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

Tuesday (7/31/12) 7:11pm - ... wherein Peter attends week 4, day 1 of the iO Summer Intensive.

Here are my notes from week 4, day 1 of the iO Summer Intensive.  Our instructor for week four is Bill Arnett.

* Warm-ups:
        * Sending patterns around a circle.
                * Get everyone in a circle.
                * Person 1 and 2:
                        * Make eye contact.
                        * Clap simultaneously.
                        * Say "one" simultaneously.
                * Person 2 and 3 do the same.
                        * Only they say "two" instead.
                * And so on, around the circle.
                        * It resets to "one" once it gets back around.
                * Once this is going for a bit...
                        * Person 2 sends a second pattern around the circle.
                        * This one is different from numbers.
                        * We find out what the pattern is after it starts.
                * See how many simultaneously patterns you can get going.
        * Verbal/noise scenes.
                * Split the class into two lines.
                * Do a series of two-handers.
                * The person from line 1 initiates the scene verbally.
                * The person from line 2 responds with a nonverbal noise before continuing.
                        * (It could also be a short interjection ["Oh yeah!"])

* About week 4.
        * Week 4 is about putting together full Harolds.
        * Technically, "Harold" is the term for this whole Chicago branch of longform.
        * There is no "Harold Police" that will arrest you if you don't follow all its structural rules.
        * A form should *inspire* you, not *restrict* you.
                * Try to work in a form that puts you at your best and happiest.
        * If you have to explain the form to the audience for them to get it, the show is failing.
* What do we remember from week 3?
        * Audiences always appreciate realism.
                * Technically, I mean "believeable" and not "realistic".
                        * Stories can be believeable *without* being realistic.
                                * Example: the _Harry Potter_ series.
        * Audiences hate it when you're desperate to be funny.
                * Laughs are actually pretty rare in an improv show.
                        * Maybe 1 line in 10 gets a laugh.
                        * So there's no need to be funny *immediately*.
        * Characters don't have to be far from yourself.
                * A normal character can help ground an outlandish situation.
        * Good Harolds have lots of listening and mutual support.
                * They have 1st beats that you get emotionally invested in.
        * Bad Harolds have lots of self-indulgence.
                * There's lots of "No, look at *meee*!" competition.
                * The openings and group games feel tedious and perfunctory.
                        * Find *joy* in the process.
* "Film Festival":
        * Pick three films at random.
                * Pretend you've attended a film festival showing these three films.
                * See if you can guess the theme shared by those three films.
                * Note that even though the choices were arbitrary, valid shared themes still show up.
                        * And there are lots of possible themes.
* Transitioning from "Film Festival" to a Harold.
        * Now, do the same thing, only with three scenes-from-nothing.
                * Again, you'll be able to pick out possible themes.
        * Now, add a simple group game:
                * Do three scenes.
                * If someone sees a theme shared by all three, s/he can start an opening.
                        * We'll do a dirt-simple opening that starts with "direct address".
                                * i.e., the performer walks DC and tells the audience directly, "Hey, isn't it funny how people never have enough time for what really matters to them?"
                                        * With practice, you can move to a "direct address in context".
                                                * e.g., the head of a performance group from that travels to high schools, intro-ing their show.
        * Follow this up with monologs from the other performers.
                * Either true stories from your life, or grounded monologs in character.
        * Keep the monologs specific and detailed.
                * Detailed monologs are easier to draw characters from.
                * Vague monologs only give you the general situation.
        * Then, do three more scenes inspired by the monologs.
        * Don't do *literal* takeaways from the monologs.
                * Instead, take concepts from the monologs and bring them into new contexts.
                        * This is "deconstruction" (in the improv sense).
                * If the first scene accidentally does a literal takeaway from the monologs...
                        * Then screw it, all three scenes should.
        * This new batch of scenes = "2nd beats".
                * With 1st beats, you're doing free-form "scenes from nothing".
                        * This is more about exploring.
                * With 2nd beats, people usually hit the stage with something in mind.
                        * This changes things a bit.
                        * You want to directly hit your intention with that first line.
                                * ... which is really all you have control over in that scene.
                        * Generally, you can never say something that's obvious (to you) too much.
                                * Stating the obvious always makes the audience feel smart & validated.
                        * If it's a *clear* 2nd-beat scene, then everyone will want to join in and add stuff.
                                * Note that you can always *hold* those funny ideas for later in the show.
                                * 2nd beat scenes are less about exploring and more about finding funny things to say or do.
                        * This also means it's not so important that the characters know each other in 2nd beats.
                        * Don't feel like the 2nd beats have to reflect the 1st beats at all.
                                * There are lots of ways to lift elements from 1st beats and bring them into 2nd beats.
                                        * We'll learn about all those later.
                                * Better to err on the side of "too disconnected from the 1st beats" at this point, so as too avoid "too slavish to the 1st beats".

* "We See Eight"
        * Get eight people onstage.
        * They get a suggestion like "We see eight apologetic pirates."
        * One of the eight takes on that persona.
                * One at a time, each of the eight joins them in being that persona.
        * Eventually, the teacher will suggest another persona with another "We see eight..." prompt.
                * Or, the eight will tire of the current persona.
                        * At that point, one of them will initiate something else.
                                * Either with a verbal ("We see eight...") prompt.
                                * Or by clearly taking on a different, new persona.
        * Your main priority is to match the initiator's character and affect.
                * Commit to it.
                * This is much more important than matching whatever verbal pattern they speak in.
        * With practice, the teacher gives less specific suggestions.
                * "We see eight businessmen."
                * At this point, the first initiator should make specific choices for that persona.
                        * And the remaining performers should notice, respect, and dig into those choices.
        * Characters can acknowledge one another, but shouldn't talk to each other.
                * If you get diverted into dialog, you veer towards plot or world-building, and away from exploring this persona.
        * Instead, just treat it as a heightening game.
                * "Who can be the most apologetic and piratey?"
        * The stage picture for this defaults to "everyone stands in a line".
                * FIGHT THIS.
                * It's especially useful/clear to initiate a new stage picture when you initiate a new persona.
        * You rarely see this exercise done just like this in shows.
                * That said, it's still a good skill to draw on in openings/games.
* Openings
        * Perform an opening with three different games.
        * Games you can use include anything you've done before:
                * "We see eight", monologs, scene-painting, object-embodying, narrated story, soundscapes.
        * If the first monolog goes longer than expected, then do fewer monologs.
        * Don't have "dead air" between games.
                * Keep playing game #1 until somebody *cuts in* with game #2.
        * Note that this sort of opening will alternate between "rooms" (i.e., known games) and "hallways" (i.e., transitions).
                * So don't feel weird if you're exploring a weird transition for a while.
                        * Every house needs hallways.
* General notes:
        * We put more pressure on ourselves than the audience puts on us.
        * You can always dig into the "why?" of a scene.
                * Especially if a character is doing something weird/surreal/unmotivated.
                * It's perfectly okay, in such circumstances, to ask that character why they're doing something.
        * You can think of openings and games as analogous to all the non-scene footage in films.
                * e.g. establishing shots, optical wipes, montages, etc.
                * Obviously "scene rules" of improv don't *apply* to those sections.
        * Avoid "the after-school-special effect".
                * This is where you keep sententiously banging on the theme, usually in a moralistic way, in every scene.
                * It often involves too much of talking *about* problems.
                        * ... and too little of experiencing drama in the here & now.
        * Remember that games can grow out of scenes, the same way that scenes can emerge from games.
        * The best pizza in Chicago is Pequod's, at Webster and Clybourne.

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Date:Tuesday (7/30/12) 8:05pm
I love Bill Arnett!
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Date:Wednesday (8/1/12) 12:02am
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