Friday, January 30, 2004

I can never sleep after improv

As I stood in the breakroom today babbling about improv to a coworker who had that familiar “deer in the headlights” expression on his face, I realized I need a new journal. An improv overflow valve.

I already keep an improv journal on the IRC. "a leap in the dark…” is about my discovery of improv as therapy and my subsequent discovery of myself. It chronicles the spiritual journey I have taken over the last year, and how improv and my improv family have helped me to grow.

I rarely discuss details about practices, classes or shows in that journal, partly because that is not its purpose, but also because of shyness and lack of confidence. That may sound strange to anyone who reads “a leap in the dark…”, which is at times deeply personal and usually wide open. It is easy to write that stuff. I can speak with complete authority on my personal issues.

What worries me about posting class notes is that people will read them and see that I have completely missed the point and that I don’t actually know anything at all. That is silly. It may also sometimes be true, but so what?

So now I feel the need to document my growth as an improviser. My goal here is to post more improv related stuff, as opposed to the emotional stuff in the IRC journal. Truth is, though, I don’t really think I can completely separate the mechanics of improv from the emotions and still be honest and effective in learning about my scene partners and helping them to learn about me. So you will still get some of the emotional stuff.

Deal with it.

So anyway, notes:

Last night was the first Level 3L – Harold class, taught by Ross White. Most of what we did had been covered in other classes I had taken from Ross, and I think he was aware of that. After class he asked me if I had learned anything.

Hell, yeah! The way I look at it, if I don’t learn something from every improv experience, then I am doing it wrong. I really enjoyed the class, and there are some elements of it that will help me immensely. The biggest thing, of course, is that I am learning Harold.

One of the other really valuable things, though, is that everyone is new to me. I know Kit well, and have had a couple of conversations with Andrew and Jeff, but for the most part I just met everyone else for the first time Saturday night, and I have never played with any of them.

I have been playing with mostly all the same people almost since I started improvising. I love them, and we know each other so well at this point that I would feel prepared to jump on a stage with any of them without warning and do a show. This is a good thing, but I need to work on playing comfortably with new people. Last night I followed my usual pattern of hanging back to watch how everyone else played. I want to get to the point where I can get up with someone I have never seen before and just play.

I have done it before, so I know I can. I still remember playing my first scene in a DSI class. I was late (it’s a pattern with me, so sue me!) and I walked in, sat down and Ross said “Lisa, get up there” and I got back up, grumbling, and did a very short scene with Dave Siegel, having never laid eyes on him before in my life. I don’t remember the scene, probably because it was not memorable, but I will never forget the cool feeling.

Dave remains one of my favorite scene partners. We have since done a lot of fun scenes in classes and shows, but he will always be my first DSI scene partner (and I have never stopped hitting on him, in spite of the fact that I have houseplants older than he is).

Back to notes, bear with me; this will take some getting used to.

We worked on openings.

We started with Sound and movement. Well, everyone else did. I was late (who was surprised?). Seriously, I-40 was a parking lot, blahdy, blahdy, blah. Fortunately, we got the chance to do it again later.

This is an exercise I have never really been satisfied with except once or twice in Throw Like a Girl practice. I will welcome the chance to work on it some more. We just start moving together and making the same sounds, gradually heightening what we’re doing and hopefully we achieve a group mind and begin making the same new sounds and movements all together, as if we knew beforehand.

Then we talked very briefly about Harold as a form. TLaG does a deconstruction. We have a lot of fun with it, and it suits our temperaments and our goals well, so I don’t imagine we will change any time soon, but I do want to study Harold. It seems to me the same as learning to drive a stick shift. Once you’ve mastered that, you can drive anything.

Next we did monologues. I like monologues. My 202 (now Level 2) class wanted to do just Armando as our class show. We wound up playing games, too, but our first longform love was Armando. Back then, I told Ross that I didn’t have that many stories, and he said “Yes, you do. You tell me stories all the time!” I worried about the time when I would have to come up with more. Last night I wound up sharing two stories I had never told before. Much fun.

We learned a pattern game. I have done something similar, but not quite like this. We were given a word, then we thought of the word inspired by that word but did not verbalize that one. Instead, we said the word inspired by the one we had thought of. Very, very cool. After we did that a couple of times, we had to try to get back to the original word - pants. It started with me, went around and was fireman when it got back to me. Suspenders. Pants. YAY! I actually mimed the suspenders without thinking.

And we also did some scene painting. This is also something I have a lot of fun with, but I want to learn more about what to do with the themes that come out of it. Well, yeah, that’s why I’m in the class, isn’t it? I want to work hard on listening and even harder on capturing all the details and being able to pull them out and use them when they are just what the scene needs.

I am very excited about this class.

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