Saturday, March 6, 2004

DSIF4 Workshops

I can tell you right now that I will not be able to do these workshops justice because I waited too damn long to write this. What you see are the things that stand out in my mind, but there was a lot more that I have hopefully internalized.

The First Thirty Seconds, Anthony King
Ok, this was a great workshop, but the main standout is that Anthony King is HAWT.

We all got used to each other and let Anthony know who he was working with by doing some real quick scenes. As usual, I was impressed and thoroughly intimidated by everyone else.

We did some two person scenes where we gave ourselves an emotion about the other person. I couldn’t begin to tell you what emotion I chose and I was still too in my head about not wanting to suck in front of all these people, so I didn’t have as much fun with that as I should have.

We managed to do a surprising number of scenes considering the number of people in the workshop, but there were a lot of DSI’ers there, and we all found ourselves waiting to jump into scenes so we could play with the new people. In the end, I was able to play with a couple of people I didn’t know, though two of my scenes were with the same person. I really enjoyed them, though, and wished I had the chance to play more scenes with him.

The last thing we did was a two person scene where one of us started with an activity and the other joined and we had a conversation. That was really fun, and I was happy with myself. I played that with Ethan and I was glad, since I haven’t had a chance to play with Ethan since Philly.

Ensemble Scenework, Jeff Griggs
Again, HAWT. So HAWT. How am I supposed to learn anything from these guys when they are just there being so damn sexy?

We did a lot of warming up – protector, passing the clap and so forth. We played “assassin” (I assume that’s what it’s called) where we all closed our eyes and Jeff walked among us and designated an assassin by squeezing their arm. Then we all had to wander around with our eyes closed and the assassin would squeeze the arms of the people he encountered and they would be dead and would then get to stand along the wall and watch.

That was a really fun warmup, but I didn’t realize until I was dead and watching the others how much it served to make us listen and be aware of the people around us. When we did it a second time, I noticed that I was really able to sense when someone was nearby, even when they were quiet.

I was, however, completely unaware of the guy crawling on the floor until I fell over him. I managed to keep my eyes closed, but judging by the reactions of the dead people who were watching, it must have been an impressive tumble. I had some trouble after that keeping quiet because I couldn’t stop laughing, but I kept from getting dead for quite a little while.

We did quick scenes and I had a really fun time. I was not so in my head by this time, and was able to just play and not worry so much about it. I think the long warmup helped a lot. This time the only person I knew in the class was Thomas, whom I have never played with, so it was a blast playing with all new people.

We then did scenes where we gave ourselves something, whether it be a physical characteristic or an attitude or a want. I decided to give myself Southern church ladyness.

We all know the church ladies. I don't mean the Dana Carvey type, though I knew one or two of those in my past life as a Southern Baptist. I mean the nice ladies who spend all day Sunday at church related activities and then Tuesday night choir practice and Wednesday prayer meeting. They’re sweet as can be, but I always get the feeling they wish they were allowed more in life.

Thomas wanted me to play basketball, and the scene progressed uncannily along the lines of that church lady wanting more in life, with me feeling guilty about missing church activities to play basketball with him. It was so awesome, and I never lacked for the next thing to say.

After realizing that he had misunderstood the length of the workshop, Jeff finally had us do some group scenes with only something like fifteen minutes to go. We decided to just go late, because we were having such a good time and really wanted to get to the meat of group scenework.

The group scene I was in was in a barbershop. We all had to engage each other two at a time and establish a relationship with each of the other people in the scene (there were five of us). Jeff would “mute” some of the people in the scenes so that the others would have to form relationships with each other.

It was challenging, but not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. It did feel a little chaotic, but we were assured that it did not appear that way from the “audience”. I could see that as I watched the second group do their scene.

I don’t know if I would want to make group scenework a regular part of my play, but I have to say that this taught me a lot about how to handle those times when a bunch of people wind up on stage.

Individual Scenework, Jill Bernard
I believe I got the most from this one, because although Jill is HAWT, she is not my type (girl kissing at the party notwithstanding), so I wasn't distracted.

Jill has so much positive energy and enthusiasm, and if you’re not a better improviser from just being near her and soaking up the awesomeness that she exudes then I don’t know what. I wish Jill would come live with us here in our improv commune.

We did so much in this workshop that I know I will miss something here, and I will certainly never get it all in the right sequence (which matters only to me, I suppose).

We did two person scenes with the most awful initiation possible. As prospectors. That was ridiculous fun, and I think prospectors should be right up there with pirates as improv favorites.

We learned "ralphing", which I think will prove one of the most valuable exercises of the whole weekend for me. We just said “banana, banana, banana, banana” until Jill stopped us and then we made whatever sound came to us and words just fell out of our mouths. I found, to my surprise, that characters accompanied the words, and it was very cool.

We worked on status by playing Wrong Room. We had to come in the door and be high status teachers who put on our glasses after a few lines to discover that we are in the wrong room and switch to low status and make excuses and leave the room.

Some of us had a harder time of it than others. I had to do it three or four times before I got it right. It seems that I am so good at playing low status that even when I am higher than the people I am addressing, I still play a lower status to the imaginary people who are not in the scene. We got some good tips on how to convey status, and I plan to obtain a copy of “Impro” and study it thoroughly.

One of the things Jill said to me that I think is the most important thing I learned from the whole weekend is that I do really well when I give myself something. When I enter a scene holding something or doing something or having a physical characteristic I have a better idea of who I am and I don’t need my scene partner to tell me.

This is something all my teachers have said in all my classes, but I don’t think I have ever worked on it so specifically before, and it really drove home the point. I know that my teachers read my journal, so I’m putting you all on notice. Push me to remember to give myself something.

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