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

Sunday (12/25/11) 11:03pm - ... wherein Peter posts notes from the Out of Bounds Bob Dassie workshop.

Here are my notes from the Bob Dassie longform workshop at Out of Bounds (9/2/11).


* "Play slow, edit fast."
        * Savor scenes; attend to its moments
        * Also work on the macro level -- attend to scenes.
        * Always edit to help *this* scene, not just to jump-start the next.
* Your #1 job:  make your partner look good?
        * What does your partner need?
        * This attitude will solve most any improv problem.
                * e.g. being too thinky.
        * It'll see you through every moment, and it'll make things go right.
* Conflict is normal & truthful.
        * Conflict != tension.
                * Comedy often comes from building up and releasing tension.
        * In a conflict, play the tension.
                * Savor the awkwardness.
* Always look for the relationship.
        * ("It's not about the waffles.")
        * Letting the conflict *affect* you aids this.
* Exercise:  "Pivot"
        * Four people line up across the stage.
        * The first is the 'pivot'.
        * The Pivot does a quick exchange with each other person.
                * Maybe about two lines.
                * The stationary person initiates.
                * Each line can be more than one sentence.
                        * Make it a "complete thought".
        * Then go through and do three more exchanges.
                * Keep the same characters as before.
                * So:  the Pivot is talking to three different charcters.
        * If you master this, try doing two-exchanges each.
* This exercise forces us to *listen* more.
        * Especially the first eight lines of a scene.
                * Beginnings = where the problems happen.
                        * e.g. cautious vagueness, delaying.
        * We want to *initiate* scenes, not 'stumble into' them.
        * This forces us to pick up on the partner's offer.
                * Don't shut them out.
        * We also need to focus.
                * Even when the other scenes distract us.
        * We have limited lines.
                * We have to assume knowledge of a lot of stuff.
                        * ... instead of carefully attending to exposition.
                        * Just assume that the audience 'gets it'.
                                * This helps take care of your partner and the audience.
* "Yes, *because*" can be a form of "yes, *and*".
* "A scene is never about solving a problem.  It's about *dealing* with the problem."
        * Leaving tension unresolved is especially improtant in longform.
        * It's also realistic.
                * Important problems rarely get neatly finished off.
* He gives lots of "Why?" directions.
        * This helps make scenes *about* something specific & significant.
* Scenes tend to be filler 'til they "latch on" to something.
        * That's usually conflict.
                * (People panic, default to hating on each other.)
        * Open conflict is easier to play.
* "Let your partner's words hit you like a punch to the stomach."
* We're aiming for a conscious, consistent approach.
        * Pursue relationships, etc.
* We shouldn't waste time at the top of the scene.
        * Come with your own energy, attitude, etc.
                * ("Don't be a vacuum.")
        * Don't immediately focus on the activity.
                * You're not derailing their activity.
                * You're not 'hinged on' their activity.
* Exposition can just *happen* later in the scene.
        * ... so there's no need to 'force' it.
        * It can be slower and subtler.
* You can do crazy stuff, but be sure to justify it.
        * Same for apathy as a character choice.
                * You can do it, but make sure it's deliberate and justified.
* Compliments also have to be specific.
* Wanting something from your partner is a great aid to relationship.
* In a Harold, often the 1st beat is a mess.
        * ... and then beats 2 & 3 are cleanup.
        * Things are *more* fun if scene 1 *isn't* a mess.
* If you totally focus on your partner, your work will *still* be informed by who you are.
* "Why these two people *now*?"
        * The answer needn't be extreme.
        * But it has to be *something*.
                * i.e. "This is the day that...."
* Exercise:  get two people.
        * #1:  do an activity in a location.
                * Never mention it.
                * Only use your partner's lines as a springboard to generating information about yourself.
                        * (This information also works as inspiration.)
                        * This exercise included a lot of "why" directions.
                                * This got us to more deep and specific character info.
                        * "Now" directions get us back to the present.
                * This forces you to do several things at once, none of which are actually scenework.
        * #2:  same as #1, except only endow your *partner*
                * Lots of "I know that..." statements, as opposed to "you must have..."
                * Don't make the endowments secretly about yourself.
                        * So, provide facts, not your character's emotional attitudes.
        * #3:  combine #1 & #2.
                * That is, endow both in each line.
                * This is a very difficult exercise.
                        * But, it makes your partner look good in a scene.
* "I don't want you to feel like you have to be a loaded gun, coming into a scene."
        * ... just don't be a relentless blank.
* Exercise:  do two-handers where you deal with, BUT DO NOT SOLVE, a problem.
        * Like the 'bottle episode' of a TV show.
                * ("Oh no, we're all trapped in the walk-in freezer!")
* Butts-in-seats onstage tend to *stay* in seats.
        * This can kill the blocking/physicality of the scene.
                * Generally, don't let your physicality go *blank*.
* Exercise:  heighten an emotion until it *has* to turn into something else.
* A three-person scene is *about* 3!/2!=3 different relationships.
* Information doesn't *have* to 'pay off', but it gives you possibilities you can leverage off of.
* Always check in to see how scenes feel to the other players.
* You can err on the side of *too* over-the-top w/r/t emotions.
        * ... especially if those emotions are truthful.

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