Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Pent-up funny.

The Exit 16 kids are going nuts.

Their last show was the
alumni show in December—and in that one, they shared stage-time with a dozen and a half other players. We called the show in January because of snow, cancelled February because we’d just gotten back from Chicago and weren’t able to reschedule…so their next show isn’t until March 25. Three months with no shows.

And since the trip to
Chicago, they’ve been dying to get on stage.

It feels like we’ve focused on scenework almost exclusively for a while, so we’ve spent the last couple of rehearsals hitting games again. It’s fun to watch them use their new know-how on stuff we’ve been doing almost all year. Sometimes, you can almost hear the click as they figure out how to apply a new skill to the scene. If it doesn’t happen on it’s own, it’s easy to poke at them by reminding them something Susan or Mark said.

Some particularly fun moments:
  • They played Audience Nightmare, using the day our faculty sponsor's wife had their baby. When it was time to have the baby, A. put her feet up like they were in stirrups; M. pushed her feet together, saying, “Honey, it’s a C-section.” And repeated it when C. came in as a doctor and pulled her feet apart again. They noticed patterns—at the hospital, they moved them from one room to another, including two hours of doing nothing in the "room where you get ready to get ready." They heightened like crazy, finding smart details—like an epidural needle the size of a machine gun—and you could tell they learned something from the iO Harold show we saw.
  • In Blind Dubbing, we were having trouble finding the counterpoint between the physical work on stage and verbal work off stage—so I asked the on-stage kids to make bold, goofy choices. L. and I. were rock climbing—L. pulled a banana out of her pack and ate it. Susan had talked to us about finding something fun, so I sidecoached, “Maybe you’re someone who eats when she’s nervous.” She pulled out an apple…then a jar, a knife and bread to make a sandwich…then opened an oven in the side of the mountain, and pulled out cookie sheet…just kept finding more to entertain herself. We could have watched it all day.
  • They also played a hilarious scene about washing a car, during which we used Miles Stroth's technique (from an Exit 16 workshop years ago) of mapping a conversation about one thing to the activity of another. It was was starting to take a turn for the inappropriate, so I switched them from the direct conversation to something more metaphorical. It still wasn’t a scene I’d want them to put in one of their shows at the school, but knowing that it’s funnier to be smart and coy than dirty and blatant was a good lesson.
We’ve hit the part of the year where they’re equals. The new kids aren’t new anymore…they’ve studied with three amazing instructors (Jill Bernard, Susan Messing and Mark Sutton)…and they’ve done some serious bonding. Getting them focused can be a nightmare (“LOOK! SHINY! SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE! SHUT UP!”), but when they play, they’re pros.


  1. Although I should probably mention that if I'd let them, they'd play Sardines and Red Light/Green Light for three hours straight. And we stopped playing Schwing-Bop because all they want to do is "Monorail" over and over and over.

  2. The Miles Stroth thing was from Exit 16's first Chicago trip. I remember his workshop because it was one of a few "awakening moments", where, when applying what he told me, completely changed my outlook on how I was doing scenes and improv forever. I remember an improv scene he made me do with him, because I was in this big conflict kick, where, before the scene, he told me "If you wanna fight with me, just try." It was a scene about roommates eating breakfast, and try as I might've, I could not pick a fight with him, his character was calm, and no matter what I did, he only became calmer. It made for a much more interesting scene, and taught me a lot about conflict, contrast and patience.

    I hear he's in LA now. I'd love to take a workshop with him again, though.


New rule: I'm not approving anonymous comments. If you want to sit at the grownup table, you have to sign your name.

Now c'mon. Pick a fight.