I took TJ & Dave's Sunday-afternoon workshop at the Twin Cities Improv Festival. As usual, I took notes.
* Pay attention. Full stop. * Your scene partner = where all the information is. * This includes all the information about who *you* are. * "Be yourself. Don't worry. Nobody'll believe it's you." * Exercise: the group creates a musical piece, soundscape-style. * Have fun while doing it. * Listen for what's missing, and provide that. * Try to reach for the musical capabilities that only the *group* can reach. * Integrity! * Play and react honestly. * Work from a place of truth. * This should make a scene easy and simple. * Play spacework realistically. * Taking it slow helps. * Don't get so wrapped up in it that you ignore your partner. * If you're going to speak bullshit, just say nothing. * Exercise: playing simple scenes as yourselves. * No story, just genuine, real acting. * No real jokes either. * But it still plays, and it's still engaging. * Blind agreement is disrespectful. * "Yes and" = "Yes this happened", not "yes I agree". * "Hold this scorpion!" really should get the response "Go fuck yourself!" * It's easy to start a scene with positivity. * It helps to get the house happy and on your side. * Negative energy is hard to wrangle. * Tricky, since we have an instinct for 'instant trouble'. * You can avert this by focusing on the characters onstage. * Not on the situation, its logistics, or the problems involved. * 'Check in' before the scene's first line, if possible. * That will *inform* your first line. * Note: this means you'll want to be within sight of each other as the scene starts. * It's not "What can I make this?", but "What *is* this?" * 'Checking in' is very important. * Even a great offer falls flat if the other person doesn't notice. * ... or notices, but isn't affected by it. * You don't need to inject conflict/overplay fights. * Improv has dramatic tension inherent in the form. * ... because you're making it up as you go. * ... and you might screw up. * Therefore, it does not *need* conflict. * Plus, conflict will find you. * Conflict that happens on its own: * ... will be unique instead of generic. * Will be real. * Don't 'overblow' a geniune response for dramatic purposes. * Real life is always interesting enough. * Don't lie to *make* things silly or funny. * "Energy's really beautiful, and effort's really ugly." * "We're all hoping this goes well. Everyone in the place wants it to be fantastic." * A genuine scene doesn't need to be slow. * It just needs its proper pace. * Pauses are okay. * "It's not dead air up here." * If you're still present and engaged, everything's still cool. * You don't have to hammer the location, but subtle and realistic reminders of where we are are good. * You can always choose to play honestly. * And if you do, then the scene will always at least be okay. * Story is not your job. * Your job is to react to tiny little things in the moment. * Trust that it will all add up. * Even in games, you can pay attention and be genuine. * Hold on to the same authenticity if you're playing the opposite gender. * Scenes quickly narrow down from the realm of "all possibilities". * Observe how those possibilities narrow down. * Observe your scene partner. * Exercise: pair up. * Person 'A' picks a very specific relationship. * Person 'A' spends 30 seconds silently conveying that to Person B. * Person B guesses about what the relationship is. * Usually, B has a good guess in terms of 'heat' and 'weight'. * These matter more than specific details. * Exercise: start a scene with still silence. * Don't do anything until you have a read on the relationship. * Otherwise, you're just adding confusing, ambivalent noise. * A line is not completed 'til your partner *receives* it. * If something's wrong, we have an instinct to explain. * This leads to stupid, deliberate plot-constructing. * Remember, *any* opening pose can work for the scene. * And it doesn't always lead to a huge 'thing'. * It could be about a lost pair of shoes. * Not naming something for too long can give it too much power. * *Enjoy* not knowing anything before the lights go up. * Enjoy not knowing about yourself, or the other person, or the situation. * It really takes the pressure off of you. * Make your actions about your face more than a physical action. * This is a way to focus on characters instead of plot. * Don't worry about endings. * "Honestly: just the next little thing. And the rest of it... seems to work out." * Occasionally, things go surreal. * But generally, it's easier to sustain a mundane reality. * You have to *start* with something grounded and believeable. * *Then*, you can go to Crazytown, if necessary. * If there is surreal-ness, the story isn't *about* the wacky things. * It's about how the wackiness affects the characters. ________  One very neat moment in the workshop: during this exercise, I introduced a simple, repeating, three-whole-note descending line into the music. After I did this a couple of times, the women to either side of me simultaneously jumped in and sang along to it in three-part harmony. Awesome!
Mood: contemplative · Music: none