I don’t have a lot of time today to blog for two reasons. First, I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to navigate the health care system in search of a doctor who takes my new insurance. It is one of two times I felt I had a glimpse into what life might have been like under the old Soviet bureaucracy (the other was when I went to the Prague airport to recover a suitcase that had arrived late after being lost at the Amsterdam airport. After leaving the snazzy, modern area used by actual passengers and going through an employee only door, I found myself in large cavernous, dusty room where a 100 year old man keeps a handwritten log of every bag in what was clearly 1,000 page giant book that predated human flight by as many year. I wrote keeps because I bet he’s still there…)
The second reason is that I spent a couple of hours watching the Improv Class final at ARC (American River College), a popular community college here in Sacramento. Quite a number of wonderful CSz Sacramento players started at ARC, and the improv instructor often asks me to help judge the final. So I thought I’d list some quick takeaways based on today’s final, which consisted of some each team playing two short form games before performing a Harold.
But first, good job to all the students and supporting alumni who played. There were many wonderful moments, and I liked that everyone seemed to be having a good time. It was also nice to see that improv is accessible to everyone regardless to gender, age, culture, and physical ability. And now, some takeways.
- Delight In The Absurd. At one point the emcee (CSz Sacramento player extraordinaire and ARC alum Kameron Schmid) asked for an unusual activity to go with the location of freeway. I offered Easter Egg hunt. The crowd reacted with a mixture of shock and concern, as if the players would struggle with such an absurd combination. Later when I offered hydroelectric dam as an object for Dating Game, a concerned audience member tried to over ride my suggestion by yelling How about a wig instead? Now, keep in mind that I was not trying to give these performers tough suggestions. I was trying to give them fun suggestions (and also keep in mind that I waited for otherwise dead audience times to yell out my choices). And in both cases, the scenes and games turned out to be a lot of fun. As some one once suggested: You can do improv about whatever you want. But it’s probably going to be more fun for you and the audience when you do improv about things that happen seldom or never in a lifetime.
- Obvious Can Be Funny. Creating a fun character or delivering a line a certain way can transform an otherwise simple or confirming offer into gold. Yes, the ski lift does go to the top…
- Watch The So’s. So is an overused, infectious, and often unneeded word that can become annoying repetitive when over injected into story based monologues. Explore different ways to starts and advance stories.
- Inspiration vs. Reenactment. Again, performers are free to choose their Art, e.g., what a scene is about. But I believe that monologue based long form is more fun for everyone when the performers utilize monologues for inspiration rather than merely reenacting the stories told by the monologists. For one, the audience has already heard the story; seeing it acted out doesn’t add much. But applying elements of the stories to new and different situations often delights the audience and challenges the performers.
Anyway, thanks to Pam Downs, ARC, and today’s performers for a fun time.