Month: May 2014

Salt and pepper

Salt and pepper - Macroscopic Solutions

Our substitute practice coach gave us a metaphor this past week.

 

—–

There is a lot of salt in the world. It’s a mineral. It’s in the earth, it’s in the water, it’s easy to come by, it’s cheap, and it’s necessary for life (to some extent).

Mounds of salt in Lac Retba, Senegal - herr_hartmann

 

 

There is not so much pepper in the world. It has to be grown from a plant, cultivated, watered, tended, harvested. It’s comparatively expensive and harder to come by.

Peppercorn rows, Phu Quoc - Katie Yaeger Rotramel

 

When you’re cooking, usually you’ll use more salt than pepper.

They are both important for adding flavor, but the salt sort of functions as a base grounding for the flavors in the dish, while the pepper adds a little bit of kick.

Salt & pepper pork chops - hermitsmoores

 

You can think of improv scenes this way, too. The base reality, the grounding, the basic human nature and relationships of your scene— that’s the salt. That comes first. Unusual things, weird shit, crazyness— they’re the pepper. They work best for an additional punch of flavor after you’ve set up your base grounding of salt reality.

Salt and pepper - Charles Haynes

 

If you only use one or the other, the dish won’t taste right, but together, and in the correct proportions, you can make beautiful meals.

Salt and pepper, beautiful together! - Jeannine St. Amand

Salt and pepper, beautiful together!


(All photos here are hyperlinked back to their Flickr pages and shared with Creative Commons licenses)

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Jimmy Carrane – A Bad Day Doesn’t Have to Mean Bad Improv

http://jimmycarrane.com/bad-day-doesnt-mean-bad-improv/

Trying to answer the problem of “well I’m in a shitty mood. Nothing is funny. I’m not funny. How the fuck do I get through this?”

 

Improvisers think they need be in a certain “positive” mood to do improv, and if they are not, they either don’t bother to show up to class or they ignore their feelings and paint a big latex smile on their faces and muscle through with that fake energy of a birthday party clown. Then when they have a bad improv class or a bad show, they end up beating themselves up or blaming it on their bad day.

What if we looked at those so-called negative emotions as a gift? And instead of trying to push them away, we were brave enough to acknowledge them by saying them out loud to a friend, the class or the group?

 


…Charlie McCrackin of The Reckoning… said if you are feeling sad or angry you might want to use them in character. Charlie e-mailed me later: “The only things I can add to my thoughts on emotions is that it’s easier to make use of the strong emotions already present in you than to try to build strong emotions from out of nowhere. Plus denying your actual emotions diminishes your ability to play truthfully.”

 

…just because I have a bad day does not mean I have to do bad improv at night. Instead, I can use those emotions to inspire my choices and deepen my connections with my partners to make me an even better improviser.

Successful actors freeze, too

http://www.backstage.com/news/study-shows-stage-fright-is-common-among-working-actors/

(From 2011: Study Shows Stage Fright is Common Among Working Actors)

84 percent [of 136 successful professional actors surveyed] reported experiencing stage fright at least once in their careers. [Goodman] described the condition as freezing or choking and said it is usually represented by a performance’s sudden collapse, rather than a gradual decline. Anxiety is particularly debilitating to actors, because fear of the future occurs in the same part of the brain where imagination lives, Goodman explained. He likened it to an overloaded computer: It will freeze if it has too many programs open while trying to process something complicated. “Imagination,” he said, “is a limited space.”

 

“All of a sudden I really got stage fright,” [Bailit] said. “I couldn’t figure it out, and I remember looking out, and everyone had a stunned look.” She almost walked off the stage, a move that would have haunted her career, she said. One thing kept her onstage. “I was frozen,” she said.

More-positive thoughts quickly took hold, she said, and she remembered her training: Concentrate on what you’re saying; get in the moment; connect with someone.

 

Experience and success are no guard against [stage fright]. Actors such as Meryl Streep, Ian Holm, and Barbra Streisand also suffered from it after they had established their careers.

 

(I froze in class this past week. Upside: I didn’t break the fourth wall like I usually do. Downside: I froze, what the FUCK, I should be past this by now, why am I not. Other downside: it was our first level 3 class, and I’m ALSO obsessing that my classmates all judged me. Great first impression, right?

So instead of wallowing in self-loathing, I’m trying to figure out: what went wrong? How can I prevent this from happening in the future? Can I prevent it from happening in the future? If I can’t, how can I manage the symptoms? If I can’t, is it a total waste of time to pursue a stage-based hobby?)

Pre-show rituals (2)

I sometimes do [a Dada Monologue] as I’m walking to the theater to improvise. It brings to light fun and absurd thoughts: different tools to associate with while improvising, as opposed to the limited range of associations we usually have.

-Mick Napier, founder of the Annoyance Theater

 

(Right now, my own pre-practice/pre-show ritual is: ½ cup coffee + 3-5 min of Mind Games on the train + 3-5 min of Dada Monologue as I walk from the station to the studio. I don’t know if it actually improves my improvisation, but I sure as hell feel better about it.)

Naming things

There are a million ways that doing improv will improve your offstage life, as described here, here, and elsewhere around the internet.

One downside, though, is that I’ve gotten into the habit of calling people by the first name that pops into my head.

“How’s life, Robin?”

“Great, Marty, how ’bout you?”

“Uh. I’m Jake.”

 

Be careful, folks.

 

 

Storytelling 101

He knew that great stories are never about success. They’re always about failure.

– Intro for George Plimpton, The Moth Radio Hour, Episode 1210

 

 

Just a thought— aside from coming up with stories for an Armando in a Level 1 class— the character you play can be competent and knowledgeable and believable, but she can have a shitty day. We can all relate to that. Comedy in truth.