Saturday, March 22, 2008

One day. Three small scenes.

So I was just reading over what I wrote, and realized there's a theme. My day was a freaking long-form.

Aron, Jessica and I met for a little festival planning. Here's the rule this year: If you're not at the meeting, you live with the decision the people who came to the meeting made. 

That probably sounds harsher than necessary, but it's probably the single most important change in festival planning meetings this year. At the last fest, I swear we started over a gazillion times—every time the committee had a new member, we'd play catch-up so everyone knew what was up. The event took three years to plan. 

Now, I assume that if there are at least two other people there, we've got to enough to make smart choices. There are still people to run stuff by, but for the most part we're small, efficient and easy to maneuver.

First, a question: How the hell do you space off a rehearsal? I've been crazy, insanely busy, juggling like crazy to keep a dozen balls in the air, but I've never completely forgotten I'd committed to other people to work on a show. Maybe it's because even in the rare cases where they feel a little more like obligations than super-happy-fun-time, I'm still getting to improvise with people I like. I just can't wrap my head around it. 

Aaaaaaaand we're back. 

Scriptease was really fun to work with today. (I mean, they usually are. But still.) We did Miles Stroth's mapping exercises (which I'm loving a lot lately), and some object work exercises I learned from Mark Sutton. 

Another side note: After hearing Mark and Susan Messing talk about object work, I couldn't wait to try out the idea of actually caring about what I was doing. It sounds obvious, but I've pulled generic glasses out of so many fucking cabinets that I'm fully aware my environments have been obligatory for quite some time. In the Spite Thunderdome set, I had an absolute blast playing with stuff. I licked Margarita glasses to make the salt stick, tried on a too-small shirt at Urban Outfitters and got to poop in a giant purse (it really was relationship-driven and relevant to the scene—honest). It all felt really organic—like I was discovering instead of inventing. 

Anyway, it was nice to have a session with Scriptease where we just focused on scenework, and not on developing their Epic Disaster longform. We got off to a slow start—just two of the guys were there, and it felt a little awkward at first. Plus, it's still a little weird getting used to rehearsing in my guest room (although the French doors make a reasonably effective proscenium). But once they got into scenes, it got fun. Both guys said they felt like they flexed muscles they haven't used in a while.

Tonight, I headed out to see Improv-Abilities at the Roving Imp. I've been wanting to see their Love Smack show—plus, I haven't seen them play since they added new members. (It's been a ridiculously long time—my bad.) The house was tiny, but the I-A folks (John, Keith, Nathan, Joe, James, Magie and Caroline) didn't let it throw them. 

Playing to a small house is a bit of an art, I think. Obviously, the vibe in the room is different—so you have to generate and maintain the energy yourselves. If you come out with hyper-enthusiasm, it feels manufactured; on the other hand, you can't seem disappointed about the turnout. People sometimes feel awkward about laughing. Because the show can feel a little bit more intimate, I think it's a great opportunity to play smart, thoughtful scenes. The worst thing you can to is panic and get slapstick-y. 

Years and years ago, I was in Chicago on a week night and stopped by iO. I can't remember the show—it might have been an early incarnation of TJ and Dave—anyway, TJ Jagodowski was in it. The show was upstairs in the Del Close theater, and the house was small—less than a dozen. The cast came out to start, and TJ (as always) graciously thanked everyone for coming out and watching them improvise. Then he did a really smart thing: He said, "Now you know who we are. Since there aren't many of us here, let's meet you guys, too." Then we went down the row and introduced ourselves. 

I don't know if many people could pull it off. But I can tell you: We were completely on their side from that second on. We stopped feeling uncomfortable—instead, it felt like a private show, created just for us. Pretty cool.


  1. Yea, validation! Whenever the CC crowd was small enough to span the first row or so, I would come out and do the exact same thing. I got to know who these people were and made a point of remembering their names and various details about their lives. As a ref or performer, you couldn't go wrong with injecting a game explanation or scene with some detail (nothing too damning/personal obviously) about an audience member. This could be one of the reasons why CBH always had me ref very small houses.

  2. I too, tried to get the names of the people in a 10-audience-or-less show. It only takes a few minutes and doesn't really take away from the opening spiel.

    I would also mention something halfway through the show like, "These are great suggestions, but next time let's give the midgets in the back row a chance."

  3. Looking back at the whole day, it kinda seems to boil down to: "Focus on and appreciate the people who are there—don't obsess about the ones who aren't."

  4. Thanks for coming to our show and giving us suggestions. We definitely needed them. And sorry I didn't say "hi" after the show, I had to go rescue my friend from the bar next door and make sure the patrons didn't make her a mountain wife.


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