Improv Update

As a blogger, I’ve been on hiatus the last 2 months for various reasons: a new relationship which unfortunately ended, work, the holidays, illness and some drama all conspired to take up a significant amount of time. The topic of this post is my progress through improv.

I completed my level 4 class over November and December. While I did have fun, it was not to the same satisfaction as level 3. The schedule did not help. No week night class was offered and so I had to enroll in the Saturday afternoon class. Furthermore, due to an improv festival we had a week off after the third class. It just so happened I fell ill with a nasty man flu just before the fourth class and opted to quarantine myself and my 40C fever. I did not fully recover by the next class and my level of energy and consequently my involvement were very low.

I did not enjoy the same level of chemistry with the other classmates. Only one of my classmates from level 3 opted to come up to level 4. With my level 3 class, I was a sort of improv chameleon as I was able to adjust my performance style to match the others in order to best compliment their skills or range. With this new group and the 2 week interruption, I never built that rapport. As my other level 3 classmate often remarked, she also felt this group would go off on their own to pull the scene in a direction with or without the other scene partners. I certainly admit she has a point to an extent. Nevertheless, it was certainly an experience to try to perform scenes again where I drove the narrative much less and had to react rather than push the story forward.

The main takeaway I have of the class is to try to figure out sooner what is the ambition or desire of the character we end up portraying on stage. Prior to that, I never put much thought of it because I felt they were very much disposable characters. Rather, I took a more “meta” approach, trying to find ways to compliment my scene partners, play for a running gag (or game) or for a later payoff. The other takeaway is I need to be more explicit on what those desires are. The input from my instructor was essentially I was too subtle. “Improv is about bold decisions!” to use his words.

I did not like our level 4 grad show though. However, my mother who saw both shows felt this one was better. As a much larger group, we had fewer turns on stage. I only came in near the middle of the show. Thankfully, it was well-received. We had a smaller crowd and they weren’t very vocal. They “woke up” as my scene partner and I performed a scene without dialogue, using siblings as inspiration and the music chosen by the audio technician. He opted for music typical for dramatic action movie trailers. The subject of our scene had the two siblings fight over a toy, leading to a pretend sword fight before finally reconciling as the music died down.

The next time I was on stage was as a pair of male strippers for their final show. While we had the strongest reaction from the crowd of the night for this scene, our instructor would interrupt to give us instructions which sort of broke my immersion. My scene partner picked up the slack though when my concentration was broken.

This was followed by a scene as a group of garden gnomes who have been collecting dust in the garage over the winter. This was a mirroring scene where everyone had to slowly mimic each other. I really did not enjoy these exercises during class, and I felt it fell flat on scene. The crowd reacted warmly when we tried to escape the garage but the heatwave outside had us all melt into a single body.

The final scene of the night involved myself and two other guys going to the bar for the first time. This was a direct opposite to the stripper scene where everything we were doing was our first experience, from dancing to picking up a cigarette, and ordering a drink. It ended when the first guy ordered a scotch with rocks, the second orders rocks with scotch, and I ordered a rock to raucous applause. I kicked myself internally as I had stumbled on my line and meant to utter “… a Scottish rock”.

The first level 5 class was last week. The overall curriculum is to build a montage where we’ll have to revisit previous scenes. The class makeup is more or less the same although we are fewer. Most of the level 4 class has returned but we have a new teacher. Outside of improv, he is a University professor. So far, I like his style as he is more articulate in his feedback than our level 4 teacher. Although he warned us he can be harsh, but he means well. To which I replied “Is that like how people say ‘I’m not racist but… and then proceed to say something racist?'” It certainly broke the ice for the beginning of what I hope to be a great class.



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