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Long Form Improv – Sample Scene-work Workshop

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Long Form Improv – Sample Scene-work Workshop

My improv philosophy is that there isn’t a definitive approach to improv, and that improv is a artform that is constantly morphing, expanding and it’s relatively new. The knowledge about improv that we pick up in our improv journey are more suggestions than absolute truths. If improv was a video game, this tools would be “cheat codes” to make improv easier and more satisfying.

Warm up: George, Word Association, Mild Meld, Big Booty, Ninja.

Two-person three line scenes (warm-up).

Two-person short scenes where before initiating the scene partners make a mental decision about the relationship we have with the other improviser.

Initiate scenes inspired by the physicality of our scene partner and what that communicates to us about his or her mood, emotions, profession, or whatever other information we can obtain by their physicality.

Practice the importance of knowing what we want from the other scene partner (this works better when what we want is not material but more associated with emotions such as respect, love, compassion, etc).

Gift our scene partner game (pan y queso). This is to practice helping our scene partner with information that informs his or her character and makes it easier to play and to keep the scene going.

Two person scenes where we quickly determine the who, what, where of the scene (with 3 “referees”).

Organic/Naturalistic improv: Attempt two-person scenes where improvisers are as natural as possible and nothing extraordinary happens during the scene. This scene is the opposite of “this is the day where that thing happened”. The world doesn’t come to an end during this scene, this is how 99% of life happens as opposed to the 1% of life where exciting and unexpected things happen.

Editing scenes in a montage: “Walking through doors”. Improvising as if we were walking through fog and we could only see the next step.

  • Things to try: “let’s go there” from the sidelines.
  • Easier: from the sidelines we edit the scene by saying “Now I would like to see the following: these improvisers are in xyz location, the situation is the following…”.

Improvising “paranoid”: listening as if our scene partner had second intentions, we don’t take anything at face value. What our scene partner is saying actually hides something else and we don’t take anything literally from our scene partner.

Practicing the game of the scene: establishing the base reality and then detect the first unusual thing that happens in the scene.

Student becomes the coach: two person scene where a third person acts as the coach/director and after the scene he or she comments on how the scene went, things the coach liked and things the coach would do differently.

Holding on to your thing: holding on to the choice made at the top of the scene and not losing that point of view or “thing” brought by the character at the top of the scene.

Dream scenes: one of the workshop participants selects two scene partners to act out a “dream” scenario that tickles him or her as a selfish wish. For example, I would like John and Joan to be good cop and bad cop, during a break in the cafeteria of the police station.

Ejemplo de Clase de Impro en Español

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Aca van algunas de las cosas que quiero trabajar, no se si va a dar el tiempo para todo pero es la idea.

Mi idea sobre la impro es que nadie todavía escribió el libro definitivo sobre la impro, es un arte vivo y es relativamente bastante nuevo. Lo que uno va aprendiendo, los ejercicios, son sugerencias. Si la impro fuera un video juego, estas herramientas serian “cheat codes”, o trucos para hacer la impro más fácil.

Calentamiento: George, Asociacion de palabras, Mind Meld, Big Booty o algun otro calentamiento mas fisico, v.g. Ninja.

– Escenas cortas de 3 lineas para precalentar.
– Escenas cortas donde antes de empezar la escena uno ya hace una decision mental de que relacion tiene con nuestro companiero de escena.
– Empezar escenas diciendo algo sobre cómo nuestro compañero de escena esta físicamente parado o sentado y que nos dice eso de su estado de ánimo, profesión u otra cosa que nos inspire su aspecto físico.
– Practicar la importancia de saber que uno quiere de la otra persona (esto funciona mejor cuando lo que uno quiere tiene que ver con emociones).
– Darle regalos a tu compañero de escena (como pan y queso). (Esto es para practicar la importancia de darle “pies”, “regalos” a la otra persona).

– Escenas de 2 personas donde determinamos rapido quienes somos, donde estamos y que estamos haciendo o de que estamos hablando (con tres referis).

-Tratar de hacer escenas donde somos lo mas naturales posibles, por ejemplo una pareja esta en la cocina y hablan naturalmente de algo y no pasa nada en la escena, no hay conflicto, no se cae el mundo, etc.

– Como editar una escena: ir caminando a través de puertas (walking through doors). Improvisar como si estuviéramos caminando en la neblina (stepping into the fog: solamente podemos ver el próximo paso).
– Probar desde las sidelines con el “vamos alla”.
– Mas facil: desde las sidelines uno va a editar la escena diciendo “ahora me gustaría ver lo siguiente, estos improvisadores están en este lugar, etc.”

Improvisar “paranoico”. Escuchando como si nuestro compañero de escena tuviera segundas intenciones, como si lo que dice en realidad esconde algo más y no sólo lo que dice literalmente.

Practicar el juego de la escena: realidad de base y después vemos cual es la primera cosa inusual que pasa en la escena.

Otra cosa que quiero probar es hacer escenas de dos personas y poner a uno de coach/director y que el coach despues de la escena comente como fue la escena, que cosas le gustaron, que harian diferente.

Holding on to your “thing”: the choice you made at the top of the scene. No perder el punto de vista o “cosa” que trajimos con nuestro personaje al principio de la escena.

Dream scenes. Me gustaria que esta persona y esta persona hagan la siguiente escena.

Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro on 2/1/2017

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Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017

 

Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017

 

Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017

 

Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017

 

Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017

 

During my recent visit to Buenos Aires, I taught a Chicago-style improv workshop to a group of students at La Sede Teatro, a renowned improv comedy theater in Buenos Aires.

The Director of La Sede Teatro is Ricardo Behrens. Ricardo is a bonafide improv guru and one of the pioneers of the improv comedy scene in Latin America.

One of the most popular shows at La Sede Teatro is Shakespeare Inedito.

It was amazing and truly an honor for me to be teaching in Argentina, my native country, in the artistic home of Ricardo Behrens, La Sede Teatro.

Feb 13 – Megan Johns Class – AP4

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What a fun class! I feel I am making progress and I am doing good work. The key for me is having an understanding of who I am as I go into a scene, once I do that, I am able to navigate the scene. Annoyance focuses on character based improv, and I am enjoying this approach a lot. Other schools of improv focus more on forms as opposed to Annoyance that focuses on individual performance. Anyways, I am having fun creating characters and acting 🙂

Megan Johns class 1/30/16 – class 1 of AP4

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I enjoyed this class! Challenging but at the same time enjoyable and helpful.

Notes I got:

Do longer declarations rather than short verbal interjections.

Emotionality (I made up that word) should be more up/down rather than stable. Even-keeled is good and makes people want to play with me but also I should bring emotional variety.

Keep doing what I am doing in terms of physical characters (those were the best).

Some scenes need stakes raised.

Mostly we did a lot of scenes. One of the things that Megan emphasized was using all of the stage rather than the hotspot that most improvisers use.

Megan talked about coming with something for ourselves and then connecting with our scene partner, acknowledging the scene partner’s deal.

1/23/16, last Kyle Dolan’s class AP3 Annoyance

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Things we did, lessons, teachings:

– Don’t initiate always from the same spot on the stage.

– Stick to your thing. If you have a thing, do that thing and keep doing that thing. Also, have a thing rather than not have a thing.

-Don’t try to make sense of the scene, go with instinct. [conflict here: how about the UCB approach that states that we need to hit the who, what, where early on so that we can find the game? don’t we need to also use the analytical part of the brain during the scene?]

– In ensemble, try to edit using transitions rather than sweeps.

– mind the stage picture.

As I think of what I will do with improv as time goes by, I want to keep getting better but sometimes I try to do too many classes at the same time. One thing that I want to do in the future is not spend so much money on classes and also take advantage of the opportunities to practice or perform that are free or inexpensive in the city.

So the goal is to:

  1. Be more choosy in terms of the classes that I take and take one program at a time.
  2. Take a great class rather than multiple mediocre classes.
  3. Take time for personal stuff, let the improv stuff be a part of the whole and not a huge portion of the whole.
  4. I am doing just for me and noone else. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
  5. Balance.
  6. Enjoyment.
  7. Focus on Annoyance and then go into another program (CIC).
  8. Perform.
  9. Go to jams if I need more reps.
  10. Write notes during classes.
  11. Let the haters hate. Haters gonna hate.
  12. Just do my thing. Enjoy.
  13. Write lists.
  14. Listen to Cultura Profetica on Spotify.

Kyle Dolan’s class of 1/16/16

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Kyle Dolan’s class. We spent the first half of the class trying multiple person scenes. Some of the scenes were better than others, but to be honest, nothing appeared to be successful or fun to me. Kyle then had us mirror or match each other at the top of the scene with side coaching, but that wasn’t very enjoyable either. I felt like I was neither learning, nor enjoying the process and I don’t know if it was just me. But actually it wasn’t, one of my class mates was frustrated as well. Growing pains? I dunno. Pains, not sure if there was growing involved.

Kyle suggested matching to make multiple person scenes easier. Matching involved matching tones of voices, for example. In one of the scenes, we were in a sort of Spa situation, matching a softer pattern of speech. My frustration is that we can’t really do that in a show. We can’t whisper in a show, nobody would hear us. I saw a successful scene where one of the players was play a bartender (classic!). Having something to do in the scene makes being in the scene a lot easier. Knowing who we are helps a lot, and it appears to me that it all comes down to good acting. Being committed to our choices at the top of the scene. Lately I have been noticing that I don’t enjoy watching improv scenes where the improviser has a grin on the face as if he or she doesn’t believe their own choices and they are mocking the scene.

The second part of the class was about two person scenes where the improvisers were sitting on chairs. I will write more about this later.

Later…Ok, so this part of the class was about doing a longer scene that was more grounded, where characters knew each other, we named each other and it didn’t need to be a funny scene.

1/9 Annoyance Class + Study Hall

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Yesterday I did an improv knowledge marathon, I took my AP3 class with Kyle Dolan and then I went to The Crowd Theater and did a 2 hour scenework drop-in with Kevin Knickerbocker.

Things I learned at Kyle Dolan’s class: my first warm up scene was a little strange, I came in with the idea of me being in a locker room at a police station. My scene partner initiated something about being frustrated with the fact that she had gluten free issues. My initiation was more physical, trying to do object work. My object work was not great, but it wasn’t horrible. I do remember my Improv as Theater classes where we work on opening doors and how we can make the opening more realistic if we encounter some trouble when turning knobs, etc. I am not sure I did that. Well, this was a warm up scene so I guess it was a throw away scene. Anyways, when my partner initiated I turned to my partner to listen and to process what she had said. Kyle’s note was that it would have helped me to take a few beats at the top of the scene to better find my character, which I think was a good note.

We did more short scenes, one that sticks out as a good scene is one I did with Jake where we were in a showroom testing some cars. We were in a three person scene. One of the ways to make  three person scenes work is to make them two person scenes, by aligning our point of view with another scene partner, and that’s what I did with Jake. We both were kind of bullying Sean, but in a playful way. We were moving around the stage and being physical. Some of the object work was sloppy but we were having fun and being physical so the lack of object work accuracy was not a huge deal.

There was more stuff that happened at Kyle Dolan’s class but I will move on to Kevin Knickerbocker’s scenework drop in. One of the things I remember is that we worked on initiations and I initiated reasonably well. We worked on naming our scene partner or stating our relationship or something about them that established who we were to each other. I did successfully in some of the scenes and in others, because I was coming with a strong character, I got lost in the character and did not call out who that other person was to me or their name. So the takeaway is to keep working on this fundamental, which is naming the other person, if possible sooner rather than later, and if possible establishing their relationship to my character, for example, whether they are a doctor, president, nurse, cop, etc. It helps a ton when we name the other person, it is a great gift to be giving our scene partner and it helps in a show to bring that character back.

Kyle Dolan Class # 5 – AP3

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AP4 with Megan Johns starts 1/30/16

At the beginning of the class we reviewed with Kyle what we had done in week # 4.

We talked about initiating with scene parters having an activity that both improvisers shared, like fishing, or waxing a surf board. Why did we do this? Doing an activity together is one thing with can do instead of doing different activities. Either one is fine, but what’s the upside of doing the same activity? It gives us the opportunity at the top of the scene to explore the environment, and check in with ourselves to see how we are feeling. How does this activity inform our character? Also, by exploring an object or the environment, we are two people doing things in the environment and we don’t need to rely so much on verbal communication.

Another exercise that we did in week 4 was initiating scenes without making direct eye contact, at least in the beginning. This helped with listening, because we had to pay attention to what the other person was saying and we couldn’t rely on our scene partner’s body language.

We also touched on the importance of not playing polite, calling out specifics rather than leaving details unnamed. Also the idea of calling out our scene partner in errors and incorporating errors into our scene. Also the idea of fucking with each other! This was liberating and fun.

In the class we warmed up doing scenes where two of us were called by Kyle.

After that, the scenes started with only one improviser and another one would join right away.

After the break we did something new, we did scenes were we mocked the previous scene. The first scene was a grounded scene (we tried to play the scene in a real way), and the scenes that followed were two person scenes that mocked the previous scene. This exercise had a few outcomes / goals: try to remove layers of self-consciousness, critiquing the previous scene, and just having a great time.

One thing I personally tried is making sound effects during a scene and Kyle said that we should clarify if the sounds are being made by the characters in our scene or if the actor is trying to add sound effects to enhance the scene. I think Kyle said that it would be more helpful for our ensemble members on the sidelines to add the sound effects.

Below is how I wanted to do the sound effects:

 

 

AP3 Annoyance – Kyle Dolan – Class Summary

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I will dump what I remember from this Saturday’s class from my brain to this post:

The first half of the class was devoted to short two person scenes where the instruction from Kyle was to feel free to match our scene partner in body language, vocal choices and overall character emotion/attitude. Matching is used to help inform our character, but once we used that information, our character didn’t have to continue matching our scene partner. We can and should make our own choices once we have found something for us in the scene. Also, it was important not to drop our “deal” in the scene, while at the same time acknowledge our scene partner’s deal.

In part of the same exercise, we continued with the short two person scenes, this time one of us was called by Kyle to initiate the scene doing object work and quickly another person from the backline had to come forward and start doing object work together with the person that had initiated, so as to be on equal ground or “same page”.

The second half of the class was similar but we did longer scenes. In some of these longer scenes, the instruction from Kyle was to not look at each other. For example, in one of my scenes, I did a fishing scene with Dan. We were both on a fishing boat.