shows

Hitting branches

On Sunday, my mono-scene class had its last show (at the Magnet, Level 4 and up get four shows, ‘cos you get to be a better performer by performing). It wasn’t great. When our instructor gave us notes afterwards, one of my classmates started apologizing, and the instructor broke to give us a quick pep talk instead:

Mistakes are part of this. We all want to be perfect improvisers, and we will NEVER be perfect improvisers, none of us. No matter how long you do it, you will ALWAYS be messing up. We’re all trying to climb this impossibly tall unclimbable tree, and all we can do is try to hit a few branches on the way down so we don’t land quite so badly. That’s all improv training is, is learning how to hit branches during our inevitable fall.

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Dress for success

The Upright Citizens Brigade believes that new, unproven ensembles should dress in a manner comparable to “business casual.” This will lend an air of professionalism to your show.

In a practical sense, it is important that you always dress so that you are ready to perform. If you are wearing a pair of pants that you’re afraid of getting dirty onstage… [or] wearing a miniskirt that is liable to show off more than you want in certain positions, you may be unwilling to make physical choices that would best serve your scenes. Since you are going to want to be free of restraint, dress to be active. Dress to play. [UCB Manual, pp. 380-381]

 

To me, “business casual” and “dress to be active” are mutually exclusive. That’s why workout clothes don’t in any way resemble work clothes. I always err on the side of “dress to be active” (and as such, I dress like a slob for my office job, too).

Blazers constrict your arms, button-front shirts can gape, fancy shoes deter you from jumping and editing, ladylike blouses are prone to every kind of reveal, long sleeves in general are too hot for the stage. And so I always come back to a men’s t-shirt, loose jeans, and running shoes. I look like a 14-year-old boy. But at least I can move.

July Magnet Mixer (I'm the lady in the t-shirt)

Is there an upscale designer business casual t-shirt out there I should look into, one that doesn’t have a tuxedo printed on it? What do you wear to perform?

Finding passion

High on jet lag after a successful family reunion on the other side of the country, during which time I established myself as “one of the funny cousins” and remembered how good it feels to have people laugh at your jokes, I went to my first Del Close Marathon (#DCM16) on Friday night. After watching 7 groups of high quality improv, I’m starting to remember why I want to do this.

The best groups—in my estimation—look like they’re having fun. They are doing ridiculous exaggerated characters, and doing buttloads of physical silliness, and calling out everything illogical (which I love to do!).

I mean, that’s not all of it, of course. Part of what separates the wheat from the chaff (IMHO) is an extra helping of intelligence, wit, and fearlessness. And I have to face the reality that maybe I will never fully own those traits. But in the words of Rick Andrews’ Magnet podcast interview (~20:52):

“In Level 1, it’s ‘get over the fear,’ but it’s also like, ‘here are some tools,’ and you teach people character, and emotion, things like that. And they’re not tools just because, like, someone said they are. Like, the more I teach the class, the more it’s apparent to me that these are tools because they help us not think. Character and emotion helps you be in the moment and express yourself. They are ways to fight the fear. They are ways to kill that stuff so you can just follow your passion.”

and

“It’s just so much easier to follow passion than it is to follow…”
“…an obligation.”

My point: I’m finding that briefly distancing myself (both physically and mentally) is providing a helpful viewpoint for seeing that any worthwhile pursuit of comedy comes from love, not from obligation and dread… and I’m making a liiiiitle bit of headway in finding that love, and losing that obligation and dread.

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.)

Third show’s a charm

My PIT Level 1 show was on Friday, and I don’t need to rehash it, because objectively the show overall didn’t have a lot of great points. But I felt pretty okay about it, like my particular contributions weren’t too bad. There were plllleeeeeenty of opportunities for me to kick myself later (and even during! “Robin, this scene is flagging! They need support! Do a walk-on! Or an edit! Without being a dick! Argh! How?! Where’s the opportunity??! Dammit, that would’ve been a good spot!! Fuck!!!”), but I feel like I’m starting to get a handle on a little bit of that Improv-Brain I’ve always coveted.

Poppin’ the UCB cherry

I saw my first UCB show!

http://newyork.ucbtheatre.com/shows/view/3583

I recognized the headliner (Mike Birbiglia), but I’d never seen him perform, so for $5, what the hell.

I did NOT recognize any of his fellow improvisers, and my later research revealed that I probably should’ve. Most of them have their own Wikipedia articles and enough fans that Twitter rounds their followers up to Ks.

What I loved about the show— aside from the consistent hilarity you can get from professional comedians— was that Birbiglia wasn’t jokey. He’d tell a story or play a scene or banter with an audience member, and it would be funny because of (a) his delivery + (b) Truth In Comedy.

I love one-liners, but I couldn’t come up with one to save my life.

I dunno. Watching people be this funny without relying on wittiness gives me some hope.