Sunday, February 22, 2004

Level 5 - Advanced Scenework, Class #4, Scott Jennings

As I arrived home from class this evening, Mars hung poised over the thin sliver of the crescent moon, as if at any moment it might lose its place in the night sky and just fall and roll back and forth along the curve…

Sorry. Wrong journal. It was pretty, though.

We spent most of the class today working on mirroring each other. We started in a circle, then face-to-face, and back in a circle, slowly mirroring each other’s movements. I saw some people doing tai chi by the lake yesterday, and this exercise reminded me of that.

Then we said “Hello” to each other. We stood in a circle and one of us walked up to another and said hello in some kind of character. The other person mirrored our hello and then walked up to someone else and said a different hello. We kept trying to get bigger and bigger.

And of course someone made me jump up and down. I have noticed that I wind up being led to jump up and down in almost every one of these classes. Since I decided I might occasionally use emoticons in this journal, I will now insert the following: :roll:

Fortunately, I happen to like my boobs. If I ever wind up at Mardi Gras, I will probably have to rent a U-Haul to bring back the beads.

After we all said hello in an amazing variety of ways, we did two person scenes where we were to mirror each other’s characters. Tom and I struggled for a long while trying to settle into what Scott wanted us to do, but we finally managed to be two little children having a tea party.

Both Scott and Ross are still really having to push me to take the initiative and make choices in scenes. I worry that I will never move past this problem. It is born of many long years of conditioning, coupled with a natural shyness and eagerness to please. I think I am gaining ground, but I may always be a follower.

Later scenes were more fun, with Dave and me playing church ladies gone bad and Tom and me again, this time touting the benefits of terminal illness. He could not have known that there was danger in this choice.

Again I see that I can now touch on those subjects most painful to my heart and not dissolve into a puddle as I once did. I grow stronger, and this is part of my growth as an improviser as well as my growth as a human, and so belongs in this journal.

We spent the last half hour being pirates. ARRRRR!!! At first we were pirates doing improv about pirates, but our pirate teacher growled at us and rattled his saber and we then began to be pirates improvising about fathers and sons and men and women and roommates and groceries and all kinds of ordinary things that pirates might encounter when they aren’t out raping and pillaging.

ARRRRR!!! Improv do be a rewarding pastime.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Level 3L - Harold, Ross White, Class #4

This was one of the more fun classes I have ever had. The focus was on group games. I had not realized before how together this group is. Having been with the same group for so long, it felt awkward for me to join a different group that has, for the most part, been together for a little while. But, of course, like all of DSI, they are welcoming and inclusive.

I guess it might seem strange for some of them to read that I felt awkward joining them, as I am already on a team (kudos, btw, to Erik and Kirk, who have just joined house teams) but when a dynamic has been established, it is… I won’t say hard… it is challenging to join it. I will remember that when Throw Like a Girl chooses new Girls.

Anyway, we soon discovered something I think we were only peripherally aware of (at least I was only peripherally aware of it). This group really plays well together. I mean, really, really well. We had so much fun.

I also discovered that Ross White no longer has the power to make me cry. He spent a great deal of the evening yelling at us, but I know it was because we were so close to the point he was trying to make that it drove him nuts. It’s fun to drive Ross nuts.

After warming up, Ross had us make up games. We immediately began playing a really fun game where everyone understood and agreed upon the rules without ever having discussed them. We did it twice, and the second game, which we dubbed “Shame” felt good enough to play again and even pass along to others.

When we began in earnest, Ross attempted to direct us to begin with a hosted group game, but we just wound up playing the game he knew we would play (we called it “Python Pile-on”). This is a group that knows how it likes to play.

We finally did wind up, after a couple of false starts, playing the hosted game, and to my immense surprise, I was the “host” in a fun game of “Gather ‘round, men. It’s the eve of battle.” As I am usually terrified of being the center of attention, this was especially rewarding. It was a really fun game, and I felt completely supported the entire time.

We played trashcan jam, which is always fun, though I fear I will never learn to rap (I love rap). We also played a supported two person scene game.

The things that stood out the most during the evening were:
1. This is a fun f**king group
2. We need to calm down and focus more
3. We need to work on strong editing – there were times during the evening that I wanted to edit, but for some reason I held back. Watch out, you guys, I’m not going to do that anymore. If you don’t want me to be the only person editing from now on, you’d better jump out there. And you may have noticed that I like energetic edits (a result of a Ross bitching out combined with a CeCe Garcia dig) so if you don’t jump out there and edit, you will find me in front of you shaking my boobs (an edit I am particularly fond of in practices). Hmmm… I don’t know if that is helpful or not. I may have to rethink that threat.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Level 5 - Advanced Scenework, Class #3, Scott Jennings

Yesterday’s class was, again, very challenging, and also fun. I think we’ve all been concentrating too hard to have fun up till now (all except Corey, who makes his own fun wherever he goes). That is what Scott is trying to get us to move beyond. We need to learn to stop thinking. To learn to trust that we have internalized all we’ve learned about improv and we don’t need to concentrate on it anymore.

We started out mirroring each other – or at least trying to. We first kept doing sound and motion type stuff, which was not at all what Scott was looking for. He must have felt a little frustrated with us, but he just kept patiently explaining what he’d just finished explaining a few minutes earlier. I think we finally got it in the end, although we were so concerned about repeating the sound and motion thing that all we actually moved were our hands.

Then we did the exercise where we repeated things to each other over and over, but with phrases this time. That was followed by us sitting across from each other and saying the first thing that came to us in response to what our partner said, and back and forth.

It was hard not to plan and build a conversation instead of just responding without thinking. All our lives we’re told to think before we speak. This can be useful advice at times, but not for good, honest scenework.

After we sat and blurted things at each other a little bit, we stood and attempted some scenes like that, just saying the first thing that came to us in response to our partner. That was where it got fun. Maybe I was having fun because Eric and I just complimented and validated each other. I will always take compliments wherever I can get them.

The second time up, Tom and I started out ok, but then wound up just having a strange conversation about how hurt colors would feel if they knew I had different favorites for different situations. We all spent a lot of time talking about colors. And shirts.

We’ll get there. Unfortunately, it is obvious that we need a lot more than five weeks to really get down to the meat of what advanced scenework is. I think we’d need much more time to really begin to get a handle on this. In spite of that, though, I do feel like I am learning a lot.

I want to second Austin’s thanks to everyone for being so committed to this class. It feels really good to work together like this.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Level 3L - Harold, Ross White, Class #3

I am tired, tired, tired. And not yet sufficiently calmed for sleep.

We worked on beats tonight. On different ways to play second and third beats.
· Same characters at different times in their lives – a time jump.
· Same characters in different situations – ordinary, somewhat extraordinary, way over the top
· Same characters in different environments.
· Different characters in the same situation or with the same dynamic. You could be an animal in the second beat.

We started out with sound and motion and I really feel like we did pretty well in finding three disparate themes to play with. We’re getting better at that clover nipple thing (no I will not let it rest – it is golden).

I wound up as a pirate. I love being a pirate, but I need to study pirates more. The most I can really do is “ARRRRR!”. Now “ARRRRR!” is awesome, but it really won’t sustain a whole scene. You’ve got to add a “matey” or a “landlubber” or two in there for variety. Some keel-hauling and plank walking. Swashbuckling variety. ARRRRR, matey, now there’s some fun, right there, it is! Bring me some rum, wench!

We then used monologues to get information for our scenes. I had a little more trouble with that one. My listening skills are not what they should be, but I am working on it. I am, unfortunately, a kinetic learner. I need to write down what I hear in order to retain it. Teaching myself to remember what I hear will be yet another improv skill that will have a positive effect on my life outside of improv.

Still working on the game of the scene thing. In a scene with Suzanne, I kind of thought I was playing the game. When Ross stopped us and pointed out that Suzanne was tellling me what the game was and that I had missed it, I said I guess I had. I hadn't, but I wasn't playing it with much conviction at all, so I was the only one who knew it. I must remember, if I don't play it hard, I'm really not playing it at all.

I also realize that I am often extremely slow on the uptake. Sometimes I just don’t pick up what people are trying to tell me. I really need to work on that if I want have fun in improv. Or in life.

Monday, February 9, 2004

Level 5 - Advanced Scenework, Class #2, Scott Jennings

I imagine the last thing Scott Jennings ever expected was that his teaching would inspire a student to quote scripture.

This class is one of the most challenging things I have done in a long time. I am now fairly certain I will not be crying, because even though I feel inadequate, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t feel a little inadequate in this class. The playing field is the most level I have yet to encounter.

We are being asked to completely reevaluate everything we think we know about improv. This is not to say we are having to unlearn or relearn anything. We are just having to take it apart and rebuild it in a completely different way. Using sheet aluminum and a screwdriver.

We started with an exercise from some Meisner guy Scott claims is well known. Two of us had to sit across from each other and one had to say the first thing we noticed about the other. The second person had to repeat the word and then we just repeated it over and over to each other until it began to sound like nonsense.

The first go round sounded like something other than nonsense after not too long at all, but Tom and Eric were troopers and stuck with it even after the rest of us began to snicker. We tried hard not to.

We all did this a couple of times, and then we started scenes by repeating a suggestion over and over till we were ready to start a scene. Scott really pushed us hard to work on the relationships and not the situations or the “comedy math” we wanted to fall back on.

The first scene I did wound up being pretty true to life, my old life at least, but when asked to react honestly, I could only fall back on that. It is a measure of my growth that I was not at all shaken by the exchange, but that all belongs in the other journal.

In the second scene, I tried to seduce Corey again. Apparently not convincingly, though, which may explain why I am not getting any, but that is also for the other journal.

This class is hard work. I am enjoying it thoroughly, but I don’t think I would exactly call it fun. Well, yes, it is fun. It is serious fun. It is very satisfying.

Edit: Ahh, tears from an unanticipated source. It is never my desire or intent to make this class more challenging for my classmates than it already is. If I am causing difficulty by doing or failing to do something, please call me on it, as that is how I will learn to be better. I try to make the best choices I can based on my understanding of what the goals of a particular exercise are, and if I am misunderstanding those goals, I need to know it then and there so that I am not wasting everyone else's time.

Saturday, February 7, 2004

Level 3L - Harold, Ross White, class #2

I really must commit to writing these journal entries as soon after class as possible.

The focus of the class was finding the game. I know what that means. I know what to look for: the first unusual thing, the first thing that gets a laugh, the thing that gets repeated. It sounds easy, but sometimes I spend too much time looking for the game and not enough time in the moment of the scene. Other times I forget to look at all. It will come with practice and exercising those improv muscles.

The class was fun. We first played a pattern game to get information for our scenes, and then we used monologues. Ross wants us to learn to get to the three nipples of the clover. That’s right Ross; you will never be able to erase that image from our minds. And we will never forget that we need to start in one place, loop around and then wind up at the starting point again, and again and again.

I attempted to put into practice some of what I learned in the scenework class about directly engaging my scene partner right at the start. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I did not, but I believe I was right in thinking that taking the two classes at the same time will teach me a lot.

We learned about editing – by the time we are thinking, “I wonder if this needs to be edited” we should already have edited. And we discovered how very awkward it is to start to enter a scene and then creep back out again. It makes everyone feel icky, including the audience. If you’re in the scene, you’re in it. Deal with it.

We practiced mirroring each other. This is always great fun, and it is something that Throw Like a Girl enjoys immensely. We always have fun scenes when we start out by mirroring each other.

We talked about keeping what we bring into the scene and not completely dropping it when our scene partner starts something different. Don’t come in visibly angry and then get happy because that’s what your scene partner expects. The audience will wonder where the anger went.

And play real. If we are in love, we don’t hug each other with five inches of space between us or give each other air kisses. We should trust each other enough to risk a real kiss and a convincing embrace.

And Ross attempted to drill into me once more that my not playing looks a lot worse than anything I might do in a scene.

I am enjoying reading my classmates' notes. I am finding them very helpful. Thanks, guys!