Improv B VI

Unrelated to the title – but I learnt yesterday that you don’t have to go climbing to get a good arm workout. You don’t even have to lift weights at the gym either. Just go buy bedsheets (600 thread count, on 70% discount, thank you very much!), pillows and comforters. They need not be heavy, just bulky, and way too big for you to hold your arms straight at your sides. It was brutal lugging it back to my apartment; I worked up quite a sweat doing so. My arms still felt shaky a full hour after the trek, and are incredibly sore today. It was interesting also, to note that none of the better dressed Chicagoans offered a hand, but two bums did.


I didn’t post an entry about last week’s improv class (Improv B V), due to my anxiety over my car breakdown. Well, due in part. It wasn’t one of my best classes too. My lines were flat and jokes, if I managed any, were pretty sorry. We did a lot of scene work that class, and played some heightening games – e.g. one game was called “That’s important!” During a scene (in which the audience picks the setting and the relationship), audience members can randomly yell out, “That’s important” to anything they want the improvisers to elaborate on. One of the more memorable game that class was a different take on the game “Broken Telephone”. In the standard game, people were supposed to pass on a whispered message and try to keep the gist of it, if not the message itself in its entirety. In this game however, we had to pass on a perfectly ordinary/boring story, deliberately embellishing it as we did so. Somehow my boring recount of a bike ride along the lake after work turned into an odyssey with encounters with the famed lochness monster. Another story of falling asleep on one’s arm turned into a nightmare involving fighting in the second world war (as evident from the old-style helmets) in which one’s arm was blown away, only to be saved by Darth Vader in a UFO spaceship.

Yesterday, I went for Improv B VI, despite feeling kind of blah about it after what seemed like a long and bad day at work. In the end, I’m glad I went though – it was one of our best classes ever. Not only was the energy level really high, but everyone seemed to be operating in full improv mode – all the impersonations/characters were spot on, and the skits were side-splittingly hilarious. 😀

After the usual ball toss warm up (we used a new rubber ball this time, because I um punctured the last one playing with it the previous class), we divided into pairs to work on dialogues (The theme for that class was “Dialogue Rules!”) First we worked on negativity and explored how it kept the scene static – I paired up with Oliver on this one and I pretended to be a car salesman. He rejected all my suggestions on the make, color, and sizes of the cars. Urgh. Then we turned the scene around, and worked on positive emotions – this time, we  found that we could quickly agree on the make of the car, and started enthusing about all things Prius.

We then switched partners and explored the use of time and space in dialogue. I paired with Rob and we pretended to be pilot trainees talking about a shared past experience – days of drinking while trying to pass, for the nth time, our flight exams. Then we did another scene where we focused on talking about the future. After that, we did a scene focusing on the present. It really drove home the point how much stronger the scene was when we focused on the present because we could more easily/naturally incorporate object work. It was a pretty fun scene – somehow talk on pilot training diverted to Rob’s AA experiences, how he had to seek help to stay sober and finally pass his pilot test.

We switched partners again. Santi and I explored the mix of dialogue and object work, and how much more interesting the scene could be if we did not focus our conversation topic on the object work itself. Pretending to be office workers, we focused our conversation in the first scene entirely on the reports we were working on at that moment. I guess you could only gripe so much about how boring accounting is, before it starts to get boring? In the next scene, we kept to the same relationship and environment, but this time talked of things outside of work – about what we did over the weekend, which turned into goals and resolutions for the year, which turned into drinking habits.

In the last switch, I paired with Brad and we examined the use of emotions in scene work. I pretended to be an analyst covering his company (which is actually the case in real life!). In the first scene, we pretended to both be really blah about our jobs and how we related to each other. “So you did this? Ohhhhkaaay.” “Yahhhhhhhh. So.” In the next scene, we pretended to be super-duper upbeat and was pretty soon yelling and affirming everything and anything. While the second scene was definitely a lot more electric and energetic, Judy was quick to assuage us that indifference could work well in a scene too. She raised the example of an old Second City play, where a married couple is seemingly depressed about their 50th wedding anniversary.

Next, we played a Questions standoff game. We broke into two lines, with the front two people firing questions after questions at one another. You could only respond with a question, and if you were slower, you got booted to the back of the line. While most people managed to shoot off only a couple questions before they were stumped and had to go to the back of the line (I got in maybe 8? Hehe), Rob and Maddy blew all competition away. They had such a blast trading slurs at one another, and could seemingly go on forever with their insults until Judy, after managing to control her laughter, cut them off.

And then it was break time already. Haha, I was having too much fun howling with laughter to realize how quickly time had flown by.

After the break, we played an reiteration game: Two people goes onto the stage, and someone starts a dialogue. The other person has to repeat the second part of the first person’s sentence before adding his/her own line. Rob and Kathy started off the game. They were at the farmers’ market and had a pretty funny exchange about eating pears and not wanting to pay for it. This was a pretty strong game – I liked that we were afforded an extra couple seconds to think by having to repeat what the other person said. And it was helpful too, since it forced us to listen closely to what the other person was saying – I have a really bad habit of spacing out mid-conversation. At the same time, it was an easy way to keep the conversation flowing and even giving it a different tone. E.g. Person A, excitedly: “I’m going to the zoo!” Person B, incredulously, “You’re going to the zoo??” Some other scenes: Bridget and I were at the aquarium, Oliver and Maddy in a confessional booth, Erin and Brad in a motel room (Brad, “Let’s have monkey sex!”). I really liked this game – I think I’ll use this the next time I’m in a stump on what to say; just keep on repeating. 😀

Our last game of the night was a blast. It was another improv game (of course), but this time, we could choose our own environment and relationship. The audience had then to guess the environment without our explicitly stating it (i.e. “We are in the library now, and we are going to find this book.”) Some fun scenes: Lauren and Dan on a motorbike – Lauren, yelling into Dan’s ear over the roar of the wind: “I don’t want to go see your mother! I’ve been meaning to talk to you, I don’t feel close to you anymore!” Dan, yelling back while steering precariously: “Well lean closer!” Chris and Rob as signallers – Chris: “Can I tell you something private?” Rob, shouting over the engines of the planes: “Tim, can you hear me? His headphones are on, go ahead, tell me!” And then they start to yell out Chris’s embarassing secret. Oliver and Kathy as teacher and kindergartner talking about Kathy’s huge dog and her Nazi mother. Bridget and Vanessa in Starbucks, with Vanessa as the irate customer who has to tell Bridget exactly what to do. Erin and Brad on a roller coaster, smoking a bong. I paired up with Santi, and we were cave explorers. I started the scene yelling, “Fucking A Sam! I don’t know why you made me do this. Fuck. Argh, I said I wasn’t going to swear for Lent, now look what you made me do!” Heh, I got away with the swearing, even though Judy had discouraged us from it. Has to do with the innocent looks you know? Anyway, it was a fun scene, and Santi was wonderful. Me: “Do you know where we are going?” Santi, crawling through a hole, “There’s only one line! Did I tell you I was afraid of snakes?”


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