Thursday, November 01, 2012

Head-in-a-Cart Takes an Improv Class: Week #5

I had to rush home to take off my make up because my teacher told me it would be distracting to the class. I was bummed that my classmates would not have the privilege to see me as a gorgeous bride, but given the dynamics of improv, I agreed.  When I got to class my classmates were outside waiting for the previous class to finish.  They were talking about how we were midway through the course and that they didn’t feel prepared for the graduation performance.  Haley said she was freaking out because she didn’t feel prepared and she didn’t want to fail in front of her loved ones.  I almost told her to get over herself and that if they were really her loved ones they should be used to her failing.  I didn’t bother because I had a headache and she’s 22 so fuck her and her agent too.  My energy had dropped after I took off my makeup and now I felt like I was getting a cold.  I was like, meh.  We waited for our teacher but he never showed up.  Instead, we got a sub. I don’t like substitute teachers. I never have.  So double meh.

We didn’t do any of our usual warming up exercises, which was cool because I didn’t remember anyone’s name or thumpers.  Being a zombie all day really turns the brain into mush.  Even with a headache, I was still the fastest to react during the warm up exercises.  It surprised me that I was able to focus and pay attention in that state.  We played Hot Spot again but this time instead of singing we broke into monologues.  I heard the hot spot say “Human Resources,” tapped him out and started a monologue about the time I was caught tweeting during work and got called in by HR.  I blocked out much of that meeting but I do remember the HR Director holding up a stack of print outs of my tweets.  She said, “You tweet a lot.” 

Next we worked on painting scenes in groups of four.  The teacher gave us the location and two, one by one, were supposed to furnish the room for us by adding objects and details.  When the teacher was satisfied, the other two entered the location and started a scene.  We got air control tower.  Of course everyone wanted to paint the scene because that’s easier than doing a scene.  But most of the people in my class are moocher actors and I decided to stand back and let them do whatever.  I’m not afraid of doing a scene. That’s why I’m taking the class.  Haley added romance novels and a box of half eaten chocolates to the tower.  HA HA HA HALLARIOUS, ISN’T IT?  Instead of going with the obvious unusual element I complicated things.  I said those things belonged to a colleague that went crazy and was in a loony bin.  The teacher stopped the scene and pointed out the obvious: the romance novels.  These two air traffic controllers must be hopeless romantics.  So we went with that.  It’s true. I always complicate things by over thinking.  You don’t notice until someone points it out though.

I kinda’ lost focus at that point.  I sunk in my chair and watched the scenes while trying to suppress my headache.  I rubbed my eyes and face and noticed I still had spirit gum residue on so I spent a good amount of time peeling it off.  The teacher then talked about what distinguishes UCB from the other improv schools: The Game.  What is the game and how to you find the game?  It’s about finding the interesting and unusual in a scene and playing that out.  We played around with a scenario of a group of firemen on their way to a fire.  One of them wants to stop for fast food.  So the fact that they would stop to do that it’s the unusual thing.  Then you try to think of ways to repeat that unusual thing, excuses and reasons to stop before getting to the fire.  So that’s the game.  Pinpointing the unusual and going with it.

Then we started doing scenes two people at a time, with the teacher stopping and pinpointing things when we weren’t getting it.  Two by two, people kept getting up but I just sat back. It felt weird to sit there but I was feeling lethargic and meh-ish.  I was aware of it and it made me feel horrible.  I decided to force myself out of my funk and get up when the teacher asked how many were left.  There were only three including myself.  He told the three of us to do the scene.  Someone threw out the word “breakfast” and I found myself in between two really young guys.  I took the lead and asked, “So, who wants breakfast?” (I know, original, huh? But I'm not supposed to complicate, remember?) Then I asked them what they wanted.  One said pancakes and the other eggs.  I said I didn’t know how to make eggs.  The teacher got up and said, “Yes you do. You know how to make eggs.” I replied, “Actually, I don’t really.” People gasped as if I had said something blasphemous.  I told them I had issues in the kitchen. The teacher thought I was trying to be weird but I was just being myself and truthful, like we are supposed to. 

The teacher went on to explain that for long form improv it was better not to throw in obstacles.  I then took the opportunity to ask something I had wanted to ask since the last class.  I told him I wrote drama and that I directed films, where conflict is everything.  In its simplest terms, characters wants something, other character(s) keeps him for getting it.  It was about piling on the obstacles.  The teacher said improv was not exactly conflict-free; that it was okay to have conflict, but that obstacles had a way to throw a scene off track.  I think I understand. 

So we continued the scene, with me trying to connect with my sons who were home from college and they being total selfish pricks.  We ran out of time and we went on to the next exercise which was supposed to help us understand what we are doing for our graduation performance.  It’s going consist of  a monologue, three scenes based on the monologue and then another monologue and then another three scenes.  It’s the Asscat format. 

The teacher divided the class in half.  I stayed on stage.  Four of us were supposed to step forward and do a monologue.  A monologue, not a performance and not a standup routine.  The teacher said “prom.” Oh boy my memory was immediate.  I stepped up and told my story.  I told them about my parents pulling out all the stops for me.  They rented a vintage Rolls Royce and even got my tennis coach’s 27 year old son to take me to the prom.  I felt like such a grownup not going to the prom with a high schooler.  I told them about how my date left in the Rolls, leaving me and my friends in front of his house and then returning with two hoes and a bag of coke he bought with my dad's money.  My friend, who's a crazy Italian, went nuts and screamed at him and I, completely out of character because I used to be very shy, lost it too and screamed at them to get out of MY fucking Rolls Royce. The teacher asked me the moral of the story. I said: Don't expect anything from prom.

Three young guys who had probably just gone to their prom two or three years ago stepped up and did their monologue. One had his clothes thrown into a bond fire at the beach, the other ended up without a date at a Mormon party and the third didn't score with his date because she wanted to watch a DVD of Twilight instead.  The teacher asked us what parts of the stories made us laugh.  We discussed it for a while.  He said that we should be aware of what the audience laughs at during the monologue and build our scenes taking in those elements.

Poor Haley. Will she be ready to take the improv scene by storm after the three remaining classes? 

Lesson #6: Don't complicate the game by being weird and not knowing how to cook eggs.

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