Craig sends an e-mail to all of his students with information about the class, as well as personal notes. These are from week 2.
Name Circle-Be sensitive to the energy being sent your way. Saying someone’s name with an intent or subtext behind it can be a powerful thing. And, of course, memorization…it’s not that hard to memorize 10 names through repetition and association. Remember when you used to know 30 phone numbers off the top of your head? What is that part of your brain doing now?
That part of my brain is busy with the names of all my favorite sitcom characters.
Name Scenes-Begin the scene simply by saying each other’s names with a powerful subtext or intent. Use names that are going to be more fun and memorable (Clarissa, Raymondo, Bryce) than the typical improv names that come up a lot (Jimmy, Little Timmy, Suzy, Farmer Jones, McGillicuddy, the Johnson file…don’t those sound phony when you see them in print?). By using the exchange of names to nail the dynamic between the characters, the dialogue will hopefully flow easily afterwards. Generally, begin your scenes by sending messages clearly to the other person’s face, and trying to affect and being affected by your partner.
Opening Tone-Again, matching your partner’s energy and intensity. Discovering the words by vocalizing emotion and getting your body into the scene first. Make those negative emotions directed toward an outside force rather than your partner (if your partner’s character is responsible for all the misery in your character’s life, it’s not gonna be a very fun scene to play). We started out with 2 person scenes, and built to multi-person and full cast scenes. This is a great way to think about the openings and group games in the Harold…we need to all be on the same page and sharing a point of view! The more minds contributing to a scene, the more you have to find a lowest common denominator between all the people on stage. ”Different” is usually not going to be better or funnier, agreement is!
Had a lot of fun peas in a podding this one. I did a particularly memorable scene where we were two surgeons who had screwed up. No blame was passed, we were just in the boat together.
Three Line Scenes, Same Initiation-It’s not the initiation that makes the scene, it’s the response. This exercise shows the variety of choices that are available to you off of the same line of dialogue. Beginnings of scenes are really important, so put a lot of thought and consideration into those first three lines. I want the responder to feel free to make a bold choice, not a tentative one. Remember to define pronouns, and make things concrete that are ambiguous. Try to communicate intent, emotion, subtext and character with the initiation, provide context to the initiation with your response, and clarify that you read your partner’s energy with the response to the response.
The Party-This longform has 3 phases: 2 person scenes until we meet all the characters, another round of 2 person scenes with the characters in new combinations, then shorter scenes with walk-ons, eventually building to a full-cast scene. Remember with this form to use your initial scene to establish your character (vocal traits, physical traits, POV, story details) and to gift and name your partner’s character. Stay engaged on the sidelines so you don’t miss anything! These scenes create a loose sort of plot, in that they’re all taking place in the same location at more or less the same time, but don’t get bogged down in talking about the plot in your scene. Each scene should be able to stand on its own. Once you know who you are, you should be able to do a scene with any character! Explore different sublocations within the larger location. Above all, variety is key…don’t double up on characters with another teammate.
Stephen P.-I thought you made more of an effort to defer status when necessary, and had more of a variety of tones. Some early specifics in the Arthur/Cherry Apple scene really helped you find that character, and it felt easy to bring him back in different pairings. Work on adjusting to new information that your partner creates, try to choose to know and incorporate it into your flow a little more. Do more reinforcing of gifts to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page.
SUCK IT ANON!
Have a great week!
Bonus material: These are Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for good writing, all of which have direct application to improv:
KURT VONNEGUT’S RULES FOR GOOD WRITING
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where, and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.