The Next Step – part 5 – Carleen Macdermid

This week was my last lesson of Long form improv for a while as I have signed up for an 8 week course in short form advanced training. I loved learning short form and felt it was time to up my skills even more to get ready to eventually become part of a troupe and to also develop my skills in both improv and to compare when i get a chance.

This week has definitely got to be the record as to how many people were in a room being trained at the same time. The maximum I have ever had in a room before was about 14 and that I felt was too many to learn improv but this time there was a whopping 23 people! Due to previous experience I have had with many people being in a room training, i was afraid there will not be enough time for everyone to practise or have a go at all the exercises, i don’t know how she did it but Carleen managed i like a pro.

The weeks lesson was all about reacting and accepting something on stage no matter what it is. The first exercise we did this week was go around the circle and say our name and a random fact about ourselves in the style of a superhero so examples are ‘Holly Sleepwalking Girl’ ‘James Loud Man’ ‘Michael The Weird clicking Guy’ ‘Caroline The Non Techy Girl’. etc  We then had to do an exercise where we would say our own ‘superhero’ then say someone else’s across the circle whilst doing the action.

The next exercise we did in pairs and we had to have a fluid conversation with someone without asking questions and to keep the conversation going with no breaks.  I do not know how others found it but for me it just ended up like a conversation and the people I was paired with I had only just met so was nice to get to know them a bit more.

We then split the circle in two and had someone in the middle of each starting a conversation about a random topic and then when they say a word that sparks off another idea for someone else the person in the middle would be tagged out and then that person would replace them in the circle and continue with their own story etc.

We then broke off into pairs again and this time had to respond not just as a statement but also with a reaction. Again, with some of the conversations I had in this turned more into a conversation. I was talking to one guy from LA who had just moved over here and because I was so interested in learning more about Long Beach it became a conversation with exaggerated reaction whist actually having an interesting talk.

The last part of todays lesson was scene work – now like i have said when I have done this before with 14 people in a lesson before its never really worked but Carleen had a great way of making efficient and also educational. The first part of scene work was 8 people were on stage (each group was 7 or 8 to equal three rounds with the numbers we had) and then two of those people would start a conversation at a table about a word given by the audience that would develop into the scene. It was the job of the 6 improvisers left to tag out the people in the dinner scene to either build on what they are saying or on their reactions.

The next part of the lesson was scene work again where 8 people would walk in a room together and decide they are all there to protest about something. This game had high energy and relied on people committing to every statement with strong reactions and enthusiam. The first team to do it were great at doing this as all of the people committed to the game however in my group there was only about 4 that truly committed so really fell flat as a scene. The idea of the game is someone would walk into a room and go guys we are here to protest about ….. the more ridiculous idea, the better. (so for example some of the protests  was being genetailia, quinoa being a waste of space and apples being bester then oranges).

Case Study – Carleen Macdermid

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This weeks case study is dedicated to the teacher I have had for the past few weeks. I will definitely return to her classes, but for the next eight weeks I am on the short form course so felt it was only right to highlight her talents here before I move on (especially after looking at her deal with the mammoth task of 23 improviser this week!)

The C3Something website which she owns describes her as:

Improviser, teacher and occasional stand-up dabler, Carleen Macdermid has just hit her 20th year in the field of comedy. Having played and taught in Australia, the US and across Europe Carleen predominantly trained with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre but has been taught by teachers from all around the world. Carleen performs with Genre Claude Van Damme, The Rebranding, and A Threesome. Off stage Carleen coaches longform teams  and teaches a number of weekly classes in London.

I have really grown to enjoy Carleens style of teaching improv, she is like watching a comedian with some of the comments she makes, whether or not she tries to be funny she is fantastic at being so and that really makes a great difference when you are learning.

Another thing that I really like about Carleen is her strictness, even with new improvisers she won’t let them get off lightly she will make them commit – not in a bullying type of way, but a way that encourages the person to act silly even if they feel like an idiot. I have learnt a lot from her in four weeks and will definitely return as she fits so much in a 2 hour lesson that I never thought was possible.

Like I said I have never seen someone deal so well with so many people in only tiny classroom before but she absolutely nailed it and made each and every person in that room feel very welcome and encouraged with their improv style. A few of the people in her lessons only started improv for the first time in the week that I joined and to see how much they are developing only after three weeks with Carleen is a fantastic thing to see and show just how supportive this woman is and her passion really does show.

She has also started a using her Facebook page to  upload videos of that weeks lesson for other improvisers to watch so they can also gain experience and to what they missed. She is also one of the many people organizing the Slapdash Improv Festival in London which you can find out more information by clicking here and listen to the interview she did with Improv London by clicking here

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