Class April 18, 2007

It was good to be back this week. Everyone who reported on Mike and Jim’s class from last week said those that two did a fabulous job, so thanks to you both for filling in. I don’t have pictures from that class, so we’ll jump right in on this week’s report.

img_0207.JPGWe’ll start off with this picture of Li-At, Scott, and Dustin. They’re playing a game of Touch to Speak, and in this scene they are astronauts. The basic rule is that anyone who wants to speak must first touch another player.

img_0218.JPGHere, Angela, Patrick, and Andy are also in a Touch to Speak scene, but in this case they are cattle wranglers. One of the interesting challenges you can give yourself in this scene is to find different ways to touch the other players. I particularly like the dual in this scene which allowed them to speak while standing back-to-back.

img_0224.JPGVictoria, Justin, and Mike are dog-walkers in this scene. Nothing subtle about this contact; they went right into a clinch.

This exercise also encourages a lot more physical work rather than pure dialog. And, if the scene wasn’t enough encouragement, I tried to emphasize that aspect of the scene with a little side coaching (“less chatter!”).

img_0225.JPGHere we’ve switched to Spoon River. This game is about narrative, and has very little physical interaction. I’ve always been fascinated by this scene structure, because it’s about working together to create a gruesome, mass death. Jim, Sol, Mike, and Kathy are discussing how some scissors, a cat, and a ficus all came together to kill all four of their characters.

img_0233.JPGAnother Spoon River scene with Dustin, David, Mark, and Marika. This one involved a surf board, a church, some holy wine, and a flaming Jesus statue. This was a tough Easter celebration, and of course all four characters died a gruesome, flaming death.

img_0240.JPGNow on to the ever popular Irish Drinking Song. What I always find amazing about this exercise is how much it is dreaded by people in their first few classes. But it is the most popular piece we do. Patrick, Victoria, Ben, Sol, and Justin are serenading us, although in this shot Victoria is the one singing her verse with a vengence.

img_0243.JPGAndy is captured mid-warble as he, Karla, Marika, Kathy, and Kenna are singing their Irish Drinking Song. Since I typically direct these pieces, I don’t get a chance to jot down the topics, so I don’t remember what they were so enthusiastically singing about.

img_0251.JPGThe next few shots are from the night’s 3-Line Drill. We don’t get enough opportunity to practice with this drill, so I’m glad we got to it in this class. Here, Andy and Karla are practicing the first three lines of an open structure. I liked Karla’s pose in this shot, providing a good physical reaction to Andy’s line.

img_0262.JPGI liked this 3-Line Drill from Patrick and Mark because of the unusual vertical position. Getting away from two people just standing and talking makes for a much more interesting stage picture. Although for some reason, Mark started sniffing his shoes right after this shot.

img_0264.JPGSpeaking of interesting physical physical work, here are Kenna and Justin in their 3-Line Drill scene. You can almost work out what the whole scene was about from their physical positions in this shot. Their attitudes are so well portrayed. The scene had something to do with American Idol, but it’s their poses and expressions that make me want to know more about whatever is going on.

That’s really the point of the 3-Line Drill. We are only performing the first three lines of what should be a longer scene, but the goal is to make those first lines so interesting to the audience that they want to see more.

img_0266.JPGThis is the last picture from the evening, but it’s my favorite shot. This is Kathy and Sol’s 3-Line Drill. Sol just entered with a line about Kathy being pregnant, and that’s what her reaction is actually about. However, their poses and the weird angle of the shot makes the scene look like some sort of warped Film Noir. I imagine Sol smoking a cigarette and Kathy having an aside to the audience about the Private Eye who entered the room. That’s not the way the scene went, but it’s a fun fantasy.

For the record, we had 19 people in class, and in addition to the games mentioned already, we also did a few rounds of Freeze Tag at the end of the night.

Class April 4, 2007

img_0082.JPGI think this picture, taken during an Irish Drinking Song scene, captures a lot of what improv means to me. Mark, Aydin, Justine, Kathy, Ben, Mark, and Dustin are just having fun. Yeah, there’s structure and some pressure around performing, but as everyone gets comfortable with a game or pattern, you really find that the structures help you work with others to create wonderful scenes. And, they’re just fun to be in.

For a couple of reasons, I’m going to post more pictures than usual. First, we had another large class – 28 players this time. Second, I have a new camera, and the quality of the pictures is much better than what I’ve been working with. And third, if you hand a good tool to Andy and the other folks taking pictures, you get a lot of really cool shots. I’ve whittled the 79 pictures I started with down to the following few.

img_0017.JPGThis is a Yes And scene with Scott, CK, Melissa, Ben, Dustin, and Jim. They were working on marketing Flavored Rubber Bands, although it looks more like they were practicing their dance moves.

img_0022.JPGDavid, Kathy, Justine, Li-At, Mark, and Marika are trying to sell Doggie Viagra in their round of Yes And. I think David is a little too excited about this product, while Kathy just looks disgusted.

img_0025.JPGNow this group worked hard at putting together a marketing campaign for Edible Shoes. Pictured are Ann, Mark, Aydin, Scott, Bob, and Sugely.

img_0036.JPGThis next group got split into two pictures, so I guess they were twice as good. In this half we have Sol, Andy, Susana, and Lorien. The group is also working on a Yes And scene and they are putting together a campaign to sell Pickled Papers. Andy is just fascinated by Sol’s idea, although Susana seems a bit frighted by it.

img_0041.JPGMisha, Justin, and Mike were also in the Pickled Papers scene. Clearly Mike is describing an idea that he thinks will truly sell more Pickled Papers than any other ideas – especially Sol’s last idea. Misha and Justin look like they’re just humoring him.

img_0044.JPGThese three – Sharon, Melissa, and Kathy – are working on a 5 Letter Word scene. Ben was also in the scene, but missed being in this shot. Their word was WHALE. I really like the pose in this shot because it makes me want to know what they were looking at! Another example of how the physical work in a scene makes it much more interesting.

img_0054.JPGI really enjoyed this scene because the players committed to the absurd nature of it. Justine, Sol, Li-At, and Aydin are playing a 5 Letter Word scene, and their word was CHAIR. They’re in a coal mine, and at this moment Sol is trying to resuscitate their canary – which has died. Only Aydin seems concerned about the death of a canary in a coal mine, whereas the others are deeply concerned about the fate of their pet.

img_0070.JPGWhy is this man praying? He’s not, really, but it’s a wonderful shot of Jim in character. He’s in a sauna, apparently leading an encounter group while everyone is suffering from the intense heat. I loved the requests made to “speak someone’s truth”. Susana, CK, and Mark were also in the scene, and my notes mention some some good physical work between the characters.

img_0077.JPGOnce again I’ve picked a picture because I love the captured expressions. This is another 5 Letter Word scene, this time with the word FEAST. Mike, Kathy, Ben, and Justin are at a playground, and the three kids on the right are confronting the older man (Mike) about what he’s doing there.

img_0086.JPGBack to the Irish Drinking Song, and this group consists of Scott, Ann, CK, Scott, and Misha – with,once again, my bald spot upstaging them all. I’m always impressed with how enthusiastically the song pieces are done. There are several new players in this group, and they gave it their all.

img_0091.JPGAnother song, this time just showing Sugely, Justin, and Sol from their larger group. Sol looks like he ended up in the wrong scene, or is just wondering why everyone else is so enthusiastically waiving their arms.

img_0096.JPGHmm, there were several pictures from this scene, so I’ll end the post on this one. We performed several Entrances & Exits scenes, and here I’m playing a religious zealot who was finding spiritual enlightenment through the practice of Sumo wrestling. Okay, the scene made more sense (maybe) when you saw it performed.

Despite it being such a large class, we got quite a few games in. And by popular demand, we ended with Freeze Tag, which took us well past our normally ending time (no pictures of that, unfortunately).

Class March 28, 2007

Wednesday’s class had 19 people, which allowed us to do some scene work with smaller groups. We also got the chance to do some long form drills at the end of the night. I’m going to try and keep that part of the evening in our workshops.

dcp_2816.JPGI love this shot, where Jim and Kathy appear to be having a perfect moment together. In actuality, this scene is called Info Both, or sometimes Zelig, and the two of them are stuttering together. This is a quick scene where one player is at an information booth and the other enters with a strong emotion or characteristic. The player at the info booth takes on the offered characteristic.

dcp_2817.JPGZelig is played as a quick rotation scene and now Allegra has entered the scene with Kathy. Until I checked my notes, I liked imagining what this scene was all about. Chickens? No, they’re sailors on leave. The hands are holding some sort of a backpack. Sailors carry backpacks?

dcp_2824.JPGA few rotations later, we have Mark and Justin together. I believe Justin was tracking something. I love the cool pose Justin is in. Mark looks a bit dumbfounded by Justin, but I remember the two of them being fun to watch.

dcp_2833.JPGHere’s a shot of Sharon and Scott in their Info Both scene. Scott entered carrying a gun and Sharon immediately pulled out hers. They became two ol’ boys wavin’ their guns. I’m not sure what this pose means, but look at the expressions on their faces. They match beautifully. This was a fun scene.

dcp_2838.JPGMark and Mark are working together on another Info Both scene. Mark on the right entered with a box of cell phones that he found. I’m not really clear what the two of them were trying to do.

What I like about this exercise is its emphasis on taking on the character, not playing against it. It creates a lot of energy between the two characters.

dcp_2840.JPGAt this point, I’d had it with Ben and decided to give him a piece of my … oh, no wait. This is another Zelig scene and I entered really furious. Ben matched my inarticulate, stifled screams with his own inarticulate, stifled screams. We never established what we were angry about, but it was very satisfying in a cathartic way.

dcp_2845.JPGI like this shot. Marika, David, and CK have joined together to be one character in a two character scene. There are three players forming the second character in the scene. I call this Three Speak as One, One Word at a Time, Switch. I should probably come up with a shorter name. I’ll explain it in greater detail another time, but suffice it to say the exercise left everyone with a sore head, and I consider that a success.

dcp_2855.JPGKenna and Scott are working on their Three Line Drill. Kenna entered the scene frightened and hid behind Scott. They had a weak start, but on their second attempt it was a very compelling scene starter.

The Three Line Drill is another rotation exercise and is meant to work on the first three lines of an open scene. The exercise is a great way to learn how to immediately find a compelling scene.

dcp_2864.JPGAt the end of the night, sometimes folks just need to let off steam, and here Aydin and Scott are working out a few issues. Sol, Jim, Andy, and David are looking on, although Sol appears to be getting ready for his turn.

Actually, we ended the night with a few rounds of Freeze Tag. That night we did it in a line form so that everyone had a chance to create a scene.

All in all, this turned out to be a very emotionally satisfying night.

Santa Barbara Improv Workshop Recital Picture

dcp_2809.JPGThe recital was a fantastic, and I’m extremely proud of how everyone did on stage. I haven’t pulled any pictures from the video, yet, but here are a couple of group shots taken after the show. Unfortunately not everyone is in the picture, but I’ll name those who are, starting with the back row: Mike, Andy, Justine, Sol, Scott W, Kathy, David, and Justin. The next ‘row’ consists of Li-At and Melissa, and the next sort-of row is Allegra, Ben, Angela, and Marika, with Alan (me) kneeling in front. Missing are Lorien and Scott S.

I’ve included the following picture for several reasons. First, Lorien has joined us (she’s in the deerstalker cap). Second is Andy’s ‘Kilroy’ moment over Justine’s shoulder, and the third reason is the fabulous expression on Marika’s face.

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