Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Mirroring Concept and the KEY in Heightening Organics

This is straight from a Level 5 PIT class that kind of blew my mind. This is Nate Starkey's thing and I had to write it down somewhere.

There are 3 types of Mirroring, Exact, Near, and Complimentary.

The ONE underlying similarity of ALL THREE is that it is based on what the other person initiates. It's not 2 initiations. If you choose to Mirror you are basing your first move on them.

EXACT MIRRORING: This refers to exactly mirroring what the other person is doing. It's physical, it's emotional. In an organic mirroring, you heighten on each others mirroring, similar to a pass the face exercise. This is what we all are used to.

NEAR MIRRORING: This is where you almost mirror it with a slight differentiation. If someone is curiously looking in a box, you can look in another box angrily. The match is the physicality but the emotion is different. If someone is curiously looking in a box, you could be curiously looking in a closet. The match and mirror is there, you chose to open something else. Another great thing I saw in class is someone turned around like a sprinkler and the other person got under the water and was affected by it happily.

** So many times we mirror exact and feel almost unfulfilled. Near mirroring may be the key to finding the fun of mirroring again**

COMPLIMENTARY MIRRORING: Similar to the sprinkler, but a little more active. This is where you're object work directly connects to the other persons object work. Or the emotion directly connects to the other one. If someone is aiming  a gun angrily, you could be pointing at the thing he's shooting at OR helping him pull the trigger. You complement the other person. If someone is happily opening a present, you could happily be watching them like a parent.

Here's another key concept Nate threw down. When you are doing organic initiations or organic transitions, the KEY is to heighten quickly. You figure out the mirror situation and you HEIGHTEN. It should be EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL and you yes and yourself out of this. The problem I've found is that I've done organic transitions where you don't heighten you just transform until it feels familiar. It's almost saying, this doesn't work, that doesn't work, this feels good. With heightening, it works right away.

Thanks Nate!!!

Realistic Scenework

     I came from a base of acting. In college, I studied acting and directing for film. Later, I did a lot of musical theatre training along with a tour here and there. Though musical has a tendency to be bigger acting, I know a little about realistic scenes and when it comes to improv, I feel like "realistic" scenework is the consistent improv mystery.
     We all go to shows where there is almost never a slice of life scene. You are more likely to find those scenes in two-prov where efficiency doesn't necessarily have to happen. The best improvisers in the city do the same things we all do, pull themselves out of scenes, make big character choices that normal people wouldn't, and call out things that no one realistically would call out. For example, the concept of yes and ing isn't realistic, it's a tool.
     So, the big question is, how do we start behaving more realistically in scenes without just having it be a boring scene. Here are the notes that I've heard from teachers when it comes to grounding work.

1) React honestly.
2) Know how you feel about people and ideas.
3) Do object work to feel the space.

Here are the notes that contradict those notes.

1) Find the game.
2) Follow the fun.
3) Yes And.

   I think of it as two different ideas. The ACTOR and the IMPROVISER, the actor immerses and feels and figures the situation out. The improviser is a point of view above yourself. An actor doesn't have rules, an actor will do a transaction scene, conflict scene, or nothing at all. An improviser is a little harder, the improviser has to figure out the scene through the rules and guidelines put forth.

   Alright here is my take on realistic scenework. You are two improvisers in a scene. Whoever starts the scene, lays a single road, you have your road which exists and is parallel but it is a little behind the road that is put out there. You're job is to get on the same page quickly. A good support improviser will take the little he has and manipulate it to run parallel with the initiator, a good initiator will slow down a little bit to let the support catch up.

  The moment we have a feel for the scene and who we are to each other, which doesn't have to have ANY words, we are on the same page. If someone initiates with a voice or a mannerism or something weird, you ground it by acknowledging that this person is FAMILIAR and FRIENDLY.  Here is why it is cut and dried, if you are unfamiliar, anything they do is going to elicit a WHY, which means they are crazy. The more matter of fact you take it the better. By Friendly, you don't want to make the scene about getting a person to stop or be different than they are. Often times, people think that reacting honestly is calling out the weird thing. If someone walks with a limp, an unfamiliar person may want to call it a doctor visit or a person getting out of bed when they shouldn't. These EXPLAIN the situation but they STALL the scene because it is not about the relationship it is requiring a WHY.
   Now what if a problem is initiated, a WHY. Why did you take my stapler? Well, first off that's an improv guideline that you are bending. But, this happens a lot. The more weight you give that initiation, the harder it will be. You are familiar and friendly so you'll probably apologize and give them back the stapler and possibly yes-and the reason why he has accused you, and that's not, "What's wrong" because that's worse. You have to say SOMETHING, "Here ya go. Sorry. Listen, I know you're stressed lately because of all the lay offs. You've totally got the job man."
   What about a crazy idea? A person comes out and starts doing something crazy with their hands. If this doesn't become a group game, then you go back to Familiar and Friendly. Familiar may imply matching.  The more you don't call out or make the action weird, the more interesting it'll be and the more grounded it will feel.
   Familiar and Friendly. Imagine taking any weird initiation, and I say weird as in just not normal not judging as bad, and making it wrong or weird or have to be explained. That is the WORST. You are stopping the road, telling your partner to come back and explain why you paved it this way.
   Here's an interesting example that I did recently. My partner initiates by bringing in a body or something. I have this feel that it is almost wrong and I'm in a position of authority so I call it as I'm a father and my son just brought in a deer the day before we went hunting. I am familiar and I am friendly, but the BASE is you did something wrong. In turn, it was a funny scene but it LAGGED because I had to be a father who was okay but not okay with it. The moment I was okay with it and said, "Well, lets skin it and learn something", the scene blasted off. Try this, SMILE. There is NOTHING wrong.
    If someone says, "I just killed someone,dad!", then you can go crazy honest and think about how do I solve this or SMILE and give him a hug. "You're gonna learn so much about yourself after this moment. My son is going to grow up."
    In conclusion,  try not to stall the scene and think that something is wrong. Know who the person is and LIKE them. Even if they are complete dicks to you in the initiation, you have to like them a little because you are going to have a scene with them and not leave.  I believe the grounding comes from the fact that you like the other person and that this is an everyday thing and that NOTHING is crazy. Even if it is crazy, it's not. I'll test it in class and see if it works out.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Motto as an Improviser

I thought about what I believed I do as an improviser. Here is my motto:

"There is no mistakes. As an improviser, I make sure that all my teammates feel that everything they do is supported and not judged. I promise to have as MUCH FUN as possible. I promise to try and make myself laugh and the people around me laugh. I promise to stay true to characters and stay true to the promises we as improvisers we make. I promise to love everyone I am with on stage. I promise to listen and act. I promise to keep my walk-ons to a minimum. I promise to find games in tag outs so that games may form. I promise to form as many patterns as I can. I promise to improvise. That's it"

Mercy Edits, If Then Justification, and The Concept of Grounding

Hey All,

Today, I just finished up a UCB class show and unfortunately, the sub teacher pretty much reamed all of us with notes afterwards.  Some were mind blowingly amazing, some were just the same notes we always get, and some were just weird when I thought about it. This is going to be an almost stream of thought about a few of those notions and in the process, I will try and figure out what I can gain through these notes about myself and about improv in general. This is in response to notes, but I don't want it to come off as I'm right and you're wrong but it will raise questions and I'll try to logically answer them to the best of my ability.

The Mercy Edit

First off, I'm a walk on guy. In this show today, I didn't start any first beats. I was in a few first beats in the last two shows, so I figured let the other players get a first beat. Ideally, I should just do what I want and that's a bad excuse but I did it. So, I didn't start any first beats.

I was told as a note, that after some scenes that maybe go on too long, they didn't find a game, or even it it seems like they aren't enjoying themselves or that they are floundering , you should "mercy" edit.

I "mercy" edit a lot but ONLY in second or third beats. I do a lot of "mercy" tagouts if the joke didn't fall and I want to explore more. Mercy is definitely something people do. However, this was a first beat scene.

The instructor also noted that there is this feeling that if you don't edit on a laugh that it is this crazy thing.

First beats are the foundation of a harold. Should you mercy edit?

We've all been a part of bad first beats, we all know it, the characters don't connect, it's not about relationship, it could be a transaction scene. Anything. We've always done it. So, if we hit the 1-2 minute mark, we should start looking for an edit, but what if there is no edit there. Do we just edit?

1) Scene ends.
2) More time for other scenes.
3) You "save" your partners from a perceived bad scene.

1) You don't recognize a game. 2nd beat may be only plot.
2) You "save" your partners, so they know YOU think it was a bad scene.
3) You show the audience, they shouldn't be seeing this anymore.

According to our sub, every walk-on I did should have been an edit. So, by that accord, I am mercy editing with walk ons. Let's look at the use of walk-ons.

1) Enhance or Heighten the game.
2) Fill out the world.
3) Justify the world.
4) Move the action forward.

In the event, that there is no game. Ideally, I should be doing 2-4. But, I know the reasons why I do things, it's just to clarify where we are in the world. the IF Then

What is the IF- Then?

This is what I think most walk ons do. They see what the audience is seeing and they take the next logical step. If in this world this happens, THEN this could happen too. Weird crazy moves that happen in a weird crazy world are almost funny SOLELY because of the foundation of crazy.

For example, if we live in a world where people do their own surgery. If then would say, If this is a world where people do their own surgery, then maybe everyone is a surgeon, then everyone has a surgeon kit with them, then death by surgery is normal. So, having a conversation about "Hey, I stitched this up myself" and a walk on of a person saying, "Hi Surgeon Tompson, Surgeon Jim, are you guys using the xray, I think I left something in myself"..... Laugh----- edit.

Admittedly, it is jokey and crazy but in a way it Yes Ands the decisions of the people on the stage.

What is GROUNDING with a walk on?

Everyone does their own surgery. How do you ground that? Maybe everyone in this world is very smart. It's a hyper intelligent world. Maybe they teach this in schools now because health care ended up being destroyed. Maybe acknowledging people dying of their own things.

This is where i get confused. If a scene is not grounded, then grounding it almost tells the audience, that we did something wrong. You could ground the concept and give the reasons why in second beats, which would be great, but what about coming on and saying, "Kids, have you been stealing my scalpals from my drawer, you can't do that." In my opinion, after 2 minutes of crazy, one walk on of grounding doesn't cut it.


I have to really research how to ground a scene with a walk on. Early walk on, may be better, but I hate walking on early, I subscribe to letting the players play. I need to know the mindset there, what do you do, what is the mindset?

Is layering crazy over crazy bad? I don't know, crazy is your base. If you know your base, then there are logical assumptions you can take. If in this world we don't wear shoes, then we may think shoes are something archaic like fossil bones. Shoes as bones is crazier but it is a logical step from the base. Here's my deal, sometimes I go for the jugular and the joke, it works sometime and sometimes it doesn't. The need to pull things out and allow the tension of a scene to happen may be more useful rather than calling it out.

In a way, I think I know more about myself because of this show. I gauge my show on two things, was I having fun and did I get reactions from players or audience. If both did well, then I feel god about myself. I also think, "Did I regret any move?" If I say no, then it makes sense in my book.

This show and ALL shows in general, I make those moves and feel good. I will not be hesitant.