Here are my notes from week 5, day 2 of the iO Summer Intensive. Our instructor for week five is Miles Stroth.
* The Opening Scene of the Deconstruction: * The main purpose of this scene is to pump the show full of *information*. * Name people. * Both onstage and offstage characters. * Allude to offstage things/characters/events. * Imply a world that's larger than just the here & now. * Explore questions about your character. * Who are my friends? * What do I do with my time? * What makes me happy? * ... and so on. * Reference cultural things. * "Are we going to see Batman tonight?" opens the door for any & all usage of Batman. * "I want to walk the path of the great American writers." opens the door to play *any* great American writer. * Tell stories. * Me: stories the characters both know are less useful than stories only *one* character knows. * In the latter case, you have an excuse to *tell* the story in perfect detail. * ... which is more useful for producing information. * Telling stories about your character, and where your character is coming from, makes the audience *invested* in your character. * Err on the side of TOO MUCH information. :) * The scene is more "conversation" than "game". * Think "TJ & Dave", not "Cook County". * It's pretty much realistic. * Maybe with *slightly* larger choices. * Note that 'realistic' doesn't perforce mean 'angry'. * You can still be funny. * It's definitely NOT a straight/absurd scene. * Instead, each character is flawed in his/her own way. * Once you know your flaw, develop it and lean on it. * It's not a "this is the day" scene. * i.e., "the day when I take drastic action and everything changes". * Instead, it's more of a "day in the life" scene. * i.e., "this is what life is like for these people." * "This is the current source of tension between them." * Try to nail the relationship and the inherent problem in the first line. * Do it clearly and obviously. * Example: "Yes dad, I love it here on the farm, but I want to move away to the city, and you can't stop me." * Just get it the hell out of the way. * Otherwise, you'll waste valuable time trying to chase down the relationship and the inherent problem. * Similarly, a "slow start" is not useful in this scene. * Yes, it's a ~six-minute scene. * But you can't waste time on a slow start. * A slow start adds no new information. * And, again, priority #1 is to add new information. * We don't necessarily need details about the relationship. * But we *do* at least need to know the basics about it. * ... and the two characters definitely *know* each other. * Once relationship/problem are established, you can move on to *exploring*. * ... which is the actual purpose of this scene. * At least make sure you've answered the question "How do these two people know each other?" * Note that the problem isn't the *focus* of the scene. * The problem is just there to create tension. * You should occasionally touch on the problem. * This *maintains* the tension. * ... but you shouldn't monomaniacally focus on it. * This means you're not exploring other things. * Any time you find yourself stuck on one topic, that's your cue to move on to something else. * You want to spend the whole scene restlessly moving from topic to topic. * The constants here are *not* the "what you're talking about". * The constants are: * Your character. * Especially: your character's POV. * The problem between the characters. * The relationship. * These can all stay the same, regardless of the topic of conversation. * Likewise, you don't want to get stuck in one *emotion* in your scene. * If you find yourself stuck in one mood, that's your cue to explore what your character is like in *other* moods. * The two characters should not be 'peas in a pod'. * That is, do not mirror. * There should be a clear *difference* between the characters. * Once you've established that difference, you can start exploring the question, "*Why* are they different?" * This lets you start exploring the characters' *histories*. * (i.e., what shaped them in their pasts?) * Side note: this is why it's less useful to play children in this opening scene. * (i.e., they have no real history to work with, compared to adults.) * Note that we need details about *both* characters. * If you've spent a while talking about character A, it's now time to change gears and start talking about character B. * Sometimes the other character will act like a dick to you. * In this case, the realistic choice might be to leave. * The problem is, this ends the scene. * So: find a reason to *not* end the scene. * And keep exploring. * That said, this game (of dickishness) *should* recur throughout the scene. * Theme Scenes: * These are the two 1½-minute scenes that follow the opener. * We have one theme-scene for each character. * A character's theme-scene explores a theme -- a one-word 'big idea' like "protective" or "competitive" -- that you see in that character. * Start the theme-scene by stepping out and embodying the theme. * It can (and probably should) be a line as simple and direct as "I am very competitive." * Yup. Just flat-out *say the theme*. * Remember: you're embodying the *theme*, not repeating the *character*. * If you feel you must provide a specific context, make it a different context from the opening. * If in doubt, going generic never hurts here. * Then, a second performer steps out and mirrors you. * So, you are essentially the *same character*. * This means: do NOT do an initiation that makes you inherently different characters. * Don't imply a status difference. * Don't tell the other person they *don't* embody the theme. * If someone does that to you, give it right back to them. * Then it'll be an argument, sure. * But at least you'll both be embodying the theme. * Then, you spend 1½ minutes in a competition to be the most <x>. * Note that this isn't really a scene. * There's probably no setting, no plot, no unique characterization. * It's more of an exercise that hammers away on exploring and heightening this one-word theme for the character. * The Opener Returns: * For about two minutes, we go back to the opening scene. * We either pick up where we left off, or jump to a few minutes of story-time into the future. * The same performers resume that world. * Their characters are now informed with the themes we've explored. * If your character's theme was "competitive", really lean on making your character competitive in this continuation. * Heighten those qualities. * Hopefully, you were already discovering and heightening those qualities in that very first scene. * Comment Scenes: * These are the five or six 1-minute or so scenes that follow the continuation. * Each one is a two-hander. * So if you get up to do a scene, and two or more other people also get up, you sit the fuck down. * Or "walk back to the wings", or whatever. * Each one is a straight/absurd scene. * It is NOT a double-asburd scene. * So, in your initiation, make it clear... * ... who is the absurd guy. * ... who is the straight man. * If you endow both characters as absurd, your partner should probably punch you in the face. * And somehow you need to back out of the double-absurd. * Once you know what the absurd behavior is... * ... your goal is to heighten it. * Make it *more* absurd. * Make it *more* wrong. * Both players can collaborate on this process. * Each one highlights some specific, fucked-up behavior you noticed in the opener or its continuation. * ... and *only* that fucked-up behavior. * Do NOT use additional material from the opening. * This has the effect of "burning" that material. * That is, the material is no longer available for future scenework. * (... because it's already been used.) * This also muddies what the scene is commenting on. * It makes its connection to the opening scene ambiguous. * Try to hit the big, obvious fucked-up behaviors that the audience surely noticed. * When you notice a specific behavior, make it generic, and re-work it into a new context for the comment scene. * This is what makes it a *comment* scene, not a "re-tell the material you just saw" scene. * Generally, you're saying, "*That* was fucked-up. That'd be like if <x>." * (Where "<x>" is that new context.) * Here's how I did it for one scene: * In the scene: "Jack seemed really worried that he hadn't gotten a phone call from Big Tony, while the other mercenary did." * Making it general: "Character obsesses way too much over an innocuous phone call." * Putting it in a new context: "A guy tells his best friend he's obsessing way too much over a recent phone call from a girl he's started dating." * Make sure the audience can tell exactly what bit of the opening scene you're commenting on. * Err on the side of being too on-the-nose. * This is because it's nearly impossible to be too on-the-nose. * You can even mirror the dialog of the exact moment, to cue the audience. * The audience will reward *accuracy* here. * Not being clever or 'funny'. * You can try a reversal of the behavior you're commenting on. * But it's tricky, and could confuse the audience. * Therefore, it requires even more explicit cueing of the connection to the source material. * There's a difference between themes, comments, and tangents. * It's a matter of specificity versus scale. * An example: a father hits his son with a bottle of Budweiser. * Theme: abuse. * Comment: hitting people with odd things. * Tangent: Budweiser. * General notes: * When playing the straight man, try to be as simple as possible. * If it's as simple as "This guy keeps twitching," then *say* that: "You keep twitching." * It doesn't have to be more wordy to have verisimilitude. * It doesn't have to be oblique. * It doesn't have to be clever. * As the straight man, you can go into a long *rant* about what the real world is like. * The next thing that will inevitably happen: the absurd person goes right on being absurd. * This gets a laugh, because of the timing. * The absurd behavior has been set up as a punch line. * If there's a structural fuck-up in the deconstruction, just roll with it.
Mood: contemplative · Music: none