Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Camp Magnet: Ed Herbstman

Ed Herbstman is one of the owners of the Magnet. He is half of the Mantzoukas Brothers, which I have never seen. Also, I've seen him sub in for Trike once. He seems to be widely respected as one of the best improvisers in the community. I wish I could have seen him perform more, but I hadn't. I just heard about him and was excited to work with him. 

I remember a few aspects of the class that really stuck with me. The basic aspects of what he taught was something along the lines of, "We all are working too hard on stage"

He called up various people to do scenes and began to say stuff like, "That would be a great mixer scene", but Ed seemed to want truly organic scenes. Rather than inventing bricks and foundations to scenes and building them up, he wants us to just sink into the scene, notice what we have already.

This is a very Magnet notion. I've always thought that Magnet tries to make everyone feel that no matter what they do on stage, they'll be fine and right and good. It creates slower improvisers that are more fearless with silence or more character based improvisers that commit very hard. 

In my first scene, my scene partner was stressed and I was calming him down, we didn't specify the who the what or the where, we kind of held it back. It was consistent with previous Magnet workshops because those should be discovered not invented. As he calmed, then I stressed and then I called out that it was just a rollercoaster. Scene ended. Ed had given the note to us that instead of just staying in the dynamic of one person affecting the other, the moment I called out what it was, this was the moment where I let fear force an invention. 

Later in the class, he spoke about scenework as someone walking to the edge and then inventing something to help the fear, when at that point they need to just slow down, take stock of what they have and hold on to it. 

Ed spoke about how improvisers see that first piece of game and they jump on it so hard they give up the scene itself. He said that piece is a trap. Going after that is the obvious, to stay in the scene and discover it is to organically create a scene with a partner.

I know this seems crazy, but here's an example of my second scene.

My scene partner seemed angry at me.

I say, "I wish you would just be honest with me."

She says, "I don't like you."

In my mind, oddly enough, I think I saw a pattern. My improviser brain would probably name it as, Mom, I'm sorry I ditched school, or I'm sorry I came onto your friend, son. WHatever. Just yes anding the situation and giving the who and why. However I just stuck with what I had.

I say, "Would it kill you just to tell me how you feel."

She says, "I despise you and wish you were dead."

(Notice the pattern, it is heightening and basically nothing has happened. I will just redo my line of not understanding but in an honest way, not a dumb way)

I say, "I don't know why you can't just tell it to me straight."

She says, "I want to cut your throat, drink your blood and fuck the holes of your dead body.

(At this point, Ed says after hitting a pattern for a bit, one person will try to make the other person laugh.  It has to be somewhat consistent but it is  a curveball. According to Ed, it should be instantly powerful. It could be a WHo, a Where, a Why or just a non sequiter)

I say (Joke), And that will make you cum? (the why) OR And then you'll stop making movies Mr. Bay? (who) OR Well, I've gotta go play Barney, talk to me later (kind of where)

It's oddly genius. Think about it.
Happy Birthday-I Hate you - I Got you A Present - YOu are such a dick - You ready to blow out your candles? - You insensitive fuck - (joke) I'm sorry I raped u. or All your family is here- (joke) Fuck you Spiderman

What about a transaction scene?
I'll take a pack of cigs. - That'll be 5 dollars - I'll take a pack of those - Thatll be 20 quarters - I'll take about 12 cigarettes comparmentalized in that pack over yonder - That'll be 500 pennies. - (J) Ya know what, I'll just go someplace else) or I'll take that pack there - (J) Sometimes while I sleep, I dream about being a fart. 

The concept of repeating words is not foreign to improv teachings. I've heard it many times before. But, with Ed it's seems to not just be about the words. It's about the how. How you say it, how you feel as you say it. Sometimes it doesn't even need words, it could be just the how. You could be mad, frustrated, happy, whatever. As your partner repeats, you repeat and heighten the emotion.

How does this work into scenes? Simple, repeat what you say, heighten how you say it. At the very least you will understand your game. 

According to Ed, improv isn't someone coming into another person's scene and playing a part. It is something you all grow together. The scenes seem better that way and oddly simpler.  Throughout Camp Magnet, I felt this kind of theme. Organically making scenes with very little thinking, just recognizing. 

Ed Herbstman is an amazing teacher. I hope to put his teachings into effect, asap. 

The Best Two Weeks for an Improviser

Today, I sit on a stool eating trying to put into words what a great three weeks I've had. As an improviser, it was probably the most intense week ever. But, as a person, I gained so many friends and was able to for a few hours get insight into the minds of the best improvisers in NYC and probably the country. Here's what happened. Over the next few weeks, I'll post individual notes from every class I took and try to wrap my mind around the theories and the exercises and maybe in the process be able to put into words the amazing three weeks.

Week  1:
Camp Magnet: A camp that Magnet Theatre does once every year in the Catskills where you get to learn from great teachers and make tons of new friends, swim, play, chat and have a great time.

Teachers at Camp Magnet that I took classes with: Rachel Hamilton, David Razowsky, Louis Kornfeld, Alex Marino, Ed Herbstman, and Megan Gray.

Week 2: 
Rick Andrews Intensive Level One: I was able to Big Sib for Rick Andrews Level one intensive. It took place from 10-4pm Monday Through Friday

DCM Workshop with Neil Casey: The Invocation
DCM Workshop wtih Chris Gethard: Make Your Scenework Easier
DCM Workshop with BIlly Merritt: Pirate Robot Ninja

Workshop with Betsy Stover
Workshop with Ari Voukydis

All throughout those weeks, I performed with The Washingtons for DCM, rehearsed with The Battery, rehearsed with my Krompf team, "Humphrey", took level 3's Annoyance classes, and did Blackout shows (class and form taught by Louis Kornfeld)

I'm not sure how to start writing about this amazing time but when I calculated it out, around 70-100 hours of improv classes and shows (watched or did). 

The cool this is that this can be done by just about everyone. Most of the DCM workshops require some UCB experience so it's worth taking for that.  Anyone can do Camp Magnet which is awesome. Also, I believe if you finish level 3 or 4 at Magnet, you qualify to big sib.