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

Wednesday (9/4/13) 1:52am - ... wherein Peter attends a workshop from Craig Uhlir and Jimmy Carlson.

On 9/1/13, Craig Uhlir and Jimmy Carlson presented a workshop titled "Hit the Ground Running".

Here are the notes I took in the workshop.


* Aim for fun choices for yourself
        * As opposed to trying to be funny
        * != obligation.
* Find a way to *enjoy* the other person's choice
        * "Meh.  I'm a person who hates things."
        * If they're a guy who drops things, hand them a vase.
* Players are more likely to join in with fun scenes.
        * They're more likely to be engaged by fun.
        * This can create an "inside joke"-like energy with the audience.
* You don't need to go chasing angst for traction.
        * Angst can kill fun.
        * Note that conflict and misery are the tropes of scripted drama.
                * Improv has license to do something else.


* "If you're worried about doing it right, you're fucked.  If you're worried about doing it your way, you're fine." -- Jimmy
* "Don't force them to play with you.  Play with them." -- Craig
* Watch improv that's different from what you usually do.

The "Yes, Because" Exercise

* Get a location
* Deliver one line
* Every following line starts with "yes, because"
        * Remember: ANY REASON WILL WORK
                * Even nonsensical reasons.
* Ideally, "yes, because" gets you to really improvise.
        * Don't work one line ahead.
        * Don't cue off of *your* previous line.
        * Just work off the last line you hear.
                * Let go of your old lines.
* This leads to improv that *goes* places.
        * Even though you might in new directions with each line.
                * It still won't cancel or block what you set up at the top of the scene.
* It's easy to get caught up in negative "becauses"
        * These scenes become sad, and then sadder.
        * Remember that *fun* choices will work, too.
                * They can lead to trouble, in a good way.

The "You and I" Exercise

* The rules:
        * Two people on stage.
        * A's lines are all: "You... <statement about you>"
        * B's lines are all: "I... <statement about myself>"
* Avoid "cheating" by starting with "you know" or "I think"
        * Don't use that to weasel into (say) "You"-ing about yourself.
                * That avoids the aim of the exercise.
* Round two: do the same thing, only with MORE SPECIFICITY
        * You don't have to go crazy with it, just make simple, specific choices.
* You'll probably be more comfortable with one or the other.
        * (i.e., "I"s or "You"s)
        * Whichever you're more comfortable with, try practicing the opposite.
* The exercise kills ambiguity.
        * Especially if you employ specificity.
                * I/you statements just put everything out there.
* Remember that specificity is more inspiring to your partner
        * This'll get you moving faster.
        * If you make a vague statement, you can try asking yourself "why", and answering that.
                * Example:
                        "I have problems with your promotion."
                        "You always show up a half-hour late to work."
* If somebody is "I"ing a bunch, they may be off in their own head.
        * You can help by using "You" statements to join *with* them
                * This gets you both on the same wavelength
                * Then you can coax your partner into the scene.
* If somebody is "you"ing a bunch, they may be hesitant to define themselves.
        * You can help by using "I" statements to join them, etc.

The "Pet Topics" Exercise

* Two people on stage
* Players often have "pet topics" that you can toss them.
        * (Pet peeves, etc.)
* Give somebody their pet topic, and they'll *engage* immediately.
* In this exercise, you give your partner a setup that includes their pet peeve.
        * As the scene goes on, you can find ways to goad your partner further.
                * Possibly by reasonably disagreeable.
                        * "Well, it can't be *that* big a deal...."
* You can use this technique "in the wild"
        * So always try to get to know your cast before the show.
                * This is often more useful than traditional warm-ups.
* Play to what your partner knows.
        * That aids with engagement and specificity.


The "Meandering Conversation" Exercise

* Two people on stage
* They do object work for a suggested job.
* They talk about *anything* but the work.
* Let the conversation range around 'til you find a topic that engages both of you.
* Don't be afraid to *drop topics* as you go.
        * Say you start the conversation with X-Files
        * Then you get to an engaging conversation about dinosaurs.
        * For god's sake, don't go back to X-Files after that.
* In shows, this can be a great way to "chill" after a lot of plottiness/action.

The "Copy a Scene" Exercise

* Rules:
        * Eight people onstage.
        * The first two people do a ~1½-minute scene
        * The next two people repeat that scene as best as they can
        * The next two people repeat the reproduction
        * And so on.
* This shows that it's easier to observe and recall a scene than you think.
        * You can miss the lines, and still catch the POV and the basic beats.
* Errors in recall are perfectly okay to the audience.
* This shows what you should do on the wings.
        * Watch the show, enjoy it, attend to it, and recall it.
                * This helps you do callbacks.
                * Specifically, this helps you call back *other people's* offers.
                        * (Instead of just your own.)
* If you can remember things well, you can *hold off* on that callback for a while.
* *Fun* is much easier to remember than the Quagmire of Angst is.

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