?). It is also possible to be a sound or smell, anything at all that is part of the object or belongs at the place. Just avoid being a “person” (I stretched that with stabby person, but I didn’t care).

We ended with a little Close Quarters training. He didn’t say that but Close Quarters is one of the few long forms I’ve done before so I recognized what he was doing. We would paint a place and then do a short run of tiny scenes set there, unconnected to each other. And each one had it’s own Soundscape.

Snatches from today-

  • The audience wants to know what you like before you tell them what you hate.

  • If a character belongs in a space we are less tempted to talk about the space.

  • Say subtext out loud. Quit trying to be subtle, say things plainly and then heighten them. Playing subtle is often fear of what will happen when the thing is actually said and has to be faced.

  • The back wall is death. Stay away from death.

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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