Monday, June 12, 2017

The Walk On Labeler

Here's a fun exercise to help teams exercise big moves and restraint at the same time.

Have two people do a scene, have them almost intentionally make the scene everyday life or non-specific. Have them hold back the name, where they are, what they are doing, or where they are working, or why they are there.  Have a walk on come on and label some part of the scene or as many parts of the scene as they want. The only rule for the walk on is that it can't be scene painting. They have to somehow be a part of the scene. Narration is a maybe move.

What should happen is that the two characters on stage should be able to find the restraint not very restraining. They may really relax into a grounded scene about details. This would be great. However, they are expecting the walk on.

The walk on should be looking for opportunities to really add to the scene. Rather than have the walkon change the interaction, it just focuses the interaction. Or maybe it just pulls the camera back a little to see more of what's going on. This walk on strategy forces walk ons not to take focus.

Why is this so important?

Too many times, improvisers come on stage with so little that the scene ends up being grounded with nothing else. I hate the label of grounding because it forces people to not play, to not make moves, to not have fun. If you're ever in a grounded scene, if it's just every day life, then it's not funny. If you watch the best players, they may be grounded but there is something weird going on, or maybe something just happened, or something isn't right. You may see the best improvisers talk about their life and how their family does this or that but when people laugh it's not about the life stuff it's about the weird stuff.

So, you can't depend on slice of life. If you do, you have to actively be okay with nothing happening and no laughs. Deep down, no one is okay with that.

But, if you're on stage and INTENTIONALLY holding back some details so that you DISCOVER your job, your location, your name. Then, you're using the grounded mentality to ACTIVELY find aspects of the character. Or your USING the groundedness to wait for the moment to make a BIG MOVE.

The key in this exercise is to be INTENTIONALLY grounding for effect and then knowing the big move is coming. When put into action, we should all be discovering the big moves or making big moves to discover more moves.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Improviser and the Actor

As I've been a part of the NYC improv community, I've found that a lot of the students taking part in improv are either actors or people who want to take acting. The remainder are a combination of people trying to meet new people and people trying to get over a fear. Admittedly, this is a huge generalization but for the purposes of this blog, it works.

On the one hand, you have acting teachers and agents recommending improv for actors to help with comedy or commercial work. On the other hand, you have improv teachers basically teaching people how to accept themselves and be comfortable with being themselves in front of other people.

In voiceover, you may do a million voices but when confronted with natural or conversational, you're more likely to just do your voice. In this aspect, Improv shines through. You're comfortable and your having fun. But, you need to know the basics of acting to get through it as well. Hitting certain words, being able to separate scripts into beats, using your body, those are all acting techniques.

So, unfortunately, the improviser and actor get closer and closer together to the point where most actors do improv and most improvisers have acted. The rare cases when they are successful in both is where you probably know the names of those famous people.

If you're looking to learn acting or get into voice over. Feel free to connect to my website Everything Voice Over.

Have a great day everyone!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Improv in Voice Over

Hey Everybody,

I don't usually like to mix and match but I actually run a website called Everything Voice Over and a while back I put up an article regarding how to use improv in voice over.

There are some really great strategies, whether it be using the in-between moments to hum or think or even outright speaking off script. It can really make you seem unique and interesting. Unfortunately it's not always the best strategy but for certain types of voice over work, it can be awesome!

If anyone is interested in voice over or the improv article. I'll post a link here.

Improv Toolkit for Voice Over

Improv has a tendency to free people's minds up and relax them. It can be a very valuable tool in voice over too!

Keep it up yall!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The new "3 Things" improv exercise

The new "3 Things" exercise

Here's a great exercise I got from Kathleen Armenti in a rehearsal with Squash. A great musical improv team now on Tuesday nights at the Magnet Theatre.

We all know the "10 Things" exercise where we all get into a circle, pat on our knees, and ask the person next to us, "10 Things you BLANK" and when they say each thing we yell out the corresponding numbers.

In this newer version of the exercise, Person 1 tells Person 2 "3 Things BLANK".

Person 2 then PHYSICALLY tries to communicate the three things.

Person 3 (to the right or left depending on who started) tries to interpret those things.

It essentially becomes a group mentality and fun building project.

HINT: If people intentionally make the 3 things unable to physically done, for example, "Three names for a baby". It ends up being even more fun. 

I would put this exercise in the realm of, getting teams to have fun, getting teams to feel comfortable, and getting the energy up. 

I'm usually very hesitant to bring energy down or take on something that requires critique. But, if you need a fun one, this is great!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Carpool Opening

This week was my second week in Nick Kanellis' Short Form uses for Long Form class. Which is pretty awesome and amazing and fun. I definitely recommend it.

If you've got a team who needs an opening, here's an option. Heartbeat may at some point give it a go, but I think this might be a good one especially for newer teams.

Openings, in my opinion, should do a few things.

1) Get EVERYONE involved. And I mean everyone. Everyone gets an idea out. Not everyone wandering.
2) Unleash a lot of different energys.
3) Give out at least 4 ideas.
4) It has to be fucking funny.
5) Has an end.

Every opening does at least one of these things, but when the opening goes well, you want it to do ALL of these things. More importantly, it has to do all of these without a sense of too much work.

The carpool is the idea that you set up chairs and then there is a driver. The driver maybe has a second to explain where they are going and what not, they pick up either hitchhikers or friends (it's better for friends) on the way. Each hitchhiker has a different voice, energy, saying, or anything. The whole car matches the energy as they come in.  They pick up every hitchhiker and they make it to their destination.

Let's check if it works.

1) Everyone does get a specific idea.
2) You'll be making 7-8 different energies so it should produce variation.
3) you get as many ideas as people.
4) It ends up being quite funny.
5) The end is where everyone arrives.

Compounding on my last blog entry. Everyone gets involved. There should be characters or ideas abound. Give it a shot.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Starting with A Group Something

If you've been improvising for a while, you've probably been placed on a team, whether it be an indie team, house team, outside team, or a mix em up team. 

The more I've watched improv, the more I've come to a simple conclusion. The quicker everyone gets in, the quicker the team becomes a team.

The singular problem with harolds and musical narratives is that they don't have a weighted group agreement happening. 

If you're in musical, you have the opening number. Yes. But, if you're opening number just gives a small detail or maybe a single character, that's not affecting the show. I've seen teams and I've been on teams that throw away the opening number and use it as a jumping off point of inspiration and it never affected the audience.

If you're in regular improv, you may be shackled with opening-less Harold. Which means everyone doesn't get onstage until the group game, and even then some people may not get out. 

If you're on a team that has ANY hesitance, try starting with a group game. And not just any group game, a GAME THAT INVOLVES THE GROUP. If a person initiates a group game with such premise that people feel the PRESSURE to be funny, it'll feel like they weren't taking part. Group games that are organic, walk on centric, presentational, or started with half initiations are the best.

Group mind is what causes you're own team to surprise themselves. Sure, you may have a curveballer, I've definitely been one of those. But, they aren't suppose to be the only ones surprising. You want everyone to come to a conclusion at the beginning that we are all having fun, we are all surprising ourselves, and we all had a part in this fun start to the show.

There are older teams on Megawatt (magnet theatre) that have kind of figured out a way around this. They do a group monoscene. They do some sort of active scene painting. They push for walk ons in early scenes. They do 4 scenes then group as opposed to three. They deconstruct a group game from the get go. The Wrath recently did 4 long scenes a group game THEN just straight to third beats. Everyone knew they were going to get in and everyone knew that they was a high pressure at the end to get a LOT out. 

Occasionally, a team will get walk on crazy with those first beats. First off, this isn't a bad thing. A want to play with your team is great. Most walk ons could be done as 2nd beats. But, environmental walk ons that just YES AND what's going on now are GOLD! Sometimes a team will get that note, "No one walks on in the first beats". This is a combination of someone who is eager and possibly not getting good responses and someone who is a little sensitive about their scene and unable to react to walk ons. 

In Conclusion, you have 2 choices with a team. Figure some group start and allow your team to surprise itself and start the show on a ride that everyone made up. Keep that group game late and rely on the power of 2 person group mind in three increments to get something interesting started.

Here's a quick equation. 1 person is one point of view, 2 people is two points of view. We live in 2 people pov in 99 percent of our daily life. For something weird to happen there will be because we caused it. 3-8 points of view, rarely happens and ends up being much simpler simply due to the fact that people are trying to understand each other. Do your team a favor, get everyone out there. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Making the Location a Character

Hey Everyone,

Occasionally, Goats, my musical improv team at the Magnet Theatre,  does regular improv rehearsals rather than musical because of cost combined with a need to rehearse. This week we had Morgan Phillips. My memory of Morgan was in Made Up Musical, one of the first veteran musical improv shows at the Magnet. I specifically remember Morgan doing so little with such efficiency. He didn't talk much but what he did say was amazing. Last week, Morgan introduced Goats to the concept of making the Location a Character. "Playing the Location"

Now, this may seem heady, but for some reason after a couple of reps, even the ADD weirdos on my team ended up doing some very interesting scenework.

One person will initiate a scene in a specific location. Let's say, stocking an aisle of a grocery store. So, the person may start doing physical activity and then talking about something else. "Ugh, I really hate Mondays."

Morgan would give us the exercise of, "The second person, TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION WHAT THE PERSON SAID OR IS DOING, notices something weird about the location."

"When did we get so much oatmeal?"
"I know, yoga pants Monday is so degrading."
"I'm not hugging you, you hug for an uncomfortably long amount of time."

Admittedly, just writing these things TOOK FOREVER. But, if you look at just that response, it takes into consideration either what is happening with the location, what used to happen in a location, and to some extent it's weirdness.

You could easily find a game. The chorus could be the return to, "I really hate mondays." there could be a tangent of small talk, then "I hate Mondays" then either a reference to oatmeal types, explanation of yoga pants monday's absurdity, or an attempt at hugging.

If we want to go barebones with it, look at what the person is looking at. Some people have a tendency to look out and make a grand statement. "The pathogen is spreading", you might say something like, "We need to clean this fish tank."or "When did we get such a big monitor?" "Hey, you're burning the eggs!".

Now, Goats had to do this for quite a while to get it settled in and even now, I have trouble using it. However, there is something to it. When you go into a scene, (probably 2nd person), notice something weird about the scene and use the foundation of what was said.

You may surprise yourself.

Thanks Morgan. Check him out on Harold night at UCB!!