Thursday, January 31, 2008

Two things.

1. There are enough places to improvise in KC that you can pick the people you play with. That's great...but.

Back in the old days of KC improv, you had two, maybe three troupes to choose from. If you didn’t like the director or another player—but wanted stage time—you sucked it up. Or you quit.

Now you can audition for ComedyCity, Full Frontal, Improv-Abilities or Roving Imp, or you can start your own troupe. It’s amazing how many groups begin in reaction to another group.

In one of his sermons, my pastor said, “Every real community always contains the person you like the least.” His point was, when a group gets big enough, there will be someone in it you just can’t get along with.

Talk about local improv with any improviser long enough, and the snark surfaces: Someone is either a crappy improviser, a lousy director, too bossy, too lame, too full of him-or-herself, bad at business…or, you know, just a horrible human being. There are more people to bitch to and more people to bitch about. I know maybe one or two people who don’t do snarky. I’m certainly not one of them. 

And that doesn't feel particularly good.

2. It’s my blog, and I make the rules.

The City 3 forums have a Smarky comment thread (misspelling of snark was intentional) so people can take thinly veiled swipes at each other—for a while, it was very popular. And then there was starwarsfan—an anonymous poster sparking discussion by baiting people into taking a stand. Recently, another anonymous poster (not starwars fan—I've seen the IP address) gave notes—some compliments, some fairly pointed jabs—on Improv Thunderdome.

So far, there have only been a couple of negative, anonymous comments on this blog. Apparently I’ve lost my edge, gotten snobby about improv and will probably die alone—still telling people about that one funny line I said.

Well, duh.

The last thing is the only one I take issue with. Seriously. What improv snob believes this is about funny lines?

The article "Online anonymity lets users get nasty" gives examples of the way “the Internet—and the anonymity it affords—has given a public stage to people’s basest thoughts, ones that in earlier eras likely never would have traveled past the watercooler, the kitchen table or the next barstool.”

Not here.

If you think I’m full of it, great. Tell me your name, and let’s argue theory. I want to know who you are and what kind of work you’ve done—because your experience is as important a part of the discussion as your words.

But if all you’re going to do is plug in poorly spelled mean things, you don’t get to play. Come back when you’ve grown up.

That, by the way, feels great.

Why, on every single “vote ‘em off” reality show, do the hosts say, “America has voted”? I maybe get it on American Idol. But Make Me A Supermodel or whatever's on FoodTV? Seriously? America? Maybe “the people” or, more accurately, “the viewers.” But to make it sound like a natural referendum is just…annoying.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It. Will. Be. Epic.

So I’m coaching Scriptease as they prepare for Improv Thunderdome. Coaching. Not directing. These guys are coming up with the genius, and I’m just helping them show it to the audience.

And their piece—which I will say nothing about, because this is a competition, people—is going to be some SERIOUS genre work. I’m not just talking about throwing thees and thous and eths in Shakespearean dialogue, either. They've researched, discussed and evaluated. They're like pretentious film majors—and I was one, so I know. 

Again, without showing their hand, here’s their process:
  • They picked a familiar, beloved, easy-to-recognize, packed-with-games genre. 
  • We talked about what we already knew about it. 
  • They watched a shitload of it. (I should remind them their Blockbuster fees are deductible…then again, I doubt they’re reporting their meager improv earnings.)
  • We talked about character archetypes and games, story arcs and standard scenes. 
  • We decided where to start (exposition sucks—and if George Lucas hasn’t proved that, I will eat my car). 
  • We assigned characters (once they know the game, they can play them any way they want). 
  • We mapped out our key scenes. 
And now we’re ready. We can plug in any situtation, and run with it. The game moves will keep the players from getting plotty—though I warned them the temptation will be, after we get the first suggestion, to let their brains go to the ending. We’ll get suggestions throughout to throw them off track.

I’ve done genre work before, but never to this level. Clay and Drew (and Lauren, who got sucked into the madness because she has a car and is a freaky-fun improviser herself) mapped the whole thing out. We've stereotyped them horribly and gloriously. Am I proud? Like a mama cat. (Which is perpetuating a myth they will never let me live down. There are only two,  kids, and I DO NOT dress them up.) 

This is going to kick some serious ass. 

Oh, and speaking of proud: Tim Mason starts in the cast of Second City etc. this weekend. I met Tim (and his best friend, Dan Walsh) in the audience of a ComedySportz show a looooooong time ago. They were making fun of a very bad perm I had just gotten (really bad—pyramid shaped). I dared them to bring their funny to our high school leagues, and they, with a couple of friends, formed the Pez Junkies. Later, I wrote Tim's parents a letter to convince them to let him play with Lighten Up—and thank goodness they did. I was incredibly lucky to get a chance to play with someone as talented as Tim—his sense of humor, smarts, generosity and incredible stage presence have shown since he was 16. He's proof that nice guys win. So if you talk to him, congratulate him great big. 

Monday, January 28, 2008

I wonder if I should try

I’m working a theory that the perfect improv troupe meets the following criteria:
  • Four people or fewer
  • All single
  • All childless
  • All swear they will never get married and have children

I say this after my third attempt to put together a rehearsal schedule for the seven-person troupe I’m in. (Hint: It rhymes with Rantrum.) We almooooost had it: A social-life-obliterating series of Friday rehearsals.

Stupid people and their stupid relationships.

Over the years, I’ve seen more good improvisers lost to spouses and kids and…and lives. It’s heartbreaking, really. So it’s no surprise the majority of the improv universe is run by four categories of people:
  • Improvisers who’ve never been married
  • Improvisers whose spouses are OK, really, with them spending a lot of nights out
  • Improvisers married to or sleeping with other improvisers
  • Divorced improvisers

The first question friends who haven’t seen me in a while ask: “So, are you doing any of that improv stuff these days?” After I answer, they invariably say, “How do you
do all that?”

Easy. No husband. No kids. (And honestly, I can’t remember the last time I went out on more than one date with a guy who wasn’t an improviser. So…yeah.)

So why bring this up? Because I think it has a lot to do with why small-market improv troupes never get as good as Chicago/NY/LA groups. In those cities, there are plenty of people who either want to—or actually do—make their livings performing and teaching. They arrange their lives around improv.

Here, we fit improv into our lives. Which means a weekly rehearsal feels like a lot. And monthly shows are the average. And many casts are comprised in large part of people with five or fewer years’ experience, while the most experienced improvisers ultimately play the fewest shows.

Because of this, we don’t have a community of elders who teach the classes you
have to take and perform the shows where everyone goes to see how it’s done. We don’t have the TJs and Daves, the Susan Messings, the Beer Shark Mice of the world.

It’s not just about talent. It’s about life choices.

Maybe I'll put out a want-ad for the perfect troupe. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Two groups, two shows, one goal

Nikki, Megan and I met tonight to talk about Spite's set for the March Improv Thunderdome. 


We threw out a bunch of ideas, riffed on the ones that hit us, agreed on what we're shooting for, and came up with two formats to try when we start rehearsing. Loaded Dice threw down the funny when they won round one, so we have the advantage of seeing what worked for them. Expect to see a fearless, fast-paced set. 

Right after that, I met with Drew and Clay to talk about the Scriptease set for February's Thunderdome. I'm coaching, not directing—my job is to help them get to their vision. Their piece will be very different from anything anyone else is doing—and take fabulous advantage of their strengths as performers. The guys left tonight with homework. One hint: It will be epic.

Planning a set is incredibly fun. Some experiences that shaped how I go about it:
  • Dan Izzo built a show that was called The Izzo or The 1220 (look at them side by side to see how we got there) or the Big Gay Thing, depending on who and when you asked. After rehearsing with Funny Outfit a few nights, he created a 90-minute show that 1) took advantage of our strengths as a troupe and as individuals, 2) blocked out weaknesses and 3) introduced techniques and cues in the first half that we could pull out in more abstract ways in the second half. 
  • Funny Outfit built a long-form we called Director's Cut around our favorite game—a movie critics/panel thing. It was stone soup—someone would say, "let's try this," and someone else would say, "OH! That makes me think of this." We ended up with a piece that was totally collaborative and fun to play because we all loved pieces of it. 
  • Lighten Up's musical happened purely by accident. We were having a blast playing the short-form game "3-minute musical," but there were two problems: 1) It kept running 15-20 minutes, and 2) We needed to save the rehearsal time to work on a long-form for the second half of our show. I was complaining about both of those things when the cast said, "OR we could just make the musical into the long-form for our second half." And when we did, our theater turned a corner. 
  • Every year, we build Exit 16's first few shows around games that teach them improv skills. They end up doing a scenic montage of some sort because it lets us focus on scenework instead of learning games. And whatever improv workshop I've done over the summer shapes the montage. 
Blah-di-blah-blah. Improv is fun.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

It really does feel like something.

At the Kansas Thespian Conference this weekend, there were three different instructors (including me) teaching improv classes. Rubber Chicken Factory, a long-time participant, teaches games. Someone else did a session on starting a troupe at your school.

Of the kids in my classes, a huge percentage were in troupes at their schools—or wanting to start one. They were super-disciplined (I think maybe once in 5 classes I had to say, “Hey! Focus!”), took huge risks and in general did a fabulous job. Every year I’ve gone, the number of kids in high school improv troupes goes up. And besides forensics and the occasional conference improv competition, there’s nowhere for them to show off for each other. 

City 3 has talked about doing a high school league—and a couple of folks have discussed doing regional groups on their own—and there’s no better time. But that takes a lot of work. And planning. And staffing. And venues. And things like insurance and the safety and butt-covering things you need when you’re going to put yourself in charge of a bunch of teenagers. In the meantime, here are a just few ideas for things local improvisers could do to get high school kids engaged in the community: 

  • Volunteer to coach a high school improv troupe. Pick one, and do it for free. It’s a great way to hone your teaching and directing skills, you’ll get to know some amazing people, and it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. You can decide how much you can do: once a month? once a week? once a semester? Call your old high school (or ask me for some names) and say, “Hey? Want help?”
  • Design and teach classes targeted at students. Maybe it’s a week-long intensive during the summer. Or weekends a few weeks in a row. Or just a three-hour class once a month. Make it affordable, promote it to drama and forensics teachers, and go.
  • Work with a teacher or school district to do a fundraiser for the school, an issue or the community. Maybe you pull all the troupes in a district together, put a coach with each group, work out for a few weekends, then put up a show to benefit a cause the kids dig. 
So that’s the next generation. It was also a blast to see a bunch of improvisers at Pete and Megan’s last performance with Monkeys With Hand Grenades—which turns out to be the last Monkeys for a while. It was an incredibly fun show—great energy, fun scenes, big risks, and a ginormous house. 

Post show, there was lots of talk about the next Thunderdome. We sat with Nathan and Joe, and I can’t wait to see what the Babelfish guys are coming up with. They promised banter…whee! Megan and Nikki and I will meet for the first time Wednesday to talk about Spite’s format. And right after that I’ll get together with the Scriptease guys to see what they want to do. They’re going to rehearse their butts off, and I know Clay, Rene and Drew will come up with something A. W. E. Some. 

Friday, January 18, 2008

Live from Wichita

Sweet crackers, I'd forgotten how much I love doing this. I had 30+ kids in my first session this morning, which is a perfect number.

We worked on character stuff...which meant walking around and playing with buckets and animal spines and status and body tension and VELOCIRAPTOR oh my yes. LOW STATUS VELOCIRAPTOR!

Comedy gold, people. 

If I have 30 in the next class, and get half from each for scenework, and then half of those for long-form, that should put me at a fabulous number to zing through an opening, edits and time dashes. Really, really fast. 

Last night, all I could think was "Driving! To Wichita! Sleepy!" Today, all I can think is, "Ding dang, y'all...these kids rock."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Teaching improv to the masses

So every year since—well, it's been a long time—I've gone to the Kansas State Thespian Conference to teach improv to dozens and dozens and dozens of high school theater kids.

It's exhausting.

As it turns out, most of the drama kids who show up for improv classes are doing it because it's fun. It's almost impossible to tell if it's the high-end fun, like "improv makes me feel great and alive and full of joy," or the lesser fun, like "this is a blow-off class and we're just going to mess around." The state board gives the kids tickets that limit the number of improv classes they can take, and's hard to tell if it's because improv is so awesome the other classes don't have a chance, or because they don't want their kids to waste the whole weekend playing rehearsal games.

Maybe it's a little of both. 

Anyway, I've managed to exempt my classes from the ticket system by teaching levels. Level 1: character work, level 2: scene work and level 3: long-form. I'll teach each of the first two twice and the long-form class once. (Max, the teacher who got me into this whole thing, has been amazing about letting me change up the classes as the years have gone by. There are also more people teaching improv, so I've been able to get more specific about what I'm teaching.)

The question: Have I sucked out all the fun? (Look! The word "work" is in both of the first two classes.) It's easy to see what's popular: Warm-up and guessing games. (Heck, the Exit 16 kids I'm so snotty about would play Red Light/Green Light and Hug-Tag for 90 minutes if I'd let them.) Kids want to be funny. Kids want to crack their friends up. I get 60 kids in a room, all hoping I'll give them a chance to laugh for 90 minutes straight.

So trust me when I say I've second-guessed my improv snob approach to teaching. 

I could have 60 kids in every class all weekend long. Instead, I'll get 40 in the first round...20 in the second...and maaaaaybe a dozen by level 3. I could help 300 kids do a slightly better job of playing Beastie Rap or Party Quirks. Instead, I'm hoping that 12 kids will play every game better and push themselves harder because they know how good it feels to do a killer scene. 

We'll see how this goes. 

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Third in a series: Teachers

Back to my list of demands.

But first, a follow up on Improv Thunderdome. Let me just say “Dah. Yum.”

Every single seat was full. (OK, except the one behind the pole.) The teams were pumped. Jared and Ed’s energy was great—and they kept the show right on the edge of out-of-control until the very end. All three teams did well—but Loaded Dice was the inarguable winner.

Their set was tight and the form was built on their strengths. They cut playfully and aggressively, took care of each other at every step and didn’t let anything slip. To use words I learned from Jill Bernard, they “listened like thieves.” Every line, every cutaway, every reaction fed their characters and relationships. They didn’t miss a beat.

Yeah. Spite needs to start rehearsing. Like, now.

So on to teachers. I believe the teacher’s role is to improve your practice of the art of improvisation. Whether the class focuses on basic skills, opening your eyes to new techniques or helping you grow as a performer, teachers are there to make your work stronger.

Here’s what I hope for when I sign up for a class…except…wait. I think you take worshops (one-shots) and classes (extended sessions) for different reasons:

Introductory/teaser workshops: The big training centers have specific philosophies—e.g. (to oversimplify) say “yes, and” (iO), take care of yourself first (Annoyance), make your partner look good (Second City). When instructors from these centers teach three-hour sessions at festivals (sometimes called Master Classes), the goal is often to communicate the philosophy. You don’t get a ton of stage time—the exercises are designed expose students to different ways of approaching the work. These are great for beginners, or when you’re new to a theory.

Technique workshops: These are the toolbox sessions—you might go to learn BassProv’s Power Improv or Jill Bernard’s VAPAPO. You’ll probably get more feedback on how you’re executing the technique than on your personal performance skills or style. These are the most common workshops taught at festivals, and they’re great for every level of improviser.

Classes/intensive workshops: At more advanced levels, after the teacher has gotten to know you or in workshops designed for personal feedback, you’ll get critiques of your work. The director might point out your habits or crutches. You’ll get specific tools and tricks based on your individual needs. They’re most helpful when you’ve been playing for a while; until you’re familiar with basic techniques and comfortable with improv principles, personal feedback won’t do much good.

That’s my experience, anyway.

NOW here’s what I love in a teacher:
  • Flexibility: Teach from a flow chart, not a list. Be ready to adapt to what the class needs in the moment. 
  • Honesty: It isn’t Sunday school—you don’t have to tell me my finger painting is pretty. I’m there to learn.
  • Solutions: If an important point isn’t getting through, come at it from a different direction. 
  • Confidence: Be in charge. Keep things moving. Know you have something to offer, and believe in what you’re saying. (Also: If the class has one of those annoying students who wants to talk as much as the instructor, shut him or her down.)
  • Excitement: Love the work. Love teaching. Love the students. Leave your bitter, burned out, cynical self at home.
And here’s what makes me feel like I wasted my money:
  • More talking about the work than doing the work. This happens when the instructor loves to hear him- or herself talk…and in partner- or group-taught workshops where every instructor wants to weigh in on every scene…and when the instructor is trying to solve too many problems at the same time. 
  • “You know what would have been funny?” Nothing makes me want to carve my eye out with a spork more than an instructor who tells me what he would have done in the scene I just finished. I say “he” because I’ve never had a female instructor do this. It’s usually young, overconfident guys who want to make sure their students know they’re funny. OK—I believe you. Now shut the hell up. 
  • Too-full classes. Unless it’s a Master Class, you’re not going to get any kind of productive stage time in a three-hour workshop with 30 people in it. 
  • Overpromising and underdelivering. If you say it’s an advanced class, don’t just teach basics. If you say there will be personal feedback, make sure students get time to not only show where they are, but try the new tricks you teach them. If you promise breakthrough techniques, don't teach exercises I've done a gazillion times.
La la la. 

Did I mention Thunderdome kicked ass? It did.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Marketing gold: A good idea

As anyone who’s put up a show will tell you, all the marketing in the world won’t get butts in the seats if there’s no demand. And nothing creates demand like a good, new idea.

Jared and Ed have one with Improv Thunderdome. They’ve started with the genius idea behind Cage Match and other cities’ improv throwdowns: Have troupes compete, and encourage them to stack the house with friends who will vote for them.

But just as important, they’ve created a personality behind it, and that’s a big reason behind the buzz. Jared is a great concept guy—an idea man, Chuck—and his energy is infectious. Ed will be perfect as the announcer—big, loud, in-your-face. Clay has boasted, belittled and goaded other teams into playful smack talk.

And because Jared loves improv and is supportive of the community, groups from all over KC are invited. And excited.

Improv Thunderdome is the first new thing in KC improv for a really long time. A new troupe is just another bunch of players. New games and forms are just different takes on making things up. They’re both great, but outside of our community (and performers’ families and friends), it’s not news.

Jared and Ed are putting on an event. The Pitch, The Star, Channel 9 and others are covering it.

That’s really cool.

Also: Vote for Spite on March 15!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Second in the series: COACHES

Tonight, I’m supposed to be working on a freelance project. So once again, the blog comes to the rescue.

So, to avoid real, responsible writing, here’s what I would expect from a coach. A couple of disclaimers:
—This one’s a little tougher, because we don’t work with coaches much in KC. So this is really more of a wish list than a list of demands.
—There is a little crossover with directors—but coaches have less responsibility for the content of the show, the cast and the creative environment. They’re there to make things better for a piece—not turn a troupe into something it’s not.

For context, here’s what I believe to be true about coaches: They focus on ensemble work—they’re all about process. They come in at the request of a troupe to work on specific elements, like teamwork or character-building, or to polish a show the troupe has created.

So here’s what I would expect from a coach:
—Collaboration with the troupe to set expectations. The group should know what they’ll get for their money, and the coach show know what she’s willing to do. Has the coach seen them play? Is he coming in with a clear idea of what the troupe can do, or will he need to take some time to figure out what’s up? Will she just be watching and giving notes, or coming up with exercises to get the troupe past problems? Will he attend a show and give notes? How many sessions or shows will she attend?
—Insightful diagnosis. It’s not just enough to say, “This is good. That’s bad,” and put the troupe through a boilerplate set of exercises. A good coach should be able to get at the reasons behind success or failure. Is it about individual performance? Group dynamics? Grasp of technique? Awareness of principles?
—A big toolbox. Because players respond differently to exercises, the best coaches know a bunch of different ways to solve a problem. Coaches don’t teach from a syllabus—they follow a flow chart (and sometimes figure things out on the fly).
—Clear, straightforward, honest feedback. Don’t blow smoke. The nicest thing about being a coach is that you don’t have to live with the group or the directors. So don’t pull punches.

What I would be against, probably:
—Agendas. A coach is there to help the troupe or director accomplish their goal—not put his or her stamp on the troupe. Unless, of course, that’s what they’re being asked to do (for example: the troupe knows their long form isn’t working, and they need the coach to make some recommendations).

See? Less responsibility…fewer expectations.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

First in the series: DIRECTORS

Random thought: Wow. I had not realized the potential of a blog for aiding in procrastination. This rocks.

In an effort to satisfy my readership (both of you), I’m combining “what an improviser needs” with “what an improviser doesn’t need.”

[Note: I should point out, maybe, that I didn't form any of these opinions based on my experience with any one director. I've worked with quite a few...from professionally trained, nationally recognized improvisers to local folks directing their first shows. Plus, I've violated my own rules countless times. Just sayin'.]

For context, here’s what I believe to be true about directors: Their job is to focus on results—they’re responsible for the product. They might envision and create theaters, shows or troupes; it’s on them to put the elements in place to create something successful.

So here’s what I expect from a director:
A clear (and clearly articulated) vision of the show, theater or troupe. What makes it different? Why is it cool? What are we trying to accomplish?
Leadership. Give me the tools, information and direction I need to help you realize your vision. Be specific. Be decisive. Inspire me.
Responsibility. Want the director title? Then it's your job to figure out and then give the cast what we need to be successful. It's a lot of work, but that's why you fulfillment and satisfaction and resume fodder.
—A creative environment. Want a good product? Make it a good place for us to create. Use rehearsal time efficiently. Know when we need intensity and when it’s time to lighten things up. Notice what’s getting in the way—whether it’s as easy to deal with as a lack of focus or as difficult as a cast member who doesn’t fit—and fix it.
—Direction. (Dur.) Know what you want and plan how you’ll get there. Come to rehearsals with an idea of what you want to accomplish that night. Be flexible enough to adapt on the fly. Bring out the strengths of individual players. Be clear about when we’re exploring options and when we’re polishing techniques. And figure out how much feedback we need to get better.
—Empathy. Watch the cast. Know when we’re comfortable and when we’re anxious—and when to push us out of our comfort zones and when it’s OK to be a little anxious. If we get hung up, give us something—an exercise, a break, feedback, something new to try—to get us unstuck. Figure out what kind of warm-up we need to go into a show with the right energy.
—Objectivity. Don’t be so married to your methods that you don’t notice if things aren't going well. Reevaluate the whole package regularly to see what’s working, what needs improvement and what should just be scrapped.

What I don’t need—or to be more blunt, here’s how to make me wish I’d never committed to this freakin’ show:
Drama. If you’re stressed or frustrated or insecure or egomaniacal or any other energy-sucking negative emotion, keep it out of rehearsal. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bring it to the show.
Divided attention. Sometimes it works to direct and be in a show. Most of the time it doesn’t. The biggest issue is that you can’t give objective feedback about the work—and you end up putting performers in the position of critiquing their scene partners, which is horrible for building trust.
Navel-gazing. Learning improv is experiential. If your discussion of the scene is longer than the scene, we’re not getting better. We need to get up and do it until we get it right. And dear sweet pappy, don’t talk for more than 10 minutes at the top of rehearsal.
Production stress. At this point, most KC directors are also producers. Unless there’s some sort of agreement about division of labor up front, the following are your jobs, not ours: Scheduling rehearsals, finding rehearsal space, promoting the show, communicating about what’s going on, staffing the box office and tech booth, setting call times, warming up the cast and giving notes.
Half-assed preparation. Think through your format. Figure out what to change it if it never, ever, ever goes well in rehearsal. Rehearse the tools and techniques we’ll need to do a great show. Give me enough rehearsal to be comfortable with what we’re doing.

So…what did I miss?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What an improviser needs

One of the advantages improvisers have in bigger cities is a larger pool of mentors—more teachers, coaches and directors to shape the way they play.

The exciting thing happening lately in KC is that, as more troupes form and shows go up, more people are stepping into those roles. Right now, the teacher/coach/director jobs tend to roll into one, bossy Person In Charge. In an ideal world, there are subtleties in the different descriptions:

TEACHERS focus on individual players—they’re all about practice. Whether the class focuses on basic skills, opening your eyes to new techniques or helping you grow as a performer, they’re there to make your work stronger.

COACHES focus on ensemble work—they’re all about process. They come in at the request of a troupe to work on specific elements, like teamwork or character-building, or to polish a show the troupe has created.

DIRECTORS focus on results—they’re all about product. They might envision and create theaters, shows or troupes; it’s their responsibility to put the elements in place to create something successful.

There’s a fourth role: Player. And when I’m in that mode, I count on the teacher, coach or director to meet my needs. In situations where I am not The Bossy One, I’m either incredibly relaxed or so frustrated I’m certain everyone in the room can smell it on me. Usually, it's because the person in charge doesn't understand what players need from them. I have really, really specific ideas of what I expect from each—and I suspect every improviser does.

So there we go. Fodder for the next three posts.