As part of my Summer comedy geek out, I was lucky enough to get a spot in Kevin Mullaney’s Performance workshop. It’s a special 8 week class and 4 weeks of performance in which Mullaney hones 14 improvisers into polished performers. So far the class has been great and the best (and unique) part of this class is Mullaney’s thorough notes after each session. These have been super helpful and I hope you can glean some insights from it for own improv as well. Now go out and improvise!
More great work yesterday! I think we started out a little rusty at the beginning, but really hit a stride midway through the class. I’m seeing a lot of good stuff, but most importantly I see everyone working hard to process the notes and focus on the task at hand. That’s all I can ask from you. If you do that, you will get better.
The One Thing:
Two fun characters are better than one.
What We Did:
First we did a couple of warmups to work on character. Weirdo is a way to dive into a physical approach to character without thinking about it too much. It’s a great to stretch our boundaries so that we can make stronger choices when it comes to doing scenes. Next we did a point of view exercise where we took on points of view that are not our own. This can be a great source of characters for improvisations. We can enter a scene with a strong point of view that is not our own, or we can give ourselves a strong point of view in a scene already in progress.
Next we did another round of Character Wheels. We tried on characters with a strong point of view and tried to carry that point of view through numerous scenes.
- Remember that if you are initiating a new scene with a character, you are there to set the table and to provoke the character. They get to decide how they are going to react to the provocation. Don’t decide it for them.
- Also, remember to put the character on the roller coaster rather than put them in a scene talking about roller coasters.
- Remember, it’s not just about taking these characters to the most obvious places that conflict with their point of view. Don’t be afraid to take them to places where you have no idea how they might react.
- If you are the character with the unique point of view, remember you don’t have to filter every last line through your point of view, but when figure out how your character connects to the situation, go for it!
The rest of the class we did La Ronde, a different structure which has a similar challenge. We still want to take fun characters to inappropriate places, but there is the added challenge of bringing your own fun character along for the ride too. Ideally we want to see scenes where two fun characters are dealing with each other. That way we have two ways to build off of this scene, not just one.
Lastly, we had a couple of situations where people made initiations that were a bit too vague. You don’t have to lay out everything in the first line, but you do want to give enough to your scene partner so that they get the gist of what is going on. “Wanna go faster?” and “What did you bring me?” are both ok, but we want first lines that give a bit more so that our scene partner feels confident to respond.
Think of a theme for one our shows. I’d like each of the four shows to be special events. We want people to feel like they have missed something special by not being there. This won’t affect our “improv form” or the content of the actual improvisations, instead think more about the trimmings of the show. Is there going to be music? Is there going to be something special happening before, in between and after the two teams? Can we decorate the space? Should we all wear hats? Should the two teams have a theme defining them (Pirates vs Ninjas)? What would be the subtitle of this show?
I want you to think about this and write down a simple pitch for your idea. We will pitch them all in a meeting after class next week and come up with some kind of voting to decide which ones we are going to use (at least for the first couple of weeks).