This week has been a fantastic week for learning in improv and i have learnt so so much thanks to the wonderful Stephen Davidson of Improvable and Steve Roe of Hoopla. They were both so fun and explored areas of improv i have been desperate to have more training in so it was so fun. The great thing about these lessons were i feel like i am expanding even more as an improviser.
Back in my job i just left at the BBC my old boss gave me some really good advice to start keeping a notebook of all graphic design ideas i see so that when i come to doing design work i have ideas already…..i haven’t done this as i use Pinterest and other forms for this BUT it did give me inspiration to start a book of Improv and i now have a notebook with all things about improv. If there is something i like from a scene that particularly stands out that I feel has potential to go even further then I will write it down to explore at a later date. This week there has been a lot added to it and has got me thinking about the sort of shows that I want to do on stage in the future and how to break down the dynamics of the form of improv.
Stephen’s Class – Genre, Indiana Jones and Runaway Chickens
This week we did the warm up game that i did with Carleen a few weeks ago. It is a game that focusses on patterns and you have to remember each of them in play. When I played it Carleen we did it as a warm up game to remember names as with Stephan we used genre of film. It is the game where you point to someone in the square and say a genre, then you go round again and point to someone else and say a character from films, then you high five someone and say a location for a film.
The next game we played a more active game to both warm us up and also to make us run around a bit and to relax our brains. The idea was that all of us have to try and reach the artefact at the end of the room, but we all die in random ways and then the other members of the group have to remember the other deaths before acting out their own. This game was called Indiana Jones as it is similar to the narrative of the first film. It was fun to see how people acted out their deaths and then having to remember them all.
The next game we did was called Genre Soup this was when we talk about a certain genre of film and ‘fill’ up the bowl with all the things that make up that genre, so the actors, the scenery, the characters, the actions, the sayings etc. This was so that our minds were solely focussed on the world of genre.
To get us into the main event of the evening we then did a number of who what where scenes to just get into the role of establishing ideas for an audience. We were all given a random word then had to make up short scenes in regards to that. So the first word we had was Nacho and there was an array of different stories to do with nachos. The next word we were given was Puppy and these started to get changed as Stephen started making people redo the scenes with different genres attached to them so we could see how much the scenes change and how we can slightly alter the narrative and story to correlate to the genre at hand.
We had a short break and before returning to the lesson at hand we had a quick half time warm up game where we all had to pretend to be chickens and play a game of it which was quite fun to play and very silly at the same time.
We then applied the genres of films to scenes, three of us would go up and play a scene straight and then after it was finished we would replay it two more times in different genres. One of the first scenes i did was in a cocktail bar talking to a customer and apologising because we had run out of limes for their mojito and was blaming it all on the work of the other person who worked in the bar with me and the manager came out and was trying to fire someone. The first time we played this with a genre we had to play it like James Bond and we all turned into spies trying to fool one another and the second time we had to play it like a period victorian drama with posh English accents and complicated sentences.
The other scene i was in happened around a ski slope where i was helping to make the ski life work. In the first replay of this game i was not needed, however in the second genre it was about zombies and I walked on as a zombie and recreated a line I stated in the first time i played it and it got lots of laughs. The final one we had to play it as was a silent film so i pretended to be on a piano whilst the others acted it out.
Steve Roe – Hoopla Lesson
This week Steve from Hoopla also put on a free lesson for us to try out new ideas for him for teaching and also to allow us to get training for anything that we may want to know or learn.
The first thing we looked at was when we get given suggestions that are really awkward or serious subjects and how to play them in a scene if you have to, so for example something like suicide. There always is a fine line how to play these scenes as you don’t want the audience to think you are making fun of the subject or making too lighter thing of it. The first way is to play it really seriously and the second is to play it completely over the top.
Another thing that we looked at that are both difficult and also fun to play are scenes in rewind. There are two types of styles of this game and we played both of them. The first one is so fun to play and i want to play it a lot more then i usually do. It is when you start acting out a normal scene and then someone will shout fast forward, rewind or pause and you have to apply these things to a scene. It is fun for the audience to watch and really fun to play. The second type of game is to play a whole scene from the end and work backwards. so you ask the audience the ending of the play and then the improvisers will act it out line by line backwards.
We then looked at the effect it has when more then one person on stage perform as the same type of person. We looked at different varieties of this as there are many varieties. The first one we did was when seven of us all went on stage and all followed the traits of the first person but developed it even more when one of us came on. The second style was when a group of three people act like a comedy trio on stage and mimic each other and sort of act like the jesters of the scene by all copying each others movements and sayings.
The next thing we covered was something that i love in improv and want to cover even more, and that is puppetry. It is so funny to watch and so fun to play, the first thing we did was warm up training by pretending to be each other puppet masters and move the other person like they were on a string. Then we played the game where two people are manipulated into movements by two other improvisers. It was really fun to play and whilst i have had a go at it before it was so fun to do it all over again and to be trained properly in it.
The final thing we looked at was flying in a scene and how to create the perspective of someone flying in the air. The first was was to have people in flying past and pretending to be things that are in the air and then the second way was to create a perspective on stage of things getting smaller as they fly past.
Its been a really fun week for improv and I have learnt a lot in the process.
Case Study – Simon Pegg
It was really hard to come up with a case study this week as there was so many different things that have been taught but after a long hard decision i decided to pull up the comedy of Simon Pegg. I don’t like every single thing that Mister Pegg has been in but I would still say he is one of my top actors because he has such a fantastic comedy persona around him it is really hard not to adore him and his work.
Metaphorically, this man is a sort of puppet in the genre of comedy, i don’t mean that in a negative way i mean that in a fun and positive way. He can mould to any character that he is given and whilst some may look familiar in resemblance they are all very different and he gives them each his own.
Whilst he worked predominantly in the comedy of genre, he does branch out and do things such as action and serious yet still brings the elements of Pegg to a genre to matter what it is and thats why i thought he was a good case study for this week. No matter how much you have to mould yourself for a genre, a puppeteering game or even a suicide/ serious subject game, you can always bring your own persona to the stage even if it is going to be a random situation that you are in.
From a comedy perspective, Simon is a great inspiration for budding comedians and improvisers as he is a physical actor as well as a good comedic one and can use both his body and personality to mould a character into something different and niche that the audiences will love.