Improv VII: Matter over mind

Scene work, and more scene work.

After a quick warm-up chant game, we got right down to scene work. Kimmy simply divided us into two groups, had one group line up on stage, and yelled scene. Two people then had to immediately jump out, and start a scene, any damn thing.

It was hard – the most difficult game I’ve had yet. I simply had no idea what to say/do when I jumped out. I tried to be as innocuous as possible and melt into the background as pairs after pairs jumped out and seemingly effortlessly launched into the most random characters or set up the oddest scenes. Of course, in the end, I couldn’t escape my turn. My first scene, Dan pretended that he was my supervisor and wanted to see my report. I handed him my TPS Report, and then had a light banter about it. He commended me on an outstanding report, and then asked me to read the first sentence, whereupon I said, “I hereby ask for a raise of $5,000.” When I next jumped out, I was with Collette, and I pretty much let her control the entire scene while I dumbly followed along. I didn’t even realize that I hadn’t tried to help her set the scene until I’d gotten off stage. I need to be more supportive. We pretended to listen to a new CD that she liked, and danced to the music.

After the next group came on, Kimmy gave us some pointers: Use more gestures, body movements, to set up an environment; follow the “yes and” rule, don’t contradict your partner too much; don’t think, just do it.

She then made us go through the exercise all over again. Only this time she progressively shortened the duration of each scene, from 30 seconds to 15, then to 5. I had to consciously loosen up, and force myself to jump out even when I had nothing in mind to perform. One time, I leapt onto stage and started miming a sushing motion, but Bridget came on at the same time and was doing some kind of robotic dance. So we started to follow each other’s motions until we were in synch – we’d do the robotic motions and then sush each other, repeat. It was pretty cool how we were able to turn that around into some kind of routine. In another scene, I paired up with Chris, who came up to me and mimed handing me a single stalk of flower. At first, I thought he was passing me a sword, so I seized it tightly with both hands. Only realized what he had meant when he said, “here’s a flower for you.” Grasping at straws, I blurted out, “Oh thank you, are you going to break up with me now? You gave me a carnation. Isn’t that a funeral flower? Why are you leaving me?” Erm, I have no idea what carnations are for actually, for mothers’ day??? I think that scene worked, though I have to practice developing a character and not be myself.

Then Kimmy made us go onto stage in random pairs do perform more scenes. The variation this time was first that we could only contradict each other, and then we could only ask questions. She really wanted to drive home the point on how important it is to accept whatever your partner has set up/said, if only to keep the scene moving forward. It was a really effective exercise. Lauren and I tried to set up a scene in the first exercise – she asked me if I wanted to go to a party but I said no, how about a hot tub instead. And then we basically spent the rest of the scene arguing about the existence of a hot tub. Heh. In the second exercise, I paired up with Collette again, and we literally kept bouncing the same questions back and forth – why me? Do you have a low self-esteem? Why do you think so? Do you think so? Why, do you? You get the picture.

A quick break, then it was back to more theme work. Only this time, we played the “Comma” game. Kimmy would give us a scene, whereupon we’d play it out. She’d interrupt us occasionally, yelling “Comma” in the midst of one of our sentences, and then we’d have to work on building that sentence, bring it up to another emotive level. For instance, if someone said, “I’m sad,” she could interrupt and yell “comma!” The person would then have to build on that sadness, elaborate some more, until she stopped with the “commas.” – “I’m sad,” comma, “I’m so sad I want to cry,” comma, “I’m so despondent I want to just sit still and eat my ice cream,” comma, “I’m so depressed I just want to slit my wrists and sit in my pool of blood.”

That was a really, really cool game. Everyone agreed that it was the funniest game we’ve played so far. Because you never knew when Kimmy would yell the commas, nor when she would stop, you really had no time to think and had to just go with the flow. So while your first sentence might have been prepared (or at least slightly anticipated), after a few of the commas, you simply blurted out the first thing that came into your head. And oftentimes they were the most random things you could think of. My first scene was with Bridget, and we pretended to be burglars robbing our office building. Somehow, we ended up in my boss’s office, and then the janitor’s closet, where we found a magical flying broomstick (yes, yes, a legacy from my Harry Potter days I know – I can never look at a broom the same way again… ;)). My second scene was with Brad, where we acted as electricians who thought it really hot and sexy to elecrocute ourselves and watch pee run down our legs.

I had a ton of fun the second half of the class. I found my concentration and was more or less able to tune out the rest of the class, which made it a lot less stressful. I do need to work on characterization though, and object work. I still get very flustered when I’m trying to mime objects, and I don’t think I give enough panache to my characters. On the other hand, I think perhaps I could also be less critical of myself and not try to analyze all my actions. I’m always uncomfortable when people come up to me and tell me that I was hilarious, as Jade did tonight. I never know what/how to reply graciously, and always manage to go into self-doubt mode, like really? But I didn’t think so!

In any case, it’s been a really great run. It’s funny how I still get the jitters every time class begins, and it’s not till the last minutes that I relax enough to feel sorry that another class has come to an end. It’ll be our final A Level lesson next week.

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