Thursday, January 24, 2013

UCB 101

I took my first UCB 101 class a few days ago and here we are jumping into the end of our first week.

For some reason, I thought it would be less remedial but it is a level 1 so it makes perfect sense.

I think I made the right choice in taking on Magnet and Pit before UCB. First off, the class is full and there is this heir of "you have to be here or else". It's very strict which works for the best.

A majority of the class is either actor or standup comedian.

I find myself watching and learning a lot. Especially with comedians, transaction scenes are very popular. It'll usually have a built in gag. With the actors, you're likely to get a yes"but" or an argument. I'm guessing it's due to the basic acting skill that you have to try and get something from someone. The reason I think it doesn't work is because a good improviser will probably give you what you want.

I remember one guy saying, "I don't know man I just don't think people are going to buy pocket sized babies"

I just agreed, " You're telling me. I've been the only customer in buying pocket sized baby because I believe so much in your ideas."

I think it literally threw the guy for a loop. Which is fun in it's own right.

I also find myself automatically trying to know the other person EVEN if they are initiating clear strangers.

There's also a lot of listening issues. But, that's totally to be expected. But, I've learned a lot from it.

I find myself getting better at justifying.

I started a scene here.
"Hello, I didn't think you'd be here, Botswana?"

(third person)
"Is this the girl you met in Botswana"

"It's her first name. (at this point I think I'm no-ing her so I backtrack justify) I also happened to meet her in Botswana"

"I remember seeing messages on your phone from a Botswana Sally"

(justify troubleshoot)
"Yes, her first name is Botswana her last name is Sally. We met in Botswana but I assure you we had no carnal knowledge of one another"

"I saw one of the messages saying that  you had carnal knowledge of her"

(at this point I have to shot in the dark justify, but it may be a little sharp in the defense department)

"I left my phone out as a test, you failed"

There was also a group game where everyone had to brainstorm and come up with stuff. In this inventy atmosphere, I feel that actors and comedians thrive. They throw out, if it works it doesn't just keep going on enthusiasm. I literally didn't say a thing, I would occasionally get the look for a millisecond of "And what do you think?" but it never came out it words people just talked over each other.

I know I sound defensive but this is making me better. It's not as challenging but it is making me better.

I also got to practice with Maybe Monogamous, one of my most favorite teams. We did a monoscene which was amazing and a couple Deconstructions that confirmed why I love improv so much. You just have so much fun!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The final puzzle UCB

The only improv program I am close to completing is Magnet. A big part of that is the 1-3 intensive. The thing about Magnet is that their intensive's are cheaper. It was a ridiculous per hour deal to work with Andrews, Kornfeld, and Armando Diaz. So, that's why I'm in Level 5 come February.

PIT, I'm only level 2. I kind of wanted to do the summer intensive with the pit that get's you through 4 levels maybe 5. But, it was twice as much money and I had already taken a pit class. Not to mention, it was a lot less improv practice time. I find that you can't do a whole program intensive. The teachers have to get to know you, watch you grow. If you just got there for 2 months and now you're done, they don't know you, why would they put you on a team, they have no idea who you are. So, PIT intensive was out of the picture for multiple reasons.

So, Magnet, I have 2 classes left. Pit I have 3 classes left and I haven't even started UCB.

I actually ended up getting 1 diversity unit for UCB last year and I've been trying to get it done. After a string of emails I finally got the class. UCB 101, intensive 4 days a week 3 hours a day. 2 weeks. Awesome.

In a fit of inspiration, I saw that 201 was doing an intensive the week after, and I thought FUCK YEA, lets do that. Get it done. This would put me in the same situation at PIT. I think doing full classes from level 3 forwards may get teachers to know me enough to have a chance at teams.

Here I am first day of UCB class. I was expecting it to be much of what I've learned. It was kind of easy, nothing really new. I'm glad it's intensive. However, I did notice a few interesting things. After doing a No, No but, and Yes and exercise we did scenes.

After grinding the Yes and concept, I watched a LOT of people go into Yes BUT or find weird ways to say no to the other person. There were also transaction scenes, one in which I was in, which I found it really hard to yes and. First off we were strangers and I was buying stuff. I found one partner to do a true YES and scene but it didn't go very far. We found ourselves adding specifics about our surrounding and specifics about our past without really going into our relationship.

I have a bit to learn about how to yes and a relationship. Lets say a guy says, "I'm leaving you, I want a divorce".  How do you yes and that. I suppose you could say, "Yes and I'm glad you're leaving, I can finally get on with my life"

It's seems kind of weird. Perhaps, it's just an exercise to accept what is happening. I could be about acknowledgement as opposed to saying NO directly.

Interesting. Anyway, I'm hoping this immersion into UCB will really help the rest of my improv. I know to have fun, I have characters, and relationships, to add game on top of that would just be a great tool to have.

We shall see.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inspired to Get Started

This weekend was the PIT improv auditions. A lot of my team mates on Decent Proposal and Adorable ended up getting on teams. As a matter of fact, a majority of the people I knew who have gone through the program at least got called back.

This kind of bummed me out. I'd love to be able to audition for PIT teams but I am way behind in my classes. I just finished level two.

Here's a little note that hit me hard this week. Put me on edge for about two shows. I did the PIT level 2 show. Before the show, a classmate said I was the "King of Walk Ons". First off, as much as I like being the KING of anything, this doesn't rub me the right way.

I hate meaningless walk ons. I've always been the guy who doesn't stay on. Or at least TRIES not to. I've seen people watch the relationship start then just jump in and just plant there. I hate that. Unfortunately, the phrase KING of walk ons probably means I do that. So, I gotta put myself in check.

Walk ons are kind of a mixed bag with me. The foundation is FUN, I'm waiting to pounce like a cat on the fun stuff. If it's people in a restaurant and they are standing I offer a chair, if people are looking at cars I should at least welcome them as a salesman. I always try to leave. Sometimes I try to justify why things are the way they are. I think it usually has a good outcome a majority of the time.

I have gotten the note from my Level 2 teacher that "Does it really need it? It was funny, but did it really need that?"

I think it comes down to dynamic. With my Level 2, the improvisers are not as experienced so I feel the need to make it active, make stage pictures, be objects. Maybe just so I can have fun, but maybe to get kind of a group mind going so we can all jump on board. I also, jump in Alvarez a lot to maybe make an energy.

With decent proposal or maybe monogamous, I'm less hectic. I pick and choose my walk-ons wisely. I maybe focus on a good edit point or just try and think of second beats. I don't know why, maybe I'm a scene hog in some places. But, honestly, I'm having fun. Some times I go off the mark and shoot and fail, but I never limp in. If I put something out there that is weird or crazy, it's wholehearted and I love it. So, the failure is a lot of times fun and I'll smile thinking, "Fucked that one up but that was funny".

I did a workshop with Jon Bander. An amazing musical and regular improviser at Magnet and Pit. It was a relief to work on structure in musical improv and get the simplicity out of songs.

Here's some great notes from the class:
1) Make up a chorus in a your mind and open the scene working toward that. Try to inspire the accompanist to play something. If you think that you want to sing a reggae song entitled, "I got love", then come out with that feeling, that look and just play that feeling. You can take on any initiation, any physical thing and you're moving in the right direction. There is no stagnant confusion.

2) There was an exercise where we were given a tribute musical and artist and we had to go off of that alone. It was basically a spot song but it was so easy. I had a Tupac musical. All I could think about is the sadness of tupac dying and the need for revenge. After a sentence or two, I thought "Pop pop he's going down" It felt great. I hit that chorus hard.

In conclusion, the combination of all these things inspired me. I've gotta get the classes going. PIT isn't offering a 3 yet so I signed up for the UCB intensive 201 which will be the week after 101. I'll be done with 2 UCB classes in 4 weeks. Here we GO!!!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

To Sketch or Not To Sketch

I recently got onto a sketch team. It was kind of an out of the blue thing with a classmate at the PIT. I had no expectations and told him I had never done sketch before.

We had a three hour rehearsal where we just kind of brainstormed ideas and stuff. Read scripts and just talked about what we were going to do at the shows and what the plan was. We did a tiny improv thing that kind of didn't gel but I think it was because people weren't in the mood to improv.

After the three hour rehearsal, I basically thought on the ride home how to phrase a message to the great guy who asked me on the sketch team to no longer be on the sketch team.

Here's the one thing I don't like about improv whenever I watch it. Whenever someone is obviously trying to be funny. That just kills me. A person making a kind of side joke or winking at the audience is just revolting to me, and I use that word sparingly.

So to brainstorm what would be funny or wouldn't kind of rubs me the wrong way. Alot of the improv I do happens to be funny, but it's not trying to be funny. Sometimes I toss a jokish thing out there and then the process itself makes me wanna vomit in my mouth.

I would not call myself funny. Put me on a mic and I'm not funny.

It's weird because with Sketch, it feels nothing like improv. I feel like an actor working on no-budget films and projects. That in itself brings up bad memories. I went to college for Film with a minor in theatres. So, I've done a  lot of no-budget stuff.

Here's the one commonality  (noted this is a crass generalization because I'm not on multiple sketch teams) between what I know of sketch vs what I know of student films. Lot of wasting time.

As an improv person, my time is limited to improv doing and improv watching. I can barely schedule rehearsals. The concept of 2 three hour rehearsals in two days blows my mind. Which was what the sketch team was going to do. I remember films taking 12 hours and never getting to my scene. Getting to rehearsal on time only to find that it was cancelled or that I wasn't needed.

I think the major problem I saw, and this is selfish of me, was that idea's and stuff was already out there. Sketches were cast. The sketch team had 12 people. 12 ideas meshing into each other just seems overboard. Kids in the Hall, UCB, Mr. Show, Monty Python, kind of had half that. I'm guessing because of scheduling and not making it chaotic.

In other words, I may never do sketch again. I'm a doer. If I have a massive idea that's amazing, then I film it. Get some friends and do it in a day. Done. I hate to say it but I may never do sketch.

Starting the New Year off slowly

Hey everyone,

I've been off the grid LITERALLY, the last few weeks. I've made the move from Inwood, to a friends couch in Washington Heights the back to Astoria. The whole mess took about a week and a half and I was sick for a majority of it.

I was even sick for my 3rd deconstruction show which KILLED ME. I remember that day clearly, I had a meeting with a new Sketch team that wanted me to join them, the off to deconstruction's show, then off to a Magnet Circuit Show. Three show night!! But, at like 4pm, I just was shivering in a bed saying, "Not going anywhere tonight".

I usually pride myself in being able to perform under all circumstances. But, in all honesty, this is different than a musical. There's no understudy needed. So, I felt bad but I didn't go.

The next week, which was last week, I got started again.

I got back into rehearsal with Decent Proposal, a 10k team I joined mid-summer last year. The first team I ever joined actually. Finally, after all the scheduling issues I can play with them again. Though most of us are sick we make do.

Here's what I love about Decent Proposal:
1) Everyone is smart and funny.
2) Nothing ever seems forced. People are literally just reacting not trying to get any laughs.
3) It's never hectic.

It's a good dynamic because we have fun, it's not stressful, but sometimes we get lost. We had our first show in January. We actually had a 3rd beat kiss run. Leila made a bold move and kissed Christine and she reacted just to the kiss. I jump in and kiss Christine, reaction. Jamie jumps in and licks her face. And James kind of lovingly touches her cheek. Those are the moments that I love in improv. Bold moves where everyone jumps on board.

Deconstruction show #4

Last show of Deconstruction, I literally love this form. It is so much fun. I was lucky enough to be in both shows. Theme wise, it was kind of space, twilight zone, craziness. But, it was amazingly fun.

I remember Ted had brought up Frasier at some point. So in the second beat/flavor scenes, there was an initiation of "Hey everyone, It's me, Norm". We all kind of jumped on board with the "Norm!" chants. It's so great that we all were in the same spot. I kind of leaned in the window seal trying to make it like the counter of a bar. Norm made a joke and I said, "Classic Norm" and when there was a slight pause I said, "Anyone wanna see any of my old Red Sox jerseys?". To some great laughs.

Personally, I can't do a Ted Danson impersonation, but saying Classic just felt like cheers to me. Adding the red sox, may have just been enough to make the audience say, "That's Sam". In a later run, I was praying to have an opening to come in as Sam again. I was looking for the weirdest scene to call it out as someone else from cheers.

Someone initiated with, "Yea, I'll take a look at your ass!", I jumped into the window and said, "Classic Cliff." and it felt amazing.

I think the great thing about that is that it wasn't my idea, it stemmed from a frasier quote to a cheers initiation. I would have never done that without everyone else. That's improv for you.

Musical Megawatt Auditions?

I've gotten to the point where I'm coming full circle. The first improv show I ever saw and fell in love with, Musical Megawatt at Magnet theatres is going to audition soon.

Oddly enough, I feel like I've gotten a little worse at Musical Improv. I want to take more classes to hone the skill itself. Sometimes practicing with teams just doesn't cut it. Maybe I'm just a little sad to not have musical improv classes anymore.

When the opportunity comes, I'm gonna have a good time. I find that the few chances I get to do improv in front of people, I feel I do well. I just try and make bold choices or jump on someone elses choice.

Can I do this? Can I get onto a Musical Megawatt team? This has been a goal of mine for a while. The PIT musical team was a side goal and as much as Adorable is a PIT team, it doesn't get a weekly slot, so it is not really a musical house team. So, in a way, on that side goal, I succeeded and kind of failed.

Come on Magnet. Lets get these auditions goin!!