Archive for April, 2007
Two useful bits of advice I heard many years ago, and now can’t remember where.
1. Give yourself an askfor. Before you enter a scene give yourself some suggestion about your character. (Credit to Greg Ellis of Wellington’s ‘the Improvisers’)
2. Think of a letter, think of a word starting with that letter. If you need to come up with something from nothing, this is a good way to do it. It’s easier to think of a word starting with specific letter than to just ‘think of a word.’
One reason I write comics is because I do a lot of involuntary improvising. My mind will start improvising a scene, and I know that if I don’t express it in someway (even if it’s just writing it down in a notebook) then I will try and force it into an improv scene, or it will just hang round in my brain, getting in the way and eating all the potato chips.
My philosophy is ‘don’t hold anything back. Use up all your ideas and fresh ones will flow in to replace them.’
The reason Arrested Development was such an exhilarating sitcom was because they weren’t trying to pace themselves, they would throw out whole plot lines in the last five seconds of an episode and yet there was always somewhere new and exciting to go. (Well, until they got canceled anyway.)
I’m going to Disney Land. Will be back on Tuesday.
I watched the first episode, and well… it doesn’t claim to be improv, and it’s not, but I thought it was quite funny.
Potential for use in corporate improv? Worth a look I think.
Interesting study showing the benefits of theatre (compared with visual arts).
The theater group improved significantly more compared to the control group in each of the measures … well-being scores than in the other tests, so those small gains are significant). For problem solving and well-being, the theater group also improved significantly more than the visual arts group.
The team argues that their results demonstrate that theater training — even over a relatively short time period — can help prevent cognitive decline associated with aging. They even speculate on some of the reasons why it is effective: Theater, they claim, requires sustained attention to the task in a way that other activities do not. Actors must stay in character for the duration of a scene, unlike studying visual art, where viewers might “rest” in between viewing different images. Also, the participants consistently remarked that theater was “new” to them, and novelty appears to be a key component of brain fitness.
This will be the last (for now) from my series ‘ideas I got from that Keith Johnstone workshop I went to that time’.
Not an exercise this time, but something to make workshops a more positive place.
If you’re in a scene and you realize that you’ve lost enthusiasm for it, you just throw your hands up in the air and yell ‘AGAIN!’ The other people in the scene will see what you’re doing and join in.
Then, straight away, you start the game again.
It’s better to be able to make good scenes than to be able to save bad scenes.
I think the great thing about it is that it forces you to do the game/exercise again without stopping for discussion. In my experience, if you pause for a few comments, you’ll get sidetracked away. Better to get straight back into it. I mean, god lord, if we give ourselves a chance to start thinking about our improv, we’ll never get any improvising done.
In terms of the the games we’ve been talking about, this is very handy for ‘nope’ when the teller is getting discouraged, and ‘lost in the forest’ when you’re down to just a few people.
If I were to argue this case (and I’m not saying I believe it), it would go something like this;
Why do people watch a play instead of a movie? Movies have much better sets, costumes, and special effects. What does the theatre have going for it?
I love this game. It continues on from the nope! game, but has a much snazzier title.
This game is something that Keith developed from his classic game Yes Lets! But with a stronger focus on story.
Here’s how it works.
Get a group of players (I reckon 12-20 is a good number) onstage.
Me (paraphrasing Keith Johnstone): Ok, so you’re lost in the forest and you’re going to have an adventure. Anyone can suggest the next thing you do. When you hear a suggestion, you can either do it (if it floats your boat), or quietly come and sit down with the rest of us. If we get down to one person, we’ll start again. Go!
On pages 9 and 10 of his book Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction, Vonnegut listed eight rules for writing a short story:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Every one of those rules apply to improv.
The worst thing that could happen if you really screw things up is everyone will laugh at you.
And that’s what you wanted to happen anyway.