This week I did something completely different to the norm – I went to an improv lesson in the middle of the day, on a work day! The job I was working on came to an end so this week I had a week off and due to the fact there was meant to be a train strike and its half term meaning the trains are usually awful I went on a Tuesday afternoon and was taught by Katy Schutte of the Maydays.
When I first moved to London I went to one of her team mates Jules and Hayley’s drop in sessions and have also been to a Saturday drop in with Liz Peters, so it was great to get training from a different member of the team.
This lesson was great fun and full of high energy and some warm up games that I really want to do again.
The first thing we did was the standard game to get to know peoples names – this game however consisted of a game we played regularly in Newcastle where you say someone’s name until you reach them and then they walk off in another direction saying it to someone else as well.
We then played a game that was all to do with imaginary skipping ropes you would slap at the same time as the person who was two away from you in the circle and then the one in between you both would duck over the skipping rope in the first round. This would go around the circle in this way. The next time we played it you could change directions making it a harder game to think about. The time it gets really hard is when you have the choice to either make the person duck or jump over the skipping rope it all depends whether you raise your arms up or raise them down.
We then played a game that was definitely one of my favourite warm up games and going to use this in the future a lot. Someone is put into the centre of the circle and people will call out an adjective and a career and the person in the middle has to become that character. People keep calling out characters into the middle and you have to act out all the characters that they are thrown. Its such a great way to come up with a character on the spot and so much fun playing. I really enjoyed this game and felt at ease to go into character right from the start. Sometimes in Improv lessons or drop ins you always feel like you have to test the water before creating a character but by doing this game it was so easy and a lot of fun.
We then got into the world of scene work and did a few short and random scenes to get us into the frames of improvisation. These were all based around the word concrete and consisted of scenes from playing in wet cement to gangsters tormenting their enemies.
If you remember last weeks lesson, i mentioned that I was really tired and that I found it hard to work on getting into the world of making items of everyday act like humans, well this week i felt i would revisit that lesson. Whenever I find something difficult at the time I don’t just give up I fight it and turned a scene I was doing with two others into statues having a normal conversation and this created the humour that carleen was discussing last week. From re-trying this method I was able to feel like I had achieved what I had been taught the week before and not afraid to try it again.
Katy then introduced us to a game called Good Morning – This is a scene work game where you both sleep at the beginning of the scene and when Katy says good morning you and your scene partner have to work out where you are and make a scene. This was all about working with your partner and trying to establish a common ground. There was a range of scenes including one about two guys stuck in a toy shop, another where two women were fighting about the amount of bugs and the one that I was in about a house that was really filthy and was filled with lots of oil.
This went onto the long form format that we did a few weeks ago with Will where you create scenes from stories you here in the scenes before. When someone is in a scene and you like the idea of one of the characters so you tap out the other person so that you can do a scene with the person you liked but take the story to a different time and place.
We started the second half with another warm up game – this was based on the nineties dance beat and we would all come up with a cheesy one word saying that we could do along to the beat – when it was in rhythm it sounded actually quite cool.
The last game of the week was all based around pretending you are part of a stage show – the idea of this was to believe that everything you are saying and everything that you are doing has been agreed with your Director and so all the words you say, all the actions you make are all part of the scene. This was a great way to play a scene and a fantastic way of thinking of Improv. Sometimes in Improv you have problems believing you are that suggestion and you can portray it badly to the audience (a good example, my dictionary last week) this is fantastic disciplinary rule I am now going to follow when doing more of the truthful based improv. In this version, we were given a title of a play and the scene in which we are to play. It was so much fun doing this and by playing it straight it got loads of laughter.
Case Study 1 – Katy Schutte
I really enjoyed being taught by Katy, she has a fun and very energetic way of teaching a lesson and because of her enthusiasm I felt I learnt so much to help me in the future. I feel that a lot of the games and skills that we were taught are really insightful and fantastic rules that I am now going to think of more when I perform both in lessons and on stage.
Whilst I have not seen The Maydays perform as of yet, it is in my to do list of things I have to do this year as they really are a creative bunch and fantastic teachers. I hope to be taught by Katy again in the near future as I feel like she is a fantastic person to provide skills to help me develop even more as an Improviser.
Case Study 2 – Joseph Emms
Now, this was a really random case study to pick but at the same time it has a lot of meaning in relation to this weeks lesson and I have a lot to thank Joe for in some ways. Now you are probably wondering who is this Joe? how have i not heard of him? Well, Joe is a talented up and coming actor that I have had the pleasure of knowing from his university years. Now this is where the story and inspiration comes from. In his final year of University, his class put on a lot of productions and I would go to all of them and watch them everything from periodic drama to comedy.
The reason why Joe is a case study this week is that when we played the last game where we had to pretend we were actors in a theatre show his name instantly came to mind. I remember watching him on stage and it doesn’t matter what character he moulded into there were characteristics that I always would pick up from him and i felt that he was my inspiration when performing this scene work. I would try and channel the way he moved around the stage, built up the tension, looked at the audience (in that actor way not like stand ups when they ‘look’ at the audience) and try and create the vocal and vibes that he brought. All the people in the room obviously would not know that is what i was intending to do, but its crazy to think that even watching friends as well as actors and comedians on stage really can be such an inspiration.