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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Monday (1/18/10) 10:11am - ... wherein Peter posts an improv update.

Improv Singing II
This past Saturday, Shana's latest improv-singing class started up.

To my mind, the big question is, how do I get the most out of this?  The last time through, I kind of hit a wall.  I suspect the problems were:  (1) I missed some of the classes, and (2) I didn't practice on my own.  I don't know why I feel so weird improvising songs around the house, but I need to get over myself.  At the very least, I need to get myself in the habit of composing quatrains in abcb.

As far as I can tell, that's *still* one of my biggest weaknesses as an improv-singer:  I default to aaaa, which has the two effects of (1) making the song blindingly difficult to improvise, and (2) making the verses sound asinine.  If I'm vigilant about it, I can get myself to do aabb, which isn't quite so bad.  But the challenge is getting myself to do abcb, which (1) is so much easier to do, and (2) sounds more like real lyrics.

I know if I just drill that rhyme scheme, I can dislodge that problem.  As for my other problems, I'm less clear on how to address them.  (e.g. how will I ever learn to sing harmony vocals?)

In any case, the class looks really solid.  Everybody's got a good voice, and as Brockman put it, "Nobody in here is rhythm-impaired."  One of the things that can really hurt an improvised song is when the singer has trouble with rhythm.  And it isn't just "the singer can't keep time" (though that can be unpleasant) -- the more common problem is that the singer starts the first verse on the one, and then never finds the one again.  The next verse starts on the three, and the musical improvisor frantically skips around to follow the singer.  The next verse starts somewhere between the four and the one, and then ends several bars too early.  And so on.

In this session, we reviewed Improv Singing I at a dizzying pace.  Lots of stuff about singing verses (hint:  steal as much as you can from the verse before you), coming up with choruses (hint:  be as simple as possible), and some basic song structures.

For me, the interesting tidbit I picked up this time was how important and helpful physicality is.  What you do with your face and your body can keep you grounded in the emotion of the song, and it's the best way to convey your intent to the musical improvisor.


Next week looks like reviewing the rest of Improv Singing I at a dizzying pace.

Oh, also this class is going to end in a performance -- I think it's on March 6th, or some time around there.

The Friday Double Barrel
This past weekend,
Keith Johnstone (for my dancer friends:  think "the Frankie Manning of improv") has been in town to teach a four-day workshop.  Improvisors have come in from other cities to take this workshop.

For the Friday-night show, the first act was a pickup troupe that included a few of those out-of-towners:  Jill Bernard from Minneapolis, Bill Stern from Chicago, and Tim Redmond from Melbourne.  The locals were Shana, Andy, Troy, and Heiberg.  A total of six audience members showed up for this -- which is kind of surprising, given the heavy hitters involved.  The second act was Scatter, a long-form troupe from the University of Houston.

I don't really have much to say about the show.  I took photos, and they're online here and here.  It was pretty straightforward montage-y stuff.

Micetro at the Long Center
This past Saturday, Keith Johnstone directed a Micetro at the Long Center, over at the Parmer Events Center.  It's the first time that venue has ever had an improv show, and the show sold out. (!)  I took
some photos.  Again, I have little useful to say about this -- to me, it was basically a really impressive Micetro with a great (and large) crowd and a star-studded cast.  I'd be interested to know what the Micetro-directing types have to say about Keith's directing choices.

Oh, one thing that deserves mention:  in Micetro, the audience scores each scene from 1 to 5.  This show had the most glorious "1" I have ever seen.  In fact, I've seen very few 1s in Micetro.  Typically, a bad scene in Micetro is something drab and mediocre -- maybe the players aren't really committing to anything, maybe the offers are all vague, maybe there's lots of lame gagging.  Even that will usually get a "2".

But this time, towards the end, they brought Troy out for a solo scene.  They told him to "give a speech that will convince someone from the audience to go home with you tonight."

Troy walked to the front of the stage.  He pointed at his crotch.  He didn't say a word.  The lights went down.  Scene.

During the scoring for the scene, the whole audience gave Troy an ecstatic 1.  It was glorious.  It was wonderful to see that kind of commitment, it was great to see the scene go in an unexpected direction, and it felt oddly liberating to watch somebody onstage who so clearly didn't care about winning.

Marc's SVT Troupe
It would appear I have my next improv gig lined up for after One More Night finishes.

The improv mixer was casting several shows for gnap! -- Michael Joplin is doing a Mafia-themed show, Brandon Salinas is directing an apocalypse-movie-themed show, and Marc was putting together another house troupe à la Continental Breakfast.  At the time, I signed up for the apocalypse show but not the house troupe.  Then I didn't get cast in the apocalypse show (ah well), and heard bits and pieces about the house troupe.  What, Jon Bolden is in this?  And Lauren Zinn?  Wait, four of the One More Night cast are there?

Yesterday I discovered that Patrick Daniel was in the troupe, and I decided, "Screw it, I'm going to grovel to be in the troupe."  Those who know me know that this is pretty contrary to my personality -- my usual attitude is, "I made my bets, it didn't work out, and now I'll just quietly endure the consequences."  But last night I emailed Marc the grovel-mail.  He checked in with Shannon, and an hour later, I was squoze into the new troupe.

Here's the cast list:
Emily Breedlove
John Buseman
Jon Bolden
Kyle Traughber
Lauren Zinn
Meghan Wolf
Mikey Sullivan
Patrick Daniel

Of those, John Buseman is the only performer I don't already know.  The rest are all friends of mine whom I've done various shows with.

I have no idea what kind of show we'll wind up doing, but good lord there's an insane amount of talent there.

(Side note:  One More Night preparations continue apace.  I'll cover that in its own post later in the week.)

Mood: [mood icon] busy · Music: none
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Date:Monday (1/18/10) 5:46pm
"and it felt oddly liberating to watch somebody onstage who so clearly didn't care about winning"

You will not be surprised to hear that this lesson was one that Keith repeats often, in various forms, when he teaches.
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Date:Monday (1/18/10) 6:25pm
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