Monday, April 26, 2004

Incubator practice, Week 4, Jon Karpinos coaching

HA! No procrastinating for me tonight.

We played with the balls again to start. I really do love that warm-up. I was telling Jon how I was thinking it really is about more than just energy or focus. When we get to the point where nine of us are throwing six or seven balls at once, it’s about trust. At that point we are just reaching out to catch the ball without even looking and then throwing it to the next person right away.

We trust that we won’t get hit in the face (unless the ball hits a basketball) and we trust that the next person will be ready to catch. Sometimes we drop a ball, but it’s cool because whoever can pick it up first just throws it to the next person and we keep on playing. Scenes like that are good.

We had kind of a short practice tonight because Jon wanted to talk with each of us about what we feel we need to work on and how the team is going for us. I thought it was great. Jon and I talked about the main thing I want to work on. Same as always – confidence and making stronger choices. And I told him how impressed I am with everyone’s commitment. Everyone in this group wants to learn and do well.

I also liked waiting for our turns at Wendy’s and in the hallway. That was some good bonding time. We haven’t really had the chance to do that yet. We just all hung out and joked and shared stories and picked on Bryan. We took bets on when Todd would say something inappropriate. He was on a time delay tonight, which threw us off a little. This was not wasted time, even if it may have seemed like it was. And I think Katie even got a little homework done (amazing, given all the noise and tomfoolery).

In addition to the talking, we did a bunch of fun, quick two person scenes. And then Mike, Lauren and I got to do a three person scene at the end. This is the halfway point, and I have to say, I think we’re doing pretty great. I like us.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Incubator practice, Week 3, Jon Karpinos coaching

I let this slide again. I am finding that I am getting more out of classes and practices when I record my notes, but sometimes it’s hard to sit down and put everything into words.

We threw the balls around again and it was so cool when we had six different balls all flying through the air at once. Then we learned that when a softball hits a basketball in midair it can bounce off in an unexpected direction. And we learned that softball is a misnomer. They are actually quite hard. Then we learned that you can toss a wallet around, but that when it hits a basketball in midair the wallet will explode and shower its contents all over the room. (I’ll bring a tennis ball tomorrow night, Jon).

We worked on group scenes and did several of the exercises Jeff Griggs had us doing in the DSIF workshops on ensemble scenework. We first had a brainstorming session where we came up with the worst ever ad campaigns for various products. We all threw out crazy ideas and agreed that they were BRILLIANT! We wound up with some really wild, somewhat disturbing stuff and it was huge fun.

Then we did some three and four person scenes. It’s challenging to try to establish different relationships with several different people in a scene, but I think we all did pretty well. I especially had fun being the teacher who completely loses it with the kids at the zoo (all except the one with ADHD, because he couldn’t help being a pain in the ass).

Then we played seven person scenes. The first one we did was really good. We had great relationships and a really awesome environment. We were in a baseball stadium and we had about four chairs. Kit sat on the back of one and I sat on the seat and with that we all agreed that these were the bleachers. I could really imagine us in the cheap seats of a stadium. That was a really fun and easy scene.

The next scenes we did were not as clear and not as much fun. We were kind of muddled, and we often wound up arguing with each other. That is something I have noticed about our scenes sometimes, and it makes them feel unsatisfying. I hope we can work toward agreement more often.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Level 1, Ross White, Class #5

Game. What is it, where is it and how do I play it? This was a tough class. I had fun, but I was tired by the end of it. We warmed up and started playing pun games. Actually, Ross put on his English teacher hat and started us with word webs first; throwing out words and having us think of related words in different categories (that I should have written down because I knew I wouldn’t remember them). I have a tendency toward linear thinking that really limits me sometimes. It would probably do me a lot of good to practice this exercise by myself, trying to blow out the words as much as possible.

I did surprise myself when we did ‘post-modernism’. I don’t know anything about it, and instead of standing around I just made shit up. Tee hee. Correct me if I’m wrong, Eric, but I bet we won’t find the works of Franklinton in the art museum anywhere. Good for me. I hope I can do that more often, because it was fun.

I have trouble with ass genius because I always worry that it will sound stupid, and I always feel like it has to make perfect sense.

Hmmm. I just deleted most of the above paragraph talking about why I worry about sounding stupid, because something much more important (and less self indulgent) revealed itself.

This is not just a confidence issue for me. It is a trust issue, really. I need to learn to relax and trust that my teammates will make sense of it. All I need to do is provide the information, real or made up, logical or ridiculous. They’ll justify me and I’ll justify them.

Oh, there definitely is a confidence issue here, too. It’s not that I don’t have the confidence to be able to play the scene, but that I don’t have the confidence that I can adequately support my teammates. I am afraid of letting them down. How can I trust my teammates if I don’t trust myself? How can they trust me? Personal history plays a huge role in this, I guess. No, I don’t guess, I know it does, both in trusting others and in trusting myself. Gotta love the improv as therapy.

So, something to focus on: trusting my teammates to completely support my stupid stuff and trusting myself to support theirs.

Aaaaanywayyy. After we did the word webs we played pun games, which I usually love and do well at. I was feeling pretty lame, but I still had fun anyway. I love me some stupid word jokes.

Then we worked on identifying and playing the game. We did this by doing a two person scene in a car. Ross did this exercise for the first time in my first 101 class and it really does help to peel away all the extra stuff so we can concentrate just on the game. I enjoyed the first scene with Pete and was pleased to find that I saw the game immediately.

The second time I was with Mike. This was another little breakthrough for me, because I muscled Ethan out by refusing to accept that I was the third person in our odd game of music-less musical chairs and sitting in Mike’s lap instead of backing down. I usually politely back down and let the other person go instead of me, both in classes and in shows (hell, in life, too). It’s not because I’m all that courteous. I’m just chickenshit. I have to work on that more if I don’t want to keep missing out on the happy.

The scene with Mike was really tough for both of us. We talked about it later. We were just so in our heads trying to figure out how to heighten the game. We saw the game; we just couldn’t find the way to play it like we wanted to. I am sure the scene was just as grueling to watch as it was to play. But it was a learning experience as all scenes are.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Incubator practice, Week 2, Jon Karpinos coaching

Don't bother scrolling up to look for week 1. It's not there. It's in my head and in my heart, though.

I had so much fun at Incubator practice that I meant to come right home and document it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say. Let’s see how much of it I can get down on virtual paper now.

We started out throwing balls around, and I actually didn’t hit anybody in the face or destroy any light fixtures. I usually do throw like a girl, for real. It’s been a family joke for years.

We threw balls to a person in the center who threw them to someone else as we walked around, then we threw them to each other in a pattern, kind of like “Where the F**k’s the Celery?” (I’ve no idea why I’m suddenly being polite here – just in the mood, I guess). This was a great focus exercise and I hope we do it again, because it was a lot of fun.

We worked on environment, which was cool after last week’s Level 1 class. Good reinforcement for me to remember to take advantage of environment and object work to help me with my confidence issues.

We created environments and did scenes in them. We created a shoe store and Kit and Bryan did a funny scene about old people stealing the shoes while the owner was away, and they played with all the stuff we had put into the environment.

When Todd and I took our turn, I assumed we’d just be doing another scene, but he initiated what was essentially a second beat, making us the owners returning to our ransacked store. That turned into something really fun, as we managed to touch on and heighten each of the elements Bryan and Kit had introduced.

I can’t stress to myself enough how much more comfortable I feel while miming something. I did some cooking, which is something I don’t have to think too hard about (I may not cook much now, but I used to be a fiend in the kitchen). I had fun in that scene with Kit. We found a pretty neat relationship and game there, with both of us continuing our chosen activities without comment, and I was never at a loss for words.

Later in the practice, Kit and I had what may be my favorite scene ever. It wasn’t really funny at all, but was real and sweet and I felt very grounded in it. It was just a short scene about a widow and widower talking on the front stoop of their apartment building. I felt like I knew these people, and I would love to have continued the conversation so I could find out what happened to them. Nice. Very nice

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Level 1, Ross White, Class #4

Wow, class number four already. It's going by too fast.

The focus was on environment. I love playing in my environment, but strangely enough, I don’t often remember to do it. That’s a shame, too, because I have a much easier time getting out of my head when I am fiddling with the things in the environment we create. I have to remember to give myself things to hold and use more often.

We warmed up and started doing scenes pretty quickly. I started with Pete in a barbershop and played with the clippers, etc. I also got to do a scene with Paul where I was sitting in a car and playing with all the stuff inside it. That was fun. It was so easy to just say what came naturally when I was doing something.

We painted environments and did scenes in them. I inadvertently challenged myself by referencing D&D when I know absolutely nothing about it. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me afraid of and, but when I started to play with the little figurines it didn’t matter. I started having fun with it.

We shaped things with invisible clay and killed each other with different objects. Then we played Last Action Joke. My Arnold is terrible, but I guess everyone’s is, so that’s cool.

I was feeling kind of weak Thursday night, and it was particularly healthy for me to be working with tangibles, even though they were imaginary. It was helpful to be able to concentrate on how something is shaped, what it weighs, how it is held and used. It got me out of my head on a couple of different levels. I needed that. I had kind of locked myself in there last week, and there are still some dark, scary corners in there, though the lighting is a lot better than it used to be.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Level 1, Ross White, Class #3

I am continually impressed at the fact that no matter what group I find myself with in DSI, it is always fun. These people are talented and funny and just plain fun to be with. It’s no wonder we all love each other so much here. We’re pretty damn amazing.

We played Zip, Zap, Zop and changed it up, first with the beginning sounds, then phrases and then reactions to the phrases passed to us. We determined that Steve has a sweet ass and I was high. One of those things was not true. I don’t get high.

Oh, I forgot to mention that we were joined by our fearless leader, Zach. It’s always a treat to hang out with Zach, and it will be wonderful to have him home finally. He seemed impressed by the way Ross had conditioned us to be walking advertisements for Inside Improv. To achieve this, Ross and Zach used sophisticated brainwashing techniques, like giving us all a sense of ownership in the community so that we feel invested in its success. Very devious.

We warmed up some more with Bippity, Bippity, Bop. I had mad fun with this. It’s funny, I really hated this game whenever I played it at ComedyWorx. I don’t know why. But it was just so silly and fun last night, and I don’t think I will ever fail to enjoy it again. Yay! A new favorite warm-up.

We mirrored each other being big brother/little sister, anal retentive boss/slacker employee (Ross and Mike seemed somewhat familiar with that dynamic, though I guess their version would be slacker boss/slacker employee) and clean roommate/dirty roommate. Crazy fun. I love mirroring.

The focus of the evening was want and relationship. We circled up and took turns going around initiating and then naming each other in our responses. It is a wonder how a simple detail like a name can help characters know each other. Cultures all over the world believe that names have power. Maybe we endow each other with power by naming each other. It makes us think about our partner, who they are, and who we are to have the right to give them a name, and therefore an identity.

Maybe I spend way too much time thinking about this shit.

We played scenes where we had wants we needed to strive for. The three new guys played a scene where Paul was a woman and Steve and Joe were both alpha males trying to get her attention. They, after only two Level 1 classes, found the game of that scene and played it for all it was worth. They will be great players if they stick with us. I hope they do.

I got to play a fun “women in prison” scene with Lauren. I wound up being a lesbian again. I have been lesbians and blue-collar Northeastern guys an awful lot lately. Is it possible I am having an orientation conflict I am unaware of? If so, I guess it belongs in the other journal, huh?

We played Oscar Winning Moment and Love, Hate, Funny. I had never played that one before. I really felt good about the work I did and I enjoyed the games. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed short form games, and that’s too bad, because they’re fun when you let them be. Again, seeing things through fresh eyes changes one’s outlook.

I worked hard last night and managed to make some headway with anding. It is an uphill battle for me. I know what I want in scenes, but am afraid to ask. I do that in my offstage life, too, so I guess I’m playing real.

That makes me wonder. I recently made a decision to start asking for what I want in life. Is it possible that achieving that goal in my life is what I need to do to be able to achieve it on the stage? Maybe I am onto something here.