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

Thursday (7/14/11) 9:45pm - ... wherein Peter takes notes on the TCIF TJ & Dave Q & A.

TJ & Dave had a Q&A session as part of the Twin Cities Improv Festival.  I took some notes on the session.


* Apparently Dave was in Groundhog Day?
* Q:  What are 'heat' and 'weight'?
        * It's a quick way of figuring out a scene quickly at the top.
        * 'Heat' = relationship proximity/intimacy (close versus distant).
        * 'Weight' = the 'heaviness' of the situation (casual versus sersious).
        * These are easy to intuit from the environment as soon as the lights go up.
* Q:  How do you avoid taking personal issues onstage?
        * This is generally not a problem.
        * They tend not to rehash issues onstage.
        * They don't see each other much outside of shows.
        * Even if they have a shared experience, they each have their own unique perspective on it. (?)
* Q:  What's the best improv advice you've received?"
        * Dave:   Play to the top of your intelligence.
                * "Don't pander to the audience.  They're a fuck of a lot smarter than you.  Treat 'em like that, and they like it."
                * Don't be afraid to be smart.
                * Be as smart as you are.  Be genuine.
        * TJ:  Improv is not meant to be executed perfectly.  Just steadily improve your failures, and keep experimenting.
* Q:  Have you guys ever just completely bombed?  How do you recover from that?
        * There haven't been horrible TJ & Dave shows.
                * There's been no *perfect* show, either.
                * But they've certainly been in other shows that bombed.
        * Let it hurt for a while.
                * That said, make sure you enjoy the good ones.
        * "Play your way out."
                * Let the good shows gradually blot out the memory of the bad one.
        * Note that everybody has a slump shortly after they start out.
                * When you emerge from a slump, you come out a better performer.
* Q:  Have you guys ever done a 20-minute TJ & Dave show?
        * Once.
        * 20 minutes is not enough time to get any momentum going.
        * They often only 'find' the show at the 30-minute mark.
* Q:  What's good about being in a duo?
        * It's easier to sort out what's going on onstage.
                * There are fewer other people to focus on.
        * It's easier to get on the same page, improv-goal-wise.
        * You're less likely to "get your shit stomped on".
        * (On the minus side, you can't do any epic, big-cast stage pictures.)
* Q:  What was it like to create the Harold?
        * Del Close did the creating.
                * Everyone else just tried to keep up.
* Q:  Have you ever 'hit the wall' as performers?
        * TJ:  "When am I done learning?" <-- get used to the answer "Never."
        * Often you just need to find like-minded people.
                * ... and know what you want.
* Q:  How has improv changed over the years?
        * Dave:  It's mostly the same; we're trying to do what we first learned how to do.
                * It *is* more commercial these days.
        * TJ:  It's bigger now, and it has more applications outside of theater.
* Q:  What arts influence you?
        * Dave:  Everything -- music, prose, plays
        * TJ:  Talking to very smart and competent people.
* Q:  Do you devise scripts?
        * Dave did that for Second City.
        * Dave:  all writing in groups is improv, really.
                * Stuff you write alone tends to feel 'written' and stilted.
        * TJ:  They have lots of show DVDs.
                * Theoretically, they could go back and devise from those.
* Q:  How do you bridge personal truth to an 'authentic' fiction?
        * Stay true to the established situation.
                * ... and give a real reaction.
        * You can add personal truth to nearly anything.
        * Character is a 'thin veil' on yourself.
                * Dave has trouble doing wild grotesques.
* Q:  Do you ever tailor the show to an audience.
        * Not for this particular show.  (TJ & Dave.)
        * Other types of shows require reasonable adjustments for different audiences.
        * All sorts of people 'get' TJ & Dave much more than you might think.
* Q:  What non-improv advice have you used in improv?
        * TJ:  Odd bits of factual & specific knowledge to bring to a part.
                * Talking to a chef, for example, and learning about (say) sesame oil.
                * Then, in a scene, playing a chef, he knows he's putting *sesame* oil in the skillet.
                        * ... even if nobody ever asks him about it.
                * This works out well for Dave, who can then ask TJ about *any* detail in the scene and get an answer.
        * Dave:  J. D. Salinger had a great sense of which details to include.
* Q:  What do post-show debriefs cover?
        * TJ:  Did they 'get it right from the top'?
                * Were they true to the initial moment of the show?
                * What did they screw up from that moment?
        * Checking in on details they never talked about onstage.
                * Did they match up w/r/t those?
        * They rehearse beginnings (the first 10 minutes) over and over.
                * Other shows are less beginning-focussed.

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[User Picture]
From:biscuitpig
Date:Friday (7/15/11) 3:09am
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Thank you for this, people have been asking me for notes on it.
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From:hujhax
Date:Friday (7/15/11) 8:06am
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*tips hat*
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From:kbadr
Date:Friday (7/15/11) 8:26am
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Dave was in Groundhog Day. I watched it a few months ago and my jaw dropped. He has a small role as the very young, nervous therapist that Bill Murray sees at some point.
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From:hujhax
Date:Friday (7/15/11) 8:38am
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Oop-la -- okay, the post is fixed now.

~ thanks ~
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From:kbadr
Date:Friday (7/15/11) 8:41am
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Hope you got to talk to TJ at some of the parties. He's the nicest guy. He talked to me for a long time at CIF 2 years ago and recounted--in amazing detail--the time he did a show with "Bobby" McNichol
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From:hujhax
Date:Friday (7/15/11) 8:47am
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Nah, didn't make it to any parties -- on Thursday and Friday nights I wound up nigh-dead of exhaustion, and on Saturday I played hooky to go dancing.
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