Sunday (1/8/12) 7:02pm - ... wherein Peter takes notes on the Maestro-directing workshop.
I took some notes on today's Maestro-directing workshop at the Hideout Theatre.
* We've done Maestro since the Hideout opened.
* It's a very solid format, and it kills already.
* But we can always make it better.
* (Shouldn't it get an award for that?)
* Different directors have different (successful) philosophies...
* ... but there are still some fundamental aspects that hold true.
* Maestro is based on sports
* Getting the same excitement: trophies, etc.
* Prepare for the show
* Come up with games & setups you like
* You don't always need to go to the audience for a suggestion
* You can just pre-load some suggestions yourself.
* Pep-talk the cast
* Tell them to have fun, be mischievous, etc.
* In the show, the director is much like a referee
* Avoid delay-of-game
* KEEP THINGS MOVING
* Be efficient
* It's not really about you & your personality & your stand-up bit.
* Keep setups concise and direct.
* Stay off-stage with your setups
* Keep focus towards the cast.
* Shape of show
* Overall, it wobbles upwards.
* It has its ups and downs, especially early on.
* Generally, the scenes get *stronger* over time.
* You want to keep variety from scene to scene
* Never "more of the same"
* Maintain variety...
* ... of tone. (light, dark, creepy, cheery)
* ... of style. (games vs. scenes, types of games)
* ... of stage picture. (chairs vs. no-chairs, # of players)
* ... of noise/energy. (loud vs. silent)
* Basic structure:
* Explain the rules, suggestions, scoring
* Show off the $5, practic scoring
* Move fast, be efficient.
* Then, rounds.
* Maestro works best if there are *more* rounds.
* This means more eliminations.
* This also means there's more *momentum*.
* More sports-like.
* Some scenes can be *really short*.
* If you're in a quick blackout, don't bitch about it!
* Finish first couple rounds by ~10:45pm.
* Players should all stick around for notes
* This makes them look like a team
* There's a bit of good nature for the very end.
* And even if you're eliminated early on, you're part of the show.
* How to explain scoring:
* 2 is average.
* 1 doesn't mean you hated it, just that you didn't like it.
* 5 means "we want to see more of that"
* Tell the audience they guide the show.
* Mention that whooping and hollering doesn't count.
* If you're evenly split on two scores, go low.
* Especially for a 5
* It forces a better arc to the show if we have to *earn* 5s.
* Don't be afraid to piss off the audience w/r/t scoring.
* Take your time with scoring, even if it was a clear 5.
* 1, beat, 2, beat, etc.
* Also, this draws it out.
* Stay neutral -- don't cue a certain score.
* Don't judge the audience's score.
* Clarify that you're not just judging on funny.
* It's on how much you "enjoy the scene".
* The audience often gets confused by the first serious scene
* Try slipping a serious thing in early
* This preps the audience.
* Generally prep the audience early for "improv is not just one thing".
* As the show goes on, fight for...
* More resonance, more truth, more depth.
* Even if it's just a game.
* The first scene *can* be a group game (but usually isn't).
* If you haven't warmed up the audience, a group game is good.
* Or if the audience is cool for some reason.
* A larger cast -- probably want to get right into the first tround.
* Helps put a greener cast at ease.
* The extra random point can help vary player scores.
* In any case, keep it quick and succinct.
* Again, be efficient.
* Ending on a head-to-head tiebreaker is great.
* If scores are off by one, then head-to-head solo scenes can work
* ... especially if there's still time.
* Put the lower-scoring person first.
* Finish a show by 11:35pm, or 11:40pm at the latest.
* Exercise: get into groups and come up with a Maestro set list.
* Then, adjust to account for wrinkles.
* How do we best support the players?
* How do we train new players & make them look good?
* How do we give veteran players a place to have a good time?
* At the very least, jot down a list of qualities you want to include.
* You can knock them out as the show goes on.
* Then you'll know what's left.
* Next level, if you have some more time, list games.
* List out some games that excite you
* Categorize them.
* Also list games that haven't been done lately.
* Next level, if you have more time, list setups too.
* Try to get info from the players:
* What they like/don't like.
* What they've been up to lately.
* This gives you grist for the show.
* Check in for players' injuries/restrictions.
* See who's a rookie.
* Also, prep by writing up the number/name pairs.
* Prepping in the green room:
* The director should get them warming up.
* Especially if you're new to some of these players.
* Vary them -- no 15 minutes of bunny-bunny.
* Or tap a cast member to lead warm-ups.
* ... and, do the pep talk.
* This makes the cast feel more invested.
* End warm-ups 5-10 min before the show.
* Vibe with the audience:
* Make everyone feel like *you're* the one keeping it on the rails.
* The directors get the blame when something geos wrong.
* Possibly have players hang out onstage as the audience enters.
* This sets the audience expectations low.
* And connects the cast with the audience.
* (Lots of bickering about this.)
* Or players put up their names while the audience is there.
* Especially if you're a newer director.
* This is how you get better at directing -- screw up.
* Especially in the first round or two.
* This takes care of newer players.
* This keeps the audience assured that things'll be okay.
* You can add restrictions after a scene has started.
* Makes your director-involvement more apparent.
* It also sets things up so that, if you *need* to do directing later, it won't feel wonky and unprecedented.
* Also, set it up in the pep talk, so the players don't feel insulted.
* "We're trying to help you."
* "If it goes wrong, the audience will quite rightly blame us."
* Sometimes the director can seem adversarial.
* Setting up a really hard scene.
* "This is the last line of the scene."
* This can give a scene necessary tension.
* This puts the audience on the players' side.
* Or adding an extra restriction/setup tweak as the lights go down
* Be aware of long scene setups.
* Your general goal is to stay out of the way.
* ... so don't indulge in a lot of long setups.
* Your setup doesn't have to include the game.
* Just set up the *scene*, and add the game mid-scene.
* This tightens up the initial setup
* It also makes you more flexible, mid-scene.
* The audience likes seeing your flexibility.
* You can add a "three-word summary" of your setup as the lights go down.
* You can *totally* cheat on which players to pick for a scene.
* e.g. not pushing a new player into a solo scene.
* You're not an emcee
* Stay in your goddamn chair.
* Support in the middle of a scene.
* This is one of the best way to teach new players.
* Example: taking back a not-fun-negative scene start.
* Players can take back a bad start.
* Make this clear to players, btw.
* You don't want to sound judgmental.
* Or directing players to move around or start in a different position, if they've been stock-still.
* How do you help a scene that's floundering?
* You can prep with a list of generic "helpful sentences".
* Make a decision.
* Kind of dickish/critical.
* Say that sentence again.
* Say, "I love you because..."
* You heard that.
* That just happened.
* Make eye contact.
* Touch his knee.
* Start to cry.
* Walk away from him.
* N.B.: knock them out as you use them.
* (So you don't have repeats.)
* Effective physical directions are...
* Very helpful
* They don't seem overdirectory
* Very unnoticeable to the audience.
* They make the players seem like they're doing it.
* Call for stage support.
* You can drag people off the back wall, by
* Gently gesturing them forward
* Setting up a drinks cabinet DR.
* Feel completely free to draw on the other director.
* Whispered: "I have no idea what to do!"
* Co-director will help.
* Give characters opportunities for change.
* Physical offers often generate this change.
* Sometimes you can lob in an actual tilt.
* "Take off your" human costume.
* Don't overdo it -- you're not an improvisor.
* Write notes about the show.
* This is how you give good notes *after* the show.
* But, be sure you compliment-sandwich your notes.
* Think of Maestro as a long-form show.
* It's not a *real* competition.
* It's a show *about* a competition.
* It's not disjunct scenes; it has a cohesive arc.
* Callbacks are awesome.
* Players should have relationships.
* Pick one player: you're in love with that player.
* Pick one player: you hate that player.
* And so on.
* It's great when the players relate to each other during a setup.
* Sometimes you just get an organic setup out of that.
* Getting a 2 can make improv appear appropriately dangerous.
* That said, you don't have to *force* the 2.
* Players can earn a 2 without your help.
* Is it the under-the-bus game?
* Often it works to have 1 singleton and a group of 3.
* If you're a newer director, plan less.
* You have to take risks, fuck up, and learn from it.
* Encourage bad behavior among the cast.
* "Support, misbehave, screw with the director."
* "Don't sit down on the side."
* That makes you unlikely to support.
* And makes you feel less like you're in the show.
* "It's *always* your scene, it's *always* your show."
* "'Thank you, number ' is a safe word."
* Anyone can pull lights at the end of a scene.
* Don't be afraid to be 'bad cop'.
* Tiebreakers can be mischievous occasionally.
* (But generally, they should be earned.)
* Then again, if a player pushes back too hard against your help...
* ... sometimes you just gotta let them hang.
* If you give a bonus point, it's got to be for people helping the show.
* And if the audience *wants* them to get that bonus point.
* You always want it to feel like a fair game with fair rules.
* ... and those rules are being followed.
* Just because you start a game doesn't mean you need to finish it.
* End it when the *scene* beneath the game needs to end.
Jessica -- Post-Show Notes
* They're mandatory
* Don't blow them off
* Don't let the *players* blow them off
* Even if the show was awesome.
* Then, just discuss *why* the show was awesome.
* Revel in it.
* Use it as a teaching opportunity.
* Point out what things you're *supposed* to do.
* This is esp. useful for new players.
* Mainly they explain games that people don't know how to play.
* Often players don't know these games.
* One possible rule: "If you're in the scene, don't comment on it."
* Helpful instruction: "For now, take the note. If you want to bitch about it, talk about it with me afterwards at the bar."
* Often good to start with highlights.
* Follow with "Anything we could've done differently?"
* Then, go scene-by-scene, efficiently.
* Jessica, as the producer/antipope of Maestro, gets to speak at any point during Maestro notes.
* A possibly-useful question: "Is there anything you guys struggled with?"
* Then you can give them a positive thing they can do to address the problem.
* While it might feel kinder to give a general note.
* But it's more useful to call people out.
* (Maybe even on an individual basis, afterwards.)
* Even then couch it positively:
* "I challenge you to be more positive", instead of "Stop going negative."
* On casting:
* If you're picked as a director, post that you're a director.
* Also ping Jessica on people you'd love to direct.
* Preferably before Thursday, when Jessica does the casting.