New month means new improv classes and the room we were in this time was beautiful and like we had walked into a classroom of Hogwarts. The miners institute library is made up of beautiful wooden book shelves that surround the room like something you imagine in a classical library or the one that Belle has in Beauty and the Beast.
The walls are piled high with books from many different decades with wooden stair cases that you climb up to reach the next level of books. Intertwined between these classic book shelves are big statues of various figures of history as well as paintings of portraits depicting others from history. Above the grand entrance to the room is a beautifully carved wooden inscription and logo completing the room of its uniqueness.
Have I painted an image in your head? Good, because this was the main exercise in our improv lesson tonight. A improviser would get up on the stage and ask what they are wearing and we would “dress them” by telling them what they are wearing and then from that the person on stage would tell us what they saw in front and behind them when they were wearing the said outfit. Then another improviser would go on stage and be dressed by the audience in the same scene and then they will act out a scene based on their clothing and surroundings.
It was a very interesting exercise as it allowed us to expand and improve on setting a scene up for the audience. Sometimes when you are in a scene you forget that certain aspects of what you have in your mind may not be visible to the audience and you need to work on ways to let them know whats happening.
When thinking about setting up a scene with actions and emotions to bring an environment to life the first person I thought of is Rowan Atkinson’s stand up. Rowan in renowned for his physical comedy and when you look at his stand up routines he is fantastic at creating a scene out of nothing.
His stand up may be all planned in advance but from an Improv angle it is very important to look at the way that he uses the stage. In a lot of his stand up Angus Deyton will narrate meaning that most of the comedy comes from the action, which is similar to some of the games that we play in improvisation.
When thinking about Rowan, the drum kit stand up piece is one of his most famous pieces of work – he uses all the stage and creates a fantastic sketch out of nothin apart from an orchestra helping him out with the music part. He is a great case study for improv as a whole, even if you include the character Mr Bean, because he is a great reference point for facial expressions for emotions and physical reactions.