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

Tuesday (7/17/12) 8:07pm - ... wherein Peter attends week 2, day 1 of the iO Summer Intensive.

Here are my notes from week 2, day 1 of the iO Summer Intensive.  Our instructor for week two is Colleen Doyle.

* The Name/Gesture Game
        * Invent a gesture to go with your name.
                * Commit 100% to that gesture.
                * Everyone else: support that gesture 100%.
                        * It is right, it is fun, it is awesome.
        * Don't half-ass this game.
        * Don't dip your toe into physicality.
                * DIVE IN or go home.

* "Caligula"
        * Everyone get in a circle.
        * Everyone join hands.
        * Everyone take one big step in a random direction.
        * Now, in super-slow-motion
                * Let the pose exaggerate.
                * Keep doing that until the pose becomes something new.
        * COMMIT COMMIT COMMIT to the weird physicality.
        * Regardless of what happens, maintain some sort of contact with your hand-holders.
* "Good morning."
        * Explore the space.
        * When you make eye contact with someone, say "good morning".
        * Do the same thing, leading with a specified part of the body (e.g. your head).
                * Let the physicality inform your character.
                * Which informs how you now say "good morning".
* Some notes on character and physicality.
        * Your physicality is the only thing in a scene you really own.
        * Everything else -- the setting, your character, the story -- is up for grabs to the group.
        * Never drop your physicality.
                * The audience *hates* it when you do that.
                        * "Don't drop your shit."
                * Hold onto it, even in the face of contradictory-seeming endowments.
                        * Okay, now you're the D. A. that sashays around the room hips-first.  BE THAT.
                        * Your easiest choice w/r/t characterization is always to *keep* being who you were in the first five seconds.
                * Keep it simple, and it's simple to keep.
                        * If your physicality doesn't have a whole lot of detailed parts, it's easy to maintain it without getting all thinky.
        * "Character is a light veil." -- Del Close
                * Just be yourself, with slight changes, and that's enough.
* Characters from walks.
        * First, learn about your own walk.
                * Walk around the space.
                * Have the class observe the qualities of your walk.
                        * Is there a lot of...
                                * up/down?
                                * side-to-side?
                                * loose/rigid?
                                * sitting back/pushed forward?
                        * What's moving?  What's staying still?
                        * If this were a race, which body part would "break the tape" first?
        * Walk around the space, and find some core quality of your gait to alter.
                * Let that inform a character.
                * Once that informs a character, have a seat.
                * Then, we have an interview with these characters.
                        * We learn more about them.
                        * We find out how they know each other.
                        * When possible, we ask for more details.
        * Ideally, your walk will let you just 'know' the rest of your character.
                * It'll feel less 'invented' that way.
                * Remember that you don't have to invent additional physicality.
                        * Just keep milking that initial offer.
                * In practice, just watch your physicality, and learn from it.
                        * What your hands are doing *matters* -- what does it mean?
        * Why set it up so that "they all know each other?"
                * It helps keep the last person in the group from being the 'wacky and different one'
                        * This helps keep the group on the *same* page.
                * It gets everybody doing the same thing.
                        * "Just get in the boat with the rest of us."
                * It makes it easy for the characters to endow each other.
                * Once you set up that they all know each other ("We own a fishing boat."), you can ask all the characters a related question ("What do you like fishing for?")
                        * This in turn helps distinguish the characters from each other.
        * The interviewer should press for details.
                * Try to get in the habit of specificity.
                * Remember, improv doesn't allow *time* for ambiguity.
* Mirroring
        * Make eye contact in this exercise.
                * This gets you used to making direct eye contact (and "checking in") onstage.
        * Don't try to screw over your partner with sudden, unpredictable movements.
        * Mirror facial expressions.
        * Add mirror-talking to this:
                * The key here is DO NOT JUDGE
                        * Don't be afraid to be wrong, and just GO
                * Speaking faster is, paradoxically, *easier*
                        * ... largely because it makes it harder to judge yourself.
                        * Try to talk at normal, conversational speed.
                                * As opposed to weird, "special needs" slowed-down speed.
* Speak-in-one-voice scenework.
        * AKA "The Doublemint Twins Get F***ed in the A**."
                * (Name courtesy of Susan Messing.)
        * This is done with two 2-person "characters".
                * Each pair stands next to each other and links arms.
                * They don't make eye contact.
                        * Just trust that your speak-in-one-voice will work.
                        * You can check in occasionally just to make sure your facial expressions match.
                * Think of it as "group mind for two"
        * The scene starts in silence, with each "character" doing an activity.
                * It continues in silence until each character knows how s/he feels about the activity.
                * Note that if you know what you're doing, and you know how you feel about it, that's, like, 90% of what you need in a scene.
                        * Draw on just that, throughout the scene.
                * Note that if you start neutral, you have to 'chase the scene'.
                        * i.e., you have to figure out an opinion you can have about what happens, and figure out what character you might have.
                        * If you start from a feeling about the activity, you can just *discover* the elements of the scene from there.
                * "Hold on to these initial choices the way a dingo holds on to a baby."
        * Again, you have to DIVE IN with confidence, or it won't work.
                * Fail BIG if you fail.
        * Typically these characters know each other.
                * This means they don't have to waste time with expository questions.
                * And, again, they can give each other a wider range of interesting endowments.
        * This exercise forces you to both initiate and react.
                * A great improvisor has to be able to both drive and passenger.
* Armando Monologs
        * Simple monologs, as yourself.
                * Be calm & confident & in-control when presenting such a monolog.
                * This is also a way to get your classmates to get to know each other.
        * The main takeaway: you yourself are a compelling, watchable character.
        * As yourself, you still have unique presentation styles, cadences, etc.
        * Ergo, your characters don't need to be broad/different/bullshitty.
        * This also reminds us that truth is stranger than fiction.

* General notes:
        * Del quote:  "Improvisors are raving paranoids."
                * Meaning: everything that happens -- *every little thing* -- is something that *matters* to your character.
                * You should also be a raving paranoid about your *own* little offers.
                * Be even *more* of a paranoid when it comes to the initial offers in a scene.
        * A scene with solid characters is eminently watchable on its own, even if there's nothing else there.
        * Keep exploring "Why?" in a scene.
                * This lets you *develop* the current offers.
                        * ... as opposed to dropping them and looking for new stuff.
* Notes for me:
        * My walk is described as "gangly, with my head pitched forward, looking down, and some side-to-side motion."
        * My note for myself:
                * I'm overdoing character.  I need to just hit one physicality, stick to it, and don't worry about being *completely* not-myself.

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Date:Tuesday (7/17/12) 7:27pm
If you wanna study up on your week 2 teacher, I recently heard her in an episode of the podcast Improv Nerd:

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Date:Wednesday (7/18/12) 12:08am
Cool! thanks!
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