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

Thursday (7/26/12) 10:38am - ... wherein Peter attends week 3, day 3 of the iO Summer Intensive.

Here are my notes from week 3, day 3 of the iO Summer Intensive.  Our instructor for week four is Lindsay Hailey.

* Warm-ups
        * 3-line character scenes:
                * Everyone gets in a circle.
                * One person enters the circle.
                * Takes on a character
                * Engages with somebody on the edge of the circle.
                * The edge person matches that character.
                * They do a three line scene.
                * Then the edge person trades into the center.
                        * ... and, repeat.
        * Hopping.
                * Everyone gets in a circular huddle.
                * Everyone hops in the following pattern:
                        * 8 times on the right foot.
                        * 7 times on the left foot.
                        * 6 times on the right foot.
                        * 5 times on the left foot.
                        * ... and so on, down to 1.
                        * Then everyone does one short jump.
                                * ... and says "HAH!" simultaneously.
                        * Try to time it so everybody hops and HAHs exactly simultaneously.
                                * Counter-intuitively, making eye contact through this exercise helps with the timing.

* Openings:
        * Use sweep edits as a last resort.
                * Try to explore all the other possibilities for edits.
        * Always try to sense that lull that follows maximum heightening.
                * That's where the first scene wants to come in.
        * Always dig into the last offer, develop it, heighten it.
                * Every time you discard what you're developing and pick something new, the "heightening meter" resets to *zero* and you have to start all over again.
                * Note that this means you want to join the opening one at a time, so that each offer has a chance to land.
                        * Me: once everyone's on stage, you still want the offers to land one at a time, spaced out, kind of like the counting game.
        * Don't enter on the periphery of the opening.
                * It puts you in an "outside looking in" position.
                * It makes the people "inside" the opening feel self-conscious.
                * It makes it harder to get the whole cast doing something together.
        * Ideally, you want to home in on *one* theme.
                * Develop that theme from start to finish.
                * Then, everybody comes away from it with that theme in mind.
                * Note: the theme might not be the thing that the opening *appears* to be about.
                        * Trust your gut w/r/t what it's *really* about.
                                * Most decent theater has a contrast between "what it's about" versus "what it's *really* about."
                        * i.e., the "ritual" opening we did was actually about "growing up."
        * Deep down, every opening is really an invocation.
                * It has that arc from "specific detail" to "big, broad themes".
                * If there's specific narration/plot in the opening, that's equivalent to the "it is" part.
                * If somebody embodies a character in that narration, that's equivalent to "you are".
                * Note that you should never "ratchet back" to an earlier "invocation level".
                        * Your job in the opening is to go from "audience word" to "giant theme".
                        * The opening is for the *players*, not the audience.
                        * It's to give you that big, juicy theme to make the show about.
                        * So why would you ever retreat from doing that in an opening?
        * A clear theme is a blessing for the rest of the show.
                * It kills the "agony of choice" problem.
                        * i.e., "Oh god, this scene could be about absolutely *anything*."
                * It gives you a general compass heading for all the scenes to go towards.
        * Once you have the theme, grab onto it like a pit bull & heighten it.
                * Hit the 3/7/10 heightening as quickly as you can.
                * Once you hit 10, STOP THE OPENING.
                        * Our openings tend to hit 10 and then linger on for a couple of pointless, energy-killing minutesa.
        * It's okay to hit the theme on the head with a few spoken words at the end of the opening.
                * Especially if only about 80% of the cast are clear on what that theme is.
                
* 1st Beats.
        * Aim to make these grounded two-person scenes.
                * i.e., not games.
                        * Save games for 2nd and 3rd beats.
                * We have to establish relationships that the audience cares about.
                        * Otherwise, it'll be hard as hell to engage them for the rest of the show.
        * If it's realistic and meaningful, then the audience trusts that you guys know your shit.
        * Ideally, you've only got six characters to deal with (from the three scenes).
                * Try to name all of them.
        * You absolutely must hit the theme from the opening.
                * If the opening didn't nail a theme, then the first 1st-beat scene absolutely must.
                * Don't be afraid to be too on-the-nose here.
                        * You can really just hammer away at that theme.
        * If it's unclear how your work relates to the main theme, it's okay to explicitly "hat tip" to the theme.
                * It's just a quick bit of reassurance for the audience.
        * The 2nd 1st-beat scene
                * It continues the theme from the 1st 1st-beat scene.
        * Note that if an additional pattern appears in those first two 1st-beat scenes, try to continue that pattern into the 3rd 1st-beat scene.

* "Worst Scene Ever"
        * Simple: get two people up; have them do the worst scene ever.
        * The actual results of this:
                * Performers tend to pick very strong points of view.
                * They usually end up pursuing a strong objective.
                        * ... one that is somehow concordant with "do bad improv"
                * It gives the performers a task to focus on.
                        * This tends to let them get out of their own way.
                        * Then, the performers' natural tendencies towards pattern-building come to the fore.
                        
* "Experimental Film"
        * Based on a one-word suggestion, pretend you're in an experimental film based on that suggestion.
        * Everyone performs simultaneously, throughout the theater space.
        * Go full crazyballs on this.
        * Side note: this seems like a perfect candidate for the Hideout's Free Fringe.
        

* General Notes:
        * Good note for counting in a circle:
                * "Wait 'til it's your turn."
                * "When it's your turn, you'll *know*."
        * "Eating asparagus."
                * This comes up when something happens that is antithetical to your character's POV.
                * If this happens, you have two choices:
                        * Rebel and don't do the action.
                        * Go ahead and grudgingly do the action.
                * Doing the action -- i.e., "eating the asparagus" -- is usually the better option.
                * It's very engaging to watch a character do something they absolutely don't want to do.
                        * Me: c.f. Jill Bernard's "crying stripper" go-to.
        * Always edit such that the audience wants to see *more* of what you just did.
                * Never wait for them to tire of the scene.
                * Aim for a variety of edits.
                        * Not just sweeps and swarms.
                * If your scene is edited really fast...
                        * ... don't be offended.
                        * It just means your idea was so strong that the idea alone can come back later in the show.
        * It's okay for an initiating line to establish (say) environment or situation.
                * Just trust that whatever premise you have in your head will get blown away by the next thing your scene partner says.
                * Your top priority is still character/POV.
                        * Me: ... and for establishing environment, spacework > dialog.
        * It's usually a good strategy in class to explicitly pick out the non-scene-initiating types (e.g. me) and have them start scenes.
                * If you're initiating a scene, go ahead and say your opening line as you walk off the back line.
                        * This gets rid of the dead energy at the start of the scene.
                        * It also makes it harder for the other guy to obliterate your initiation.
        * If you're in one half of a split scene, try not to look at the other half.
                * This tends to glom the two scenes together.
                * Or at the very least, it makes it much less obvious that we're watching a split scene.
        
* Notes for me:
        * You tend to drive.
                * Always take time to let the other person's line land.
                * Even when taking on a big character, take the time to look and listen and be affected.
        * You're having a hell of a time drawing characters (not plot) from the opening.
                * So: try extra hard to do that.
        * You often drift into gossip about the future.        
                * If that happens, find a way to bring it back into the scene.
        * My notes for myself:
                * I need to work on not dropping the theme.
                        * Keep it in mind, especially through those first-beat scenes.
                * If you find yourself caught in plot/premise/gossip, don't panic.
                        * You can always take what you're doing and ground it in character and POV and the here-and-now.
                        * Just keep an eye on that, and keep it from getting away from you.
                        * If something is too specific (i.e., premise), you can always *expand* that into a more-developed character.
                                * Again, you just have to notice it happening and adjust.
                

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