Friday, January 30, 2009


This week has been a little nutty. I headed out of town for 2 1/2 days for more focus groups so things feel a little out of whack.

The Exit 16 kids had their first show of the new year on Tuesday. We played at another school because the drama department is building a set on the stage at the high school, and the light/sound setup is always a crap-shoot. We ended up with a mic (for me) and CD capability, but no control over the lights—when meant I had to end all the scenes with music cues. It was fine, but lacked the energy and finality of a blackout.

It's funny. The Liberty School system has gorgeous facilities and incredible teacher/directors. Their Fine Arts program is top-quality—so is their Forensics/Debate program. I'm the beneficiary of the training my players have been getting for years; all I have to worry about is the improv. Kids come to auditions with confidence, presence, acting and thinking skills...because of the programs in place at the Liberty Schools, they've got almost everything they need to succeed as improvisers.

I wonder what the other teachers think of our little program? It's been going strong for 11 1/2 years now, and I honestly have no idea how many of the other teachers have seen a show. When we show up for performances, we're usually missing either light or sound hook-ups, which makes me wonder if they just think we don't need them. So many high school improv troupes play it casual—no tech, no lights, no sound—that it wouldn't be unreasonable for them to just assume we do the same thing. I think lots of people would be surprised by how professionally these kids play, and how tightly the shows are run.

The first show of the second semester (term, whatever the kids are calling it these days) is also the first one they plan—the set list, the casting and host choices are all up to them. Laura and Tim put together a nice show—great energy, good flow, reasonably even stage time and a nice mix of pushing people and playing to their strengths.

But here's the funny thing that happened: Based on the work we've been doing the last two weeks—and at their request—I gave the kids a good-sized pile of paper strips with character triggers. They could keep a few in their pockets or draw one before entering a scene. The triggers were everything from "sparrow spine" to "REALLY interested" to "don't make eye contact" to "pause for 5 seconds before saying your line."

The set list, however, really didn't have that many straight scene games. So they didn't get to use the triggers. The work they've been doing carried over in their character work and playfulness—one kid, especially, had a breakthrough night—but they didn't get to fully use what they've learned. Several of them noticed it.

And it'll affect the way they put the next show together.

Which kicks ass.

My calendar's about where I want it. It's going to feel great to have John's class on Saturdays and almost weekly rehearsals, between Tantrum and Spite/Loaded Dice. I'll have 2-3 set shows a month for the next three months, at least. John Robison, after I told him I was jonesing a little, asked me to sit in with Red Rubber Ball tomorrow night—and I can't flipping wait. In other words...I actually feel like a real improviser again.

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