* Warm-ups: * Pattern games. * Once several patterns are establish: * Introduce "passing objects around" patterns. * Introduce "pass around a facial expression" patterns. * Have everyone walk around the room... * ... instead of staying in a circle. * Two-line scenes with weird dialog. * Form two unequal lines. * The front two people do a two-hander. * Person 1 initiates with a line of dialog. * The line's mood should completely contradict its contents. * e.g., I said in a casual and blasé voice, "Help. Help. I've been shot." * Person 2 can respond in a variety of ways, including: * Match person 1's energy. * Contradict person 1's energy. * Be oblivious to the content of what person 1 says. * ... instead, respond only to the mood. * Point out the bizarreness of person 1's contradictory offer. * Here, you're playing the 'straight man'. * Establish that wackiness as part of "this world's 'normal'". * But that gives you less fuel for the scene. * i.e., now you've just done world-building, but you still might have no idea what the scene is about. * 2nd-Beat Practice: * Have two students do a scene. * Then, perform as many 2nd beats inspired by that scene as possible. * They'll go in all sorts of directions. * They could... * ... expand the scene's basic idea. * ... put a concept from the scene in a new context. * ... take the story forward/backward in time. * ... put a character from the scene in a new situation. * ... take a *tiny* detail from the scene & run with it. * ... etc. * The notion of doing a second beat should feel *freeing*, not *limiting*. * Ideally, you should be *excited* about all the directions you could go in. * Usually with a 1st beat, the first expansion that occurs to you is to do the next thing in chronological order. * This is often hard to play, though, because you'll want it to be logically consistent with the previous scene. * Also, it can land you in a scene that's about plot. * Plotty scenes are not execution-proof. * i.e., a crap improvisor can ruin a plotty scene. * Character scenes are less execution-proof. * i.e., crap improvisors playing strong characters can still make something worth watching. * It's safer to use a character inspiration, rather than running the plot forward. * Note that (say) modern fiction often progresses in lots of ways that aren't "run the plot forward". * (Me: e.g. Cloud Atlas) * Note that our most naïve ideas for 2nd-beat scenes don't reflect how scripted narratives work. * e.g.: if you watch an early Star Wars scene between Luke and Aunt Beru, and took that as a first beat... * ... you might do a second beat about Aunt Beru. * ... you might assume the overarching story prominently features Aunt Beru. * ... you would not conclude that this is the last time we see Aunt Beru in non-crispy-bacon form. * Conclusion: improvised 2nd beats can go in at *least* all the myriad directions that scripted 2nd beats go in. * You are never beholden to any particular element of a 1st-beat scene. * Just watch and ask yourself, "What did I *like* there?" * Again, look for things to be *inspired* by, not *limited* by. * Another way to look at things to take from a 1st-beat scene: * "What would be the coolest audience suggestion to get based on this scene?" * Simpler suggestions would be better. * ... because they are easier to play with. * Personalities and behaviors are the easiest suggestions to work with. * There is a full spectrum of 2nd-beat possibilities that runs from "Plot" to "Wha?" * You can pick anywhere on that spectrum. * The "Wha?" end loses all the *specifics* of the scene. * Its connection to the scene is much more tenuous. * The connection is very abstract, or small, or conceptual. * The "Plot" end is much harder to play. * But its connection to the scene is much more obvious. * The "Wha?" end is very useful if the 1st-beat scene sucks. * Imagine that you're *highlighting* some element of the 1st-beat scene. * It's as if the 1st-beat scene is a giant painting... * ... and you just have a tiny flashlight you can aim at it. * Note that the 2nd-beat scene may determine the 1-2-3 pattern. * That is, it establishes a pattern that determines where we'll go with the 3rd beat... * ... because the 3rd beat should complete the scene. * Test Harold * This is a Harold rearranged into this pattern: * Opening * Do an opening with at least three distinct games in it. * 1st scene, 1st beat * 1st scene, 2nd beat * 1st scene, 3rd beat * Group game * 2nd scene, 1st beat * 2nd scene, 2nd beat * 2nd scene, 3rd beat * Group game * 3rd scene, 1st beat * 3rd scene, 2nd beat * 3rd scene, 3rd beat * Ending * That is, we "batch" all the scene 1s into one contiguous section. * For the three-game opening... * If you want to change the energy of the opening (e.g. introduce a new game)... * ... make it a very *clear* change in energy. * ... do it DC, where everybody can see you. * Don't be a slave to "letting games emerge from the preceding scenes" or "making scenes emerge from each of the games" * Keep finding new, cool ways to do the transitions. * Test Harold II * We then did some properly-structured Harolds. * ... except all the scenes were really really short. * This let us focus on openings and games. * Endings * Ideally, endings will reincorporate earlier material. * Ideally, theyll incorporate as much of that earlier material as possible. * You don't have to complete the whole last batch of scenes. * If you see a strong place to transition to a solid ending, DO IT. * "We had a great ending" trumps "ooh, we were able to complete all our 3rd-beat scenes". * General notes: * It's okay to die in the middle of a scene. * It's okay to leave in the middle of a scene. * It's okay to be alone for a while in a scene. * Dialog tends to go faster when everybody knows what the scene is about. * "Opposite Impulse" * This is when you do the *opposite* of what a normal person would do, to comic effect. * This will get you a laugh. * The problem is, once you make that choice, you have to be willing to commit to/live in that topsy-turvy world. * That can be really difficult. * If you get stuck in a scene, try digging into your response to your scene partner's emotion. * But really, don't worry. * Every scene -- even the good ones -- has slow, "What next?" moments. * In games/openings... * If you find yourselves doing a lot of movement stuff, throw in some dialog. * If you find yourselves doing a lot of dialog, throw in some movement. * You don't have to work hard to consciously establish themes in your shows. * Just focus on doing good scenes. * The themes will follow. * Always think about shape-of-show in a Harold. * Put another weay, pretend you're a Maestro director. * If a show lodges in a certain type of energy... * It can be hard to break out of it. * ... but you *have* to break out of it. * "The melodrama trap": * This is when you get stuck in a scene where... 1. ... you have a clear emotion, but... 2. ... you are not defining anything in the world of the scene. * This leads to very emotional scenes where nobody has any idea what's going on. * This tends to make the emotions hollow. * The scenes feel like vacuous political ads. * And it makes the scene tentative. * ("Wait, did somebody say what room we're in, and I just didn't notice? I'll stay safe by being completely vague.") * You can always *define* your way out of the melodrama trap. * Me: it feels like just noticing is, like, 90% of the battle. * If a scene gets over-the-top or surreal... * ... then *revel* in that surreal-ness. * Let your character have that "WTF?!" moment when the surreal thing happens. * Villains don't need to have souls. * Especially if the villain is in a small role, they can be a straight-up bastard. * If you're going to do clumsy course-correction in a scene ("Wait, no, you already said you were my mother." "Oh, right."), it's better to do that earlier in the scene rather than later. * Audiences are more forgiving at that point. * Remember that the Harold, in its rigorously-defined form, is a teaching form. * It's just a structure that's designed to teach people to do 30 minutes of improv using themes, callbacks, and organic group work.
Mood: contemplative · Music: none