Sunday, April 29, 2007

When I'm Performing!


The play schedule has been released for the Great Puppet Musical!

If you want to catch yours truely in action, here's when I'm playing:

Friday, 5/4
Saturday, 5/5 (MATINEEEEE! 2pm show!)
Friday, 5/18
Friday, 5/25
Saturday, 5/26
Friday, 6/1
Saturday, 6/2

And here's the complete (though somewhat subject to change) play schedule if you want to see who else is playing when:

Thursday, 5/3
Lights: Alan
Cast:
- Mandy
- Tara
- Dave
- Christian
- Zack
- Clay

Friday, 5/4
Lights: Christian
Cast:
- Amber
- Dave
- Alan
- Amy
- Zack
- Tim

Saturday, 5/5 (MATINEEEEE! 2pm show!)
Lights: Christian
Cast:
- Amber
- Dave
- Alan
- Amy
- Clay
- Tim

Thursday, 5/10
Lights: Dave
Cast:
- Mandy
- Tara
- Christian
- Zack
- Clay
- Tim

Friday, 5/11
Lights: Dave
Cast:
- Amber
- Tara
- Dave
- Clay
- Tim
- Andy

Saturday, 5/12
Lights: Tara
Cast:
- Mandy
- Christian
- Amy
- Clay
- Tim
- Andy

Thursday, 5/17
Lights: Alan
Cast:
- Amber
- Mandy
- Christian
- Dave
- Clay
- Andy

Friday, 5/18:
Lights: Dave
Cast:
- Amber
- Christian
- Alan
- Amy
- Zack
- Andy

Saturday, 5/19
Lights: Christian
Cast:
- Amber
- Tara
- Dave
- Zack
- Clay
- Andy

Thursday, 5/24
Notes: Tara
Lights: Alan
Cast:
- Mandy
- Christian
- Dave
- Amy
- Zack
- Tim

Friday, 5/25
Lights: Mandy
Cast:
- Tara
- Christian
- Alan
- Amy
- Tim
- Andy

Saturday, 5/26
Lights: Tara
Cast:
- Mandy
- Christian
- Alan
- Amy
- Zack
- Clay

Thursday, 5/31
Lights: Christian
Cast:
- Tara
- Dave
- Amy
- Zack
- Tim
- Andy

Friday, 6/1
Lights: Dave
Cast:
- Tara
- Christian
- Alan
- Amy
- Zack
- Andy

Saturday, 6/2
Lights: ?
Cast:
- Mandy
- Tara
- Dave
- Alan
- Clay
- Tim

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Puppets and Long Form



So the last Three rehearsals… Eep, I know I’m behind… So the last three rehearsals for the Great Puppet Musical have focused mainly on long-form. Now “long-form” improvisation has many forms. In San Francisco, “long-form” means a full 2 hour show with one story arch, much like a play. Sure there may be sub-plots and side characters, but for the most part we’re following the emotional journey of one protagonist.

This is very different from many other “long-form” improv formats. A Harold, developed by the great Del Close, is called a “long-form”. Personally, I can’t stand Harolds and find them to be short-form improv masquerading as long-form in a way that isn’t particularly satisfying for me as a performer or as an audience member. But, there are those people out there who love Harolds. There are entire improv companies, successful improv companies such as Improv Olympic, essentially founded on the Harold as a format.

But I digress. The Great Puppet Musical is not a Harold. It’s a 2 hour, single story-arch, musical complete with singing and dancing. After the last few rehearsals, I think we as an ensemble are going to tell some kick ass stories.

We’ve had a tortured puppet painter who falls in love with the woman at the art store and has to battle his way out of his brother’s shadow.

We’ve had the wall-flower puppet at the office who finally breaks out of her shell.

And that was just last night. I can’t wait to get up in front of an audience and see what comes out!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dance Puppet, Dance!



Last Thursday in rehearsal for the Great Puppet Musical (yes, I know I’m woefully late with this post, I’m very sorry), we worked on dancing.

We at The Un-Scripted Theater Company have, over the years of doing Let It Snow, developed a “dance vocabulary”. This is a series of basic steps (the jazz square, the Fred Astaire, the Charleston, the grapevine… to name a few). The idea being that, if everyone in the cast knows certain basic steps, you can break them out in the show, and people can follow. Audiences go nuts over any improvised group dance numbers that look halfway choreographed.

And actually, it’s better if they look halfway choreographed. Not that this is ever a danger, but if they look too polished, mistakes look like mistakes in the choreography. If it looks improvised, the audience forgives the mistakes and is awed by the successes.

Dancing as a puppet is a whole new challenge, however. The most interesting thing about dancing with puppets is that watching someone with a puppet dancing, whatever they’re doing with their legs becomes what the puppet’s doing with their legs even though the puppets don’t have legs. In other words, as an audience member watching a puppeteer dance with a puppet, it’s easy to suspend your disbelief and make the leap connecting the puppeteer’s legs with the puppet.

Am I explaining that right? I can’t tell if that’s clear, but come to the show and you’ll see what I mean.

The really hard part about dancing with puppets is the arm movements. We’re working the puppet’s arms with one hand. It’s really hard to maneuver independent arm movements with one hand. I suspect that we may find we get more impressive results when another puppeteer joins in to work the arms allowing for more independent movement.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

You Bet Your Improvisor!



You Bet Your Improvisor closed in San Francisco a couple weeks ago, but we’ve extended the run for two weekends up in Napa.

Saturday Night I had the distinction (as far as I know) of becoming the only person other than Chris Sams to host that show. There was a show Friday night too, but they did that one without a host.

Man, it’s a lot of fun and really hard. Chris is amazing for having done it like 50 times or something ridiculous like that.

The great part about it, and this is something that Chris told me about beforehand, is that you really have three different scene partners as the host. You have the entire audience, the contestants, and the players. That’s a lot to work with.

It took me a little while to get comfortable filling Chris’s shoes, but I was having a lot of fun by the end. Except that my title didn’t match the contestant's! That’s so hard. I felt awful, even though everyone agreed, even the contestant, that my title was the “right” one. Oh, it’s rough though. Everyone wants them to win soooo badly.

I love hosting though. Playing with an entire audience is so much fun.

I’m doing it again this Saturday night. If you’re in Napa, check out Dreamweavers Theatre for details.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Puppets and Protagonists

That's right! Two rehearsals for the Great Puppet Musical in one week! We're crazy.



We did some long form starts in rehearsal last night. In my continuing struggle with the protagonist role, I managed to deflect being the protagonist in the first one, but take it in the second one.

In the first one, I was a human. I got a little in my head and deflected the protagonist role on to the puppet largely on purpose. Somehow I thought the puppet should be the protagonist. As Mandy pointed out later, in actuality, we may find it easier for a human to be the protagonist. With the exception of some of the more experienced puppeteers in the cast (Amber), we’re all better actors as human’s then puppets. You kind of need to be a good actor to be the protagonist.

So of course, I went right out in the next long form start and grabbed the protagonist role as a puppet. I was using Amber’s old Plumkin puppet. He’s very expressive, in a wide-eyed way. Mandy gave me the positive note afterwards that I have a way of using the entire puppet when the puppet speaks, instead of just the mouth. Yay me! Except now I need to forget that note because that was not something I was doing consciously. Otherwise the next time I pick up a puppet I’ll be unable to do anything but move the mouth.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Problem With Puppets

Alan's adventures in Un-Scripted's The Great Puppet Musical continue...




The problem with puppets is that they’re too interesting. As Mandy said last night in rehearsal (and I’m paraphrasing badly) “the puppets haven’t become boring enough to be interesting again”.

What does that mean? As improvisors, we’re too excited to be puppets. This has made us all rather focused on ourselves and the fun things we want to do with the puppets, thus making us horrible improvisors.

This made for some painful moments in rehearsal last night, at least for me, but also led to one of my personal highlights from rehearsal last night. While watching from the sidelines a scene between a mess of puppets devolve into an ever downward spiral of confusing offers while each puppet fought for control of the scene and the validity of THEIR offers, I was able to come in (as a person, not a puppet) and tag the scene with a one-liner that suddenly made all the mess that had preceded it make sense. And it was a tag that would NOT have worked had I come in as a puppet.

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but it was a very satisfying moment. I hadn’t “tagged” a scene that well in years.

Then we arrived at the odd truth of the matter: The puppets need to learn how to improvise. I’m suddenly starting to understand how puppets become imbued with so much life of their own. Sometimes this has seemed odd to me, the way puppeteers will refer to puppets as separate entities when in truth the puppeteer is controlling the puppet. But the fact of the matter is: the puppet is a very separate thing. The puppet takes on a sub-identity within the puppeteer.

And our puppet selves need to learn how to improvise.

So we worked on some basic improv exercises. We played a raise-the-stakes exercise and then moved onto New Choice. Suddenly the puppets started being able to do somewhat passable scenes.

Then we played a game were in the improvisors (puppet and human) had to pause 10 seconds after speaking before someone else could speak. Eureka! We did an actual scene! Thus revealing another truth: Puppets are more interesting when they’re not talking. The have incredible emotive powers. Letting them slow down and emote is far more interesting to watch.