Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Photo shoots for improv troupes

The Trip Fives are doing a photo shoot tonight. Tantrum will attempt one tomorrow night...or maybe next week. And thus, we embark on one of the most frustrating things about promoting your show: The Troupe Photo. 

They come in a number of categories, and I've been in every single one. Including: 
  • The Clump: You've got more than a dozen members. Getting everyone in the frame means your face will dime-sized or smaller. 
  • The Church Youth Group: You are all wearing T-shirts. They match. Plus, you're making goofy faces. 
  • The Church Youth Group Clump: See above. 
  • The On Stage Shot: You are on stage. That is all. 
  • The Location Shot: You are not on stage. 
  • Up Against the Wall: You are standing against a wall. Typically a blank white office wall, but sometimes brick or stone or paneling.
  • The Action Shot: You are in a scene, but you're not, because you can't really get a good shot in a scene. So you set one up and freeze it.
  • The Studio Shot: You are lucky enough to be able to afford a decent photo, or you know a photographer.
Oh, and you can mix and match attitudes:
  • Say Cheese—simple and classic
  • Wacky—'cuz it's improv!
  • Super Serious—oh, the irony
  • Bad-Ass—if we weren't improvisers, we'd be a band
  • Candid—hey, is there a photographer here?
If I felt like digging through my scrapbook and scanning in photos, I could show you every permutation. I feel varying degrees of shame for many of them, depending on the troupe, the timing and the execution. (Want to have real fun? Do a google image search for "improv troupe" for a glorious trip through the good, the bad and the why-would-you-pay-to-see-these-people?)

These days, my favorites are the location shot and the studio shot with either the bad-ass or candid attitude. One of the best shots I've been in was with Straight Man: 

It took a gazillion shots to get there. But in the amateur category, at least, I think it does the job. The background is a little busy (we took it out in the poster), but the composition works, there's a defined color palette (without being too matchy-matchy) and you get a feel for the personality of the players. And I think it comes across as adult and professional.

On the other end of the spectrum, here's Exit 16:

And in their case, I wouldn't change a thing.

A photo is the quickest way to convey the vibe of a group in the media or its own promo materials. For the festival, we've given troupes some criteria for the photos they send us; at times, I was afraid we were coming across as snotty. 


But but but.

There's still a feeling out there that improvisers are something less than professionals. Theater people think we're just playing rehearsal games. Stand-ups think we're too lazy to write or memorize anything. They're judging our book by its cover. 

Luckily, the cover is completely within our control.


  1. I always liked that Straightman pic. It reminds me of a news team photo... and now your Action 9 News Team with your anchors, Steve Jones and Tracy Crowe Jones, with meteorologist Trish Berrong, sports with Tommy Todd, traffic with Bob Dusin, and your on-the-scene reporter Jared Brustad.

  2. I still think Steve looks like a gay genie ready to grant wishes.

  3. See, and I'd flip Tommy & Bob. Tommy strikes me as the Wacky Traffic guy.


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