bigmog: (moogle mog)
A few weeks back, I went to see a show at the improv theater as part of a date. The manager recognized me from when I took a beginner class there 1 year ago. That little greeting was enough to push me to enroll for level 2.

I felt the first course was sub-par due in part to an inexperienced teacher. My concerns were logged as feedback but I heard nothing more. Well in this case at least, the level 2 course is taught by the owner of the theater. He's exceptionally knowledgeable about all things improv with decades of practice in elite company. I feel quite honored to be learning from him. So much so that I plan to bring a notebook from now on (most students aren't so serious. There are no tests or failures to worry about.)

The course is all about making characters and I'm enjoying it already. Again my biggest challenge is to NOT think about it. My brain goes into overdrive as I struggle to be funny and this is the worst thing I can do. Improv that is planned is not improv. I should start volunteering right away in each exercise to keep myself from falling into this trap.
bigmog: (moogle mog)
Here's an update to the improv acting classes that I started 3 weeks ago. I came to a sort of revelation today that I want to explain.

Now, improv acting might not seem like a proper format for character development. There's no plot because everything it just made up as you go. Still, I've seen people take their characters and transform them in just a few minutes. For example, two people that start out a scene as adversaries can be friends at the end. There's no need for any coherent story for it. If they end the scene the same as they started, it's almost a disappointment. I want to see a difference between the beginning and the ending.

Break down the fourth wall and I realized that this applies to myself personally. At the start of the class, I was over-thinking, literal, and probably dull. I'm still all of those things but I feel like I'm shedding my proverbial skin. My classmates even commented as such. Several have said that I'm much different from that first class.

You might think that I'm really learning a lot and growing. I'm not sure I see it that way. In truth I think I planned it sub-consciously. I wanted to be a wet blanket at the start and then through the course become a fun, affable, person. In essence, the course is my own personal play and my classmates are the unwitting audience.

I'm sure I sound incredibly pretentious about this. Improv isn't about plotting and scheming such a grand show and that's exactly why I'm so bad at it. I'm always thinking about what to say, how to act, where to move, etc. Dissecting and studying each part. It's hard not to think about it.

Maybe if I provided an example this might make more sense. In this game, two people act out a scene but speak in made up gibberish. Then at random times, a third person will clap their hands and we switch to speaking in English instead. Clap again, switch back to gibberish and so on. I'm aware of the clapping and try to predict when another clap will come to time my lines accordingly. So I started a line in English with an ambiguous ending. Before I could finish my sentence, I intentionally paused slightly. This gap of silence cued the clapper and I switched to gibberish. Comedy is all in the timing.

In summary, I'm a jerk but it's just an act (or is it?!).
bigmog: (moogle mog)
Normally I would disperse my blog entries to give you reader(s) a break from all the excitement. Today however I'm in a blogging sort of mood so strap in!

I took a break from bass guitar lessons in order to start improv acting lessons. I had been to a few shows at this theater and was even pulled from the audience once to be in a game. How about a formal class? It's a year of education for me.

Around friends and family, I enjoy playing the fool. Around strangers however, I'm much more reserved. Even at work, I'm seen as a serious kind of worker. Maybe it's more to do with geeks preferring the company of a warm computer than a warm body. Anyway, the point is I can be fun but it's actually my rare side.

My goal in the class is to learn some confidence and team work. So far I see it's going to be tough. I'd wager that 3/4th of the class are extroverted, outgoing, smiley, fun people. The remaining quarter are quiet nerds like me. I was ready to quit after one session to be honest. Then I thought no, I came here to learn and grow. It's supposed to be awkward especially at first.

The teacher may not be prepared to handle a student like me. In short, I'm the wet blanket in the class. I have a logical and literal mind. Here's an example. The class lined up on stage and instructed to say the alphabet in unison. I followed instructions to the letter (no pun intended) and recited the alphabet in a monotone, even pace. The rest of the class sang the alphabet song.

After I confirmed that the teacher did say "Say the alphabet" and not "sing the alphabet" but I was still the odd duck. (note this was not part of the lesson (or maybe it really was and I failed horribly)) Now it's improv so they said there's no wrong way to act. You act how you act. Will the class help me act like the group majority? I'm not sure I want that.

A favorite story I heard was from stand-up comic legend Stephen Wright. He has a deadpan style I would like to emulate. Once while performing, the audience was talking and getting loud. Instead of raising his voice or turning up the microphone, he did the opposite and spoke quieter. This forced the audience to lower their voices in order to hear the show. He managed to take charge with a passive technique. Brilliant.

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