Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rehearsal # The Last

One of the things that those few people who could be at rehearsal last week learned was “Dance so that you don’t get shot.” Meaning, pretend you have a big target on your chest and dance such that the audience never gets a good shot at it. To test that this week, Bryce brought in his vintage 1980’s Laser Tag set, but alas he did not bring enough batteries to run the gun so we couldn’t do it. Boo.

Instead we practiced singing rhythmic choruses that riff more on one note and split focus scenes. Puppets need to hardly move at all when they’re not the focus of a split scene because any movement draws the audiences attention away from who’s talking.

Christian brought up a good point he learned from watching a play in LA a few weeks ago. The company he saw perform is grounded in Comedia even though they don’t do Comedia, but generally speaking whoever is talking faces the audience and whoever isn’t talking faces the person talking. This is generally speaking a great rule to follow as a puppet.

We worked on finding the moment in a Bollywood scene when a song should happen, which is oddly different then song moments in Broadway, which I think I’ve touched on before.

Finally we worked on some larger group numbers and opening numbers.

Mostly though we just basked in the warm glow of our last rehearsal enjoying the last time we’d all be together at the same time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bollywood Clips

Clay has been busy posting video clips to Un-Scripted's YouTube Channel. Like this one, where part of the set comes crashing down at the end.



Or this opening number from the show on 12/6:

Week 3: Show Summaries

You may have noticed I didn't blog about last week's rehearsal. That's because less than an hour before it was to start we had to reschedule it for Wednesday due to a mishap with the space being double booked. Alas, I could not attend Wednesday, hence no blog. There is a rehearsal tonight however, so look for a blog about it later this week.

In the meantime, here's what happened last week:

Thursday: Used Car Desert or Road Trip to Love
The life of disillusioned used car salesman Raj (Pepper) changes forever when he sells a bum Miata to the young and beautiful Neesha (Jenny as puppet Evelyn). He quits the dealership and with the help of his best friend Ravi (Clay) fixes the Miata so that all three of them can escape the desert to the mountains! But soon Ravi becomes a jealous third wheel and the call of family threatens to end their fun adventures.

Friday: Look to the Stars or Love Returns... in Space!
Sanjeeb (Dave) falls in love with his boarding school headmaster’s crazy daughter Pooja (Christian as puppet Petal), but the headmaster, Rajeev (Jeff C.) won’t approve of the match because of Sanjeeb’s failing grades in Astronomy. Sanjeeb is expelled from the school and Pooja is locked in a tower, but when Sanjeeb returns to save her he is killed by Rajeev. Unable to live without her love, Pooja throws herself from the tower. Flash forward to a space station in the distant future. Will their reincarnated spirits finally be able to love in peace... in space?

Saturday
: Armageddon Wars or Partners in Love
An asteroid is headed straight for a small neighborhood of Madras. An American Captain of a fishing boat, Rex Roger (Christian as puppet Stanley) must destroy it in order to win the love of the fair Reena (Christian as puppet Evelyn). The town scientists retrofit his fishing boat into a space ship and he launches into space. Little does he know that Reena and her entire family have dressed up as men and joined the crew. Will they get there in time?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Week 2: Show Summaries

Thursday: The Late Train or Love on the Run
Reni (Jenny) is betrothed to the very large, very rich, and very mean Mr. Rashnish (Larry). She flees with the help of Amir (Clay as puppet Stanley) who has fallen madly in love with her. Pursued and hunted by Mr. Rashnish, all end up dead in a bloody sword battle… or do they?

Friday: H.M.S. Matrix or Art and Garbage
Shubhra (Mandy as puppet Nila), an artist at heart, goes in search of adventure with her faithful protector Rajesh (Alan), but find more than they bargained for when they’re captured and sold by a British slave ship. Will her father Samir (Bryce) save them in time, or will the long hidden love between Rajesh and Shubhra set them free?

Saturday Matinee:
The Lost City of Snakes or Buried Desires
Brothers Sanjul (Alan as puppet Marcel) and Dr. Kamal Kamar (Dave) are excavating an ancient city near a small village. Soon ghosts start warning the terrified Sanjul to leave lest they awaken the hidden terror within, but Kamar refuses to stop exploring the site for the sake of scientific knowledge. It will take a lot of love and the help of the villagers to stop the evil unleashed.

Saturday Evening: Devil’s Tower or Do I Believe What I See?
Former Bollywood star Aisha (Mandy) has gone mad. From her mountaintop lair she kidnaps climbers and forces them to rehearse dance numbers with her daughter Pooja (Bryce as puppet Rita) whom she is grooming to fill her shoes. When simple watermelon farmers Salman (Jeff E.) and Rajul (Larry as puppet George) arrive as fans, Aisha turns Salman into Pooja’s co-star, but then Rajul and Pooja run off together. Aisha sends Salman, now corrupted by the glory of the spotlight, to kill Rajul. Will anyone escape Aisha's evil machinations?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rehearsal #13 and Opening Weekend Thoughts


Yes, we rehearse even after the show opens. Why? Because once you get it up in front of an audience you can know… oh! That’s what this show is. That’s what we need to work on.

So what did we learn that we needed to work on?

We need to dance more. Hopefully a good way to accomplish that will be to do a better dance warm-up before the show itself, but we also worked a lot in rehearsal on the opening number. We have a set formation for the opening number. That’s about the only thing in the show that’s planned, except that even with the structure set up for the opening number, we still have no idea what we’re actually going to sing or dance.

We practiced the formation and the traffic patterns so that people can move around from place to place with in the formation without running into each other. In the heat of the moment in a show, it’s easy to forget where you’re supposed to go. So it’s good to practice.

We also spent a great deal of time practicing how to dance with scarves. Something that happens a lot, but that we really hadn’t worked at all. It’s very satisfying. Susan, who was in the audience Saturday night, pointed out to Mandy that if you’re performing as a puppeteer on a given night, you do not necessarily have to come out with a puppet to do background dancing. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. Especially if you want to work with scarves.

That leads me to a realization I had during the show Saturday night. In the last puppet show we did, and in this one, I would frequently find myself annoyed when a cast member who shall remain nameless, who was supposed to be a “person” on a given night, kept coming out as multiple puppet characters. Friday night, as a person myself, I discovered part way through the show that I was only playing one character, and for some reason found it difficult to come out as another one. We discovered during the Great Puppet Musical that it is indeed a challenge when playing a person to play multiple characters. Why? Because the puppets only every play one character. That trains the audience to make a 1-to-1 association between character and performer. Puppet X = 1 Character. Person Y = 1 Character.

To solve that problem, we had talked about coming out with a scarf or something to indicate that you are a different character than the other one you played. But Saturday night as I watched the person in question playing multiple puppet characters, it hit me. That’s the easiest way to play multiple characters as a person: grab a puppet. Wow, that will be useful.

We did not have a musician at rehearsal, but we practiced singing anyway. We worked on singing in more of rhythmic fashion as opposed to a melodic fashion. Singing melodies is a very western style of music. Hindi music often uses singing to mimic percussion instruments.

We also talked about changing the content and the placement of our songs. Songs in Bollywood musicals happen in different places than Broadway musicals. Bollywood musicals have a completely different narrative structure, which is taking some getting used to. We have trained ourselves very well not to add new information after the intermission or complicate the story at that point. Unfortunately in Bollywood the second half usually starts with some tragic incident. Trouble gets introduced then to reveal the consequences of the comic events of the first half. We find that so hard to do that Saturday night we introduced some trouble at the top of Act 2 and the immediately resolved it, leaving us struggling to make more trouble so the show wouldn’t end 15 minutes after intermission. That will be a major adjustment.

That also points out a limitation on the way we’re doing the show. .Because you’re average Bollywood movie lasts 4-5 hours, and we’re doing it in 2, we have to cut a lot out. We don’t have the same amount of time to develop storylines and characters that they do. That’s also how they get away with songs that don’t really reveal inner character emotions. The songs are very poppy and metaphorical because they have the time to develop the emotions in regular dialog. Broadway musicals use songs as a short cut to reveal those emotions without dialog.

It’s fascinating really.

Personally I think we should only do 1 show on Saturday December 20. Do the first 2 hours at 3 and then the second 2 hours at 8. It’ll be perfect.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Week 1: Show Summaries

Here's a sneak peek at last weekend's show summaries that will go out in tomorrow's email. We had a great weekend with packed houses. Make sure to buy your tickets early as we had to turn people away on Saturday night.

Friday: Naroosh’s Plum or Ambition!
Veeru (Bryce) returns home from the city to work for his family’s dung delivery service only to find he delivers more than just fertilizer to the fair Sarasvati (Jenny). He also delivers his heart. Can his ambition to win her hand be stopped? All he has to do is find the Plum of Naroosh... which probably doesn't even exit.

Ambition! - Sung by Bryce


Saturday Matinee: Love Train or Revenge Is Sweet!
Bashir (Pepper) and Rajul (Christian)have both fallen in love with Anita (Mandy) and pretend to be baggage handlers on a train to Bombay in order to be close to her as her family moves away from their village. When Bashir wins Anita’s affections, Rajul’s revenge takes a wrong turn, but that’s nothing a wedding on top of a moving train can’t fix!

Everything is New - Sung by Christian, Pepper, & Mandy


Saturday Evening: Raj’s Café or Everybody's Friend
Anuvab (Clay) just wants everybody to like him, but as a result he’s running his café into the ground. When his parents kick him out of the house, he’s forced to make the café profitable and becomes a tyrannical boss. Is the cost of success more than he’s willing to pay?

Everybody Likes! - Sung by Christian and Clay

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rehearsal #12: Final Dress!


Tuesday night we did a full-on dress rehearsal. Mandy chose a cast of 6 and everyone else watched. Things went very well. I have some work I need to do on the opening and closing. It’s been a long time since I ran a show’s opening and closing. I’ll get it, but it’s a good thing we did a dress rehearsal.

I also had an opportunity to play a villain, which is very satisfying. We haven’t done a show in a while where having a strong villain was appropriate. I’d forgotten how much fun it can be. I even had a chance to do some stage torture on a puppet. Basically I turned my back on the audience and grabbed the puppet, and Pepper made the puppet scream. The people in the audience said they all imagined I was doing some Reservoir Dogs ear cutting or something. The audience’s imagination is far more gruesome and graphic than anything you can actually do on stage.

Pepper has a great attitude that you almost have to have if you’re going to succeed as an improvisor. The best way I can describe it is “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m gonna do it anyway” and then you do it with joy and enthusiasm. I’ve come to really look for those moments and dive into them. They happen sometimes for me at the beginning of musicals. One actually happened at the beginning of the dress rehearsal. We’d all gone off-stage and someone needed to go out and set the chorus for the opening song. But no one was moving. And it got to that moment where too much time had passed and someone just needed to go out there. So even though I didn’t have anything, I went out there and just trusted that I would come up with something. And I did.

That’s really what it’s all about: trusting yourself enough to go out there with nothing and knowing that you’ll come up with something. It’s improv after all. You can’t say the wrong thing.

One of the other things that came during notes was learning how to inhabit a character and do the things your character would do, while still having the detachment to watch the show as an improvisor. Oftentimes your character wants to do this, but the story wants you to do that. You need to be able to see those things and chose the one that’s best for the show. Jeff E was the protagonist in the show and in a few parts he made choices based on what his character would logically want. But as the protagonist, the audience needed to see him be effected by what was happening, so even though his character would probably want to keep a brave face, the story needed him to show his emotions.

But being able to separate what your character wants from what the show wants is just as important for side-characters. After all, a side-character doesn’t know the show isn’t about them, but the improvisor needs to know that or they risk stealing focus and derailing the show.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"The Set Is So Pretty"

We loaded in for the show last night. The set turned out really beautiful. Mandy just kept walking around at the end saying "the set is so pretty!!"

Here are photos:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rehearsal #11: Group Mind and Dance



We had rehearsal Wednesday night at the movement studio space at ACT. If you haven’t rehearsed at ACT in a while, they’ve completely re-done the 8th floor. It’s very disorienting if you’re used to the old lay-out.

We started by working on group mind characters. That’s when a group of characters (a group being as small as 2) share a group mind. They may not say exactly the same thing or even have exactly the same personalities, but they are essentially the same character. They have the same opinions and reactions. When you have a lot of characters on stage at the same time, it’s generally useful to gravitate into group minds. It generally keeps scenes from devolving into chaos as everyone tries to get in their ideas. Group minds can also be very fluid. One moment you might be in a group mind with characters A and B and then be an individual in the next moment. As with anything, there are no hard and fast rules.

But it’s a useful skill, recognizing when group mind characters are needed and knowing how to do them.

They often take the form of Character A and their group of followers who are all of a group mind. That’s what we practiced as it’s fairly common in Bollywood (and most stories really); you see Male love interest and his friends (of group mind) and Female love interest and her friends (of group mind).

For some reason, whenever we work on group mind characters, I feel compelled to mention that we at Un-Scripted first started working on group mind when founding member Brian McBride noticed that the cheerleader in Better Off Dead dates the entire basketball team and how the basketball team functions as one character.

But that’s not all we did. As we were in the movement studio, we also worked a lot on dancing. We would start a scene and then Mandy would play a Bollywood song off a CD (as we were sans musician) and we’d dance to it. Because we weren’t also trying to invent lyrics to the song as we went, we found we did much more interesting and fun dance numbers this way.

That got us to thinking, that generally when a song moment hits, we sing and maybe fit some dance in if we can. For this show, we need to think of them as music moments, not song moments, and remember that we can also just start dancing and throw some singing in if we can.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rehearsal #10: Good, Bad, & Ugly



Last weekend, Mandy watched an obscene amount of Bollywood movies and remembered several things about Bollywood that she had forgotten. One such nugget of knowledge involved the general tonal convention of Bollywood comedies. The first half focuses on the hilariously comic and funny situations. Then there’s an intermission. Then something horrible happens as a result of the comic antics in the first half, and everyone cries a lot. Then everything works out in the end.

So we practiced that. We did a scene where we focused on hilarious comic situations. Then we did another scene from the later in the story after something had gone horribly wrong involving lots of histrionics and weeping.

Bollywood films have a great deal of embedded melodrama, but in our brief little scenes we discovered we were taking things a bit too far. The point is to play the serious consequences with truth and real emotion. Ok, perhaps the point is to dial them up a notch higher than real, but the truer they are, the richer the emotional journey of the characters and the audience.

We also revisited a disturbing (dare I say “ugly”) fact about working with puppets: Puppets, unlike humans, can die on stage. When an actor lies on the ground and plays dead, even from the back row you can still see them breathing if you look close enough. Or maybe they move slightly. In any case, they are unmistakably alive.

When a puppet, removed from the hand of its puppeteer, is placed on the stage, they look truly dead. Because they are. The can’t get up. They can’t move on their own. They can’t talk. They are dead, in a disturbingly real way.

Play Schedule

Here's the play schedule for the show. As always, there may be last minute substitutions, but this is a fairly accurate picture of who will be performing when.

Friday, November 28th:
Alan, Bryce, Clay, Jenny, Larry, Pepper
Musician: Daniel Walling

Saturday, November 29th Matinee:
Bryce, Christian, Jeff C, Mandy, Pepper
Musician: David Norfleet

Saturday, November 29th Evening:
Alan, Christian, Clay, Jeff C, Jeff E, Jenny
Musician: Daniel Walling

--------------------

Thursday, December 4th:
Christian, Clay, Dave, Jeff E, Jenny, Larry
Musician: David Norfleet

Friday, December 5th:
Alan, Bryce, Jeff C, Jeff E, Mandy
Musician: David Norfleet

Saturday, December 6th Matinee:
Alan, Bryce, Dave, Pepper, Jeff C, Jenny
Musician: David Norfleet

Saturday, December 6th Evening:
Alan, Bryce, Jeff E, Larry, Mandy, Pepper
Musician: David Norfleet

-----------------------

Thursday, December 11th:
Clay, Dave, Jeff C, Jenny, Mandy, Pepper
Musician: David Norfleet

Friday, December 12th:
Dave, Christian, Bryce, Larry, Jeff C, Jeff E
Musician: We need one. You know one? Email me.

Saturday, December 13th Matinee:
Alan, Christian, Jenny, Larry, Mandy, Pepper
Musician: David Norfleet

Saturday December 13th Evening:
NO SHOW

--------------

Thursday, December 18th:
Bryce, Christian, Dave, Jeff C, Jenny, Pepper
Musician: David Norfleet

Friday, December 19th:
Alan, Clay, Jeff C, Jeff E, Larry, Mandy
Musician: David Norfleet

Saturday, December 20th Matinee:
Christian, Clay, Dave, Jeff E, Jenny, Larry
Musician: David Norfleet

Saturday, December 20th Evening:
Alan, Bryce, Christian, Clay, Dave, Mandy
Musician: We need one. You know one? Email me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rehearsal #9: Improv in Union Square

Photo from Alamedainfo.com

Oftentimes I go to the gym before rehearsal. I get off work around 5. Rehearsal doesn’t start until 7. I have some time to kill and a good workout usually does the trick. Tuesday, however, I was feeling a bit under the weather. I’ve been fighting a head cold pretty much since last week’s rehearsals. So instead of going to the gym, I dawdled at work and then headed over to the theater, arriving about an hour early.

Only to find people holding auditions in the space. Due to a scheduling oversight, someone else was in fact booked in the space until 8pm. A mad dash ensued to attempt to secure another venue. Unfortunately every other theater in the building was booked. As 7 o’clock arrived, with the cast gathered in the first floor hallway, Mandy decided we should all go to Union Square to warm up for a little while and then return to the theatre at 8pm to continue rehearsal.

So that’s what we did. Fortunately Union Square wasn’t that crowded and we didn’t get kicked out by security. We found a nice little corner under an awning near the Half Price Tix booth and played some warm-up games: The Addams Family (invented by Larry and similar to the Dukes of Hazard game we’d played earlier) and I Am a Tree.

When we returned to the theater did a more formal dance and vocal warm-up (David Norfleet was at rehearsal to play music), and then we dove into two short practice long-forms.

I was in the first and in the very first scene, much to my surprise, effortlessly found myself in the role of the protagonist. Frequent readers know that I am a master of deflecting the protagonist role onto someone else and often struggle with becoming the protagonist even if I want to be. But in that first scene I latched on to it right way without even trying. What made that all the more remarkable was that I was playing opposite Christian in that scene. As I am the master of deflecting the protagonist role (even unconsciously), he is the master of becoming the protagonist (even unconsciously). It was like we reversed roles or something. It was amazing.

I also had no fear at all going into my opening protagonist song. Also something quite new for me, given my historic issues around singing. Those seem to be a thing of the past. I mean, I don’t want to get cocky, and I know I can greatly improve my singing, but at least I’m not terrified of it anymore.

The second long-form included one of the most hysterically funny, and just plain wrong, songs I’ve ever seen improvised. The story involved two competing two companies. A large one that made violent war toys, and a small family company that made peaceful toys. Then came an almost innocent romantic song between a very young puppet character and an inappropriately aged suitor about the peaceful toys of love she was selling. You know, her “love toys”.

If only Clay had been there with his iPhone.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Observation About Improv

Onetime Un-Scripted cast member Molly wrote this in her blog the other day. I found it a very eloquent description of a sliver of improv I'd never heard expressed quite this way:

One of the basic concepts of improv theatre is pattern recognition. What is funny in a scene is when a specific action or theme returns and is played out in a parallel fashion. This is a skill improvisors must work to develop with the understanding that the more they are able to perceive what is unusual or funny about a scene, the better they are able to portray it to the audience. Those improvisors who are seen has being very perceptive, sharp, and funny are the ones who see the patterns easily and are able to play them.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rehearsal Video

Clay posted a video clip from rehearsal to the Show Blog. Go here to see me and Jeff do our best dance moves.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rehearsal #8: Opening Numbers


When doing improvised musicals at Un-Scripted, we often decide in advance that we're going to start the show with an opening number. We don't plan out the opening number, we just know we're going to do it and we develop some conventions around how we're going to do it. Someone will come out along and establish the chorus. Everyone will come out behind them in formation and repeat the chorus. The chorus setter will step back into the formation and someone else will step forward to do a verse. Then the chorus setter will return to center to repeat the chorus. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. With maybe a few surprises thrown in.

But we don't know the tune, the words, the subject matter. We just have a framework to hang that first song off of. It gets things started with a lot of energy and it gets everyone in the cast on stage.

Once the song is over, someone, possibly the chorus setter, goes backstage and writes the chorus down on a white board. Then, hopefully, at the end of the show, the closing song reprises the opening chorus. It's really quite amazing.

We don't do this for every musical, for instance Theater The Musical did not feature an opening number. But we do think we will start this show off this way.

So that's what we practiced on Wednesday night.

Again we had David to accompany us, and Mandy ran us through some interesting warm up exercises to try and break us out of traditional melodic patterns (1-3-5). We also practiced sliding around the scale, which is something voice teachers will tell you never to do but is something they do a lot in Bollywood. We also practiced bending notes and ornamenting them in "Bollywoodesque" ways.

The opening numbers themselves went quite well. We relearned some lessons from The Great Puppet Musical:

It's hard for a puppet to lead a dance move.
You can hold the puppets up in the air if they're in the back and can't be seen.
Performers can stand in front of Puppeteers.
Remember to keep looking at your puppet while you're singing (don't sing out Louise).

And many more.

We also did two completely different opening numbers where both choruses started with the words "You can do it". They were so different in fact, we didn't immediately notice the choruses had almost the same words.

Rehearsal #7: Solo Songs


Tuesday night we worked on singing. We had David Norfleet come to rehearsal to play music for us. He's somewhat afraid of Bollywood as a genre, but I think Mandy is pushing and pulling him in the right direction. He will be playing most of our shows, and I'm sure he'll be wonderful. As the producer, I'm in charge of scheduling the musicians, and I still have 2 open nights to fill. If you know someone interested in improvising Bollywood Music, let me know. I also would love to hire a second musician to accompany David for a few of his shows so that David can do percussion. He is, after all, a drummer at heart.

We focused mainly on solo songs, but we didn't just throw everyone up on stage alone one at a time and make everyone sing. Two people went up and started a scene, one as a puppet and one as a person. Then when the moment was right, one character would sing a song.

I sang a song as the puppet Marcel (my favorite puppet) about being in love and air and I don't remember, but it went fairly well. Once I latched on to the air metaphor things went better and I need to remember to sing loud even when I'm not sure of what I'm singing.

One of the new cast members is struggling with the singing portion of the show, but in a very good natured way. He reminds me a lot of how I was early in my improvised singing life, which just serves to remind me how far I've come. Of course I've also worked on it a lot. The very first year we did Let It Snow (4 years ago! Eeep) I spent about 6 months leading up to that show taking voice lessons. I think I'm just now starting to get some of the things she was trying to teach me.

I think Theater The Musical was the first show where I wasn't particularly petrified of singing. Now, I think, I'm actually looking forward to it!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Show Blog


Un-Scripted now has a general Show Blog where the entire cast of a show is invited to contribute. Check it out here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rehearsal #6: Improv and Movement



I missed the last two rehearsals because I was out of town on business, and boy did I miss a lot. They sang. They dance. I have a lot to catch up on.

We started rehearsal by reviewing the dance vocabulary, and this was where I realized how behind I was. They had apparently practiced complex maneuvers called “cascade” and “waterfall”, and I had no idea what was going on. I think I picked them up, or at least get the general idea. They should allow us to improvise some pretty complex group dance numbers that will hopefully look pretty impressive. It’s all just following a leader, really, but doing it in an organized way. I’ll go into more detail about it once I’ve had more rehearsal time to master it.

Then we moved into improv. At Un-Scripted, we often find that it useful to practice the first three scenes of a long-form. If those are solid, the rest of the show pretty much falls into place. We’re also experimenting with different types of suggestions to start with. We tried some plot heavy suggestions before that not surprisingly made the scenes very plot heavy. Last night we focused on suggestions that were more relationship oriented. This seemed to work nominally better, except that all the relationships ended up being very similar.

One thing we need to get a handle on is family relationships though. These figure hugely into Bollywood, and as we explored last night, the family you live with might consist of a fairly far flung assortment of distant and tangential relations.

We also have some new puppets, thanks to Mandy’s tireless construction efforts and the help of our interns. We needed some new girl puppets and the new ones are going to be fun to work with.

I don’t know that much was revealed to me from the scene work we did. I have a better sense of how certain people play and how to play off/with them. I’m interested in getting to know a few of the newer people and very interested to see how they react to being in the middle of a show.

The most useful part of the rehearsal came at the end when we experimented with using movement and dance to tell silent scenes between a person and a puppet. One person and one puppet (with puppeteer) would go up onstage and interact (with music in the background) as if there were two good friends having a great time or as if one was pursuing the other who was playing hard to get. They were very inspiring. We need to incorporate some of that movement both into our regular scene work and in our dancing.

Next week: 2 rehearsals! And I’m not missing any more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bollywood Half-Off for Halloween!



I will unfortunately be missing the rehearsals this week as I am off to Tucson for a work conference. Here's information on the show and a special ticket offer taken from our mailing-list email:

Tickets are now on sale for the Great Puppet Bollywood Extravaganza! We had such a great time last year doing the Great Puppet Musical we decided to do it again, only this year instead of just doing a 2-hour improvised musical with a mixed cast of people and puppets, we’re doing it in the style of Bollywood!

What’s Bollywood? Only the largest movie industry in the world. Based in India, Bollywood movies combine nearly every genre of storyline imaginable with dancing and toe-tapping Hindi pop songs. We won’t be singing in Hindi, but we will be singing and dancing our way through a Bollywood-inspired good time!

You don’t need to know anything about Bollywood to enjoy the show. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy a world where puppets and people live together. And everyone’s still got the same damn problems, Bollywood style!

Buy your tickets now: www.un-scripted.com

Half-Off Through Halloween!

All tickets for the Great Bollywood Puppet Extravaganza bought online from now until the end of the day Halloween (that’s October 31) are just $10! That’s half off the regular adult price. Take advantage of this half price offer now, because missing it would really be scary.




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rehearsal #4: Metaphors



Last night we worked on using metaphors. We generally work a lot on metaphors when we do Shakespeare, and during the last run the “metaphor game” became a staple of the show. What’s the “metaphor game”? Well, boiled down to its simplest form, you take something, for this example we’ll use an emotion such as anger, and then you take a random object such as a towel, then the improvisor has to justify why anger is like a towel: My anger is like a towel, it chafes and makes me dry.

Why did we work on this? Well, metaphors are common in Bollywood movies, not just in the songs but also in the dialogue. We played some rapid fire games where people had to justify metaphors combining random emotions and objects, and then moved in to doing scene work wherein we incorporated metaphors whenever we remembered.
We did scenes with mixed puppet and people casts really for the first time in rehearsal, and they went very well. Personally, I need to work on varying my character choices more. I immediately fell into my comfortable stock character choices both as a person and as a puppet, but that’s why we rehearse: so we can push past those habits.

I also need to work on my mouth-sync. Even though I’m right-handed, I tend to be a left-handed puppeteer. That is to say that I use my left hand to work the mouth and my right for the hands. A few months ago I had surgery on my left hand to remove a cyst. I don’t think the muscles on my left hand have fully recovered yet. I’m not sure if I should keep working left-handed and assume the muscles will come back, or if I should try switching to my right hand.

Time will tell, but fortunately we have time.

Unfortunately I am going to miss both rehearsals next week while I’m out of town for a work conference. They’re going to work on singing and dancing without me. I always hate missing singing rehearsals. I always feel like I need the practice, and lately I’m enjoying them more.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rehearsal #3: Genre Combo


We worked mostly on improv last night. Jeff S. taught us a new warm-up game called “The Dukes of Hazard”, which we all really enjoyed, and then we dove into scene work.

We started by doing a scene here and a scene there, before working up to doing the 2 scenes from a long-form. To get a suggestion we experimented with taking a movie, and then describing a few elements of the movie that we liked. Then we took that and Bollywood-ized it.

In addition to being a Bollywood, singing, puppet, musical long-form, we’re realizing the nature of Bollywood (wherein they take any movie genre and add musical numbers) makes this also a gigantic Genre Combo show. We’ve always done a lot of genre combo work in our short-from improv at Un-Scripted. We like taking two very disparate genres and combining them into one scene where we’re doing both genres simultaneously.

It’s a lot of fun and we’ve become quite good at it over the years. We’ve often talked about figuring out a way to turn it into a long-form format, and… well… we may be accidentally doing just that.

Last night we did scenes from a Heist Movie Bollywood, a Nerds at College Bollywood, and a Sci-Fi Bollywood. All hysterical. We didn’t actually do any singing in these little two-scene slices of shows, but we did try to flavor them as Bollywood with our choices of character names and other details.

We’ve got a lot of hoops to jump through on this show, but so far each one is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to trying to jump through them all at once.

Rehearsal Photos



From Rehearsal #2

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Guest Blog: Andy's Transformation.

By guest blogger: Andy

Hello.

I’m a puppet in Un-Scripted’s Great Puppet Bollywood Extravaganza. When they first asked me to do the show, I hesitated. I was in the Great Puppet Musical last year and had a great time, but I wasn’t sure how a puppet as white as me would fit in a show with an Indian heritage. I’d also had a rough time recently and lost an eye.

But Mandy talked me into it, mostly by offering to fix my eye.

Here’s me showing off my new eye:



Last night’s rehearsal involved a photo shoot for promotional materials. Everyone had to dress up in Indian clothes. I was nervous. I mean, most of the people in the show are white, but only a few of us puppets are. How would I look all dressed up?

Bryce took care of my transformation. He started by adding clothes:



I’m not used to wearing clothes, except the occasional hat. But they seemed to go on all right. Then he came at me with a roll of black tape. What was that for? I thought. He started putting some on my face. I’ve never had facial hair before, other than the fuzz of my fabric face. I wasn’t sure I’d like it. When he’d finished the mustache, I still wasn’t convinced:



But then he added a goatee. I… I… couldn’t believe it. I’ve always been just a little wisp of a puppet with tuft of hair on my head and complexion that made me look both boyish and old all at the same time, but now… now… I look like a man! I feel like a man! There’s nothing I can’t do!





Jenny and I hit it of in this photo set, I might add. I wonder if I’d have a chance with Petal? She and the new guy Stanley were hitting it off last night, but now… now… I think I can take him!



Rehearsal #2: Mouth-Sync and Photos


We started rehearsal last night with a few warm-up games, including Bipity Bipity Bop, which I hadn’t played in a long time. We warmed up to it pretty fast and soon all were having a raucous time. Mandy, who arrived a little late after dropping off the photo equipment and parking her car, said that as she was walking down the hallway to the theater it sounded like a sit-com in there, which had to be a good sign.

Then we all used a puppet and lip-synced part of a song we had brought in. That way we could practice our mouth-sync without the added burden of figuring out what to say. I did Johnny Cash’s version of Hurt. I had practiced it a few times with just my hand, but I was surprised to see how much harder it got when I also had to control the puppet’s arms. Wow, that was a whole other layer of thought that threw me off.

Everyone else’s songs were hysterical. Sure, we can all use some work on our mouth-sync, but we didn’t do have bad and picked up some useful pointers from Mandy.

Then we went over our dance vocabulary again and worked up a good sweat just in time for the photoshoot portion of the rehearsal! We needed to take shots for the program of the new cast members and then take some shots for the flyer. We dressed ourselves and the puppets up in Indian garb and got some good shots. I took a lot of pictures. I’m hunting for a good photosharing site to post them on and then I will link to them here, or embed a slideshow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

GPBE Rehearsal #1

Great audition! On my way home now... on TwitPic
Wow, what a productive rehearsal!

We started with some warm-ups so we could get to know each other a bit. We've got 5 new people in this show, so some introductions were in order. Everyone dived right in though. We had a very good round of the Joshua Bordy Name Game and then some hilarious I Am a Tree (and that can be a painful game if you're not all on the same page.)

Then we picked up the puppets and practiced some non-verbal work with them, making them show different emotions and playing some scenes where they weren't allowed to talk. It really is amazing how emotive they can be without any facial muscles.

Then we did some short 2 person scenes. When the scene got to the point wherein a musical one would sing, whoever would have sung talked about what they would sing about.

Finally, we started building up our Bollywood dance vocabulary. It's not that much different than the dance vocabulary we did for Let It Snow or the Great Puppet Musical, just with different accents. Man, what a workout, but everyone picked it up quickly.

This show seemed so daunting just yesterday, but now I'm so excited. The cast is strong and learning fast. This show is gonna rock!

**

We had a new puppet audition to be in the show last night (pictured above and below). Stanley did quite well, especially in this scene where Christian, as Stanley, played a hard-boiled detective interrogating a witness. We've decided to cast him. Then I discovered his blog and his audition video for Real World Sydney. He's not exactly MTV material, but I do think he'll work out fine for our show. We're committed to him at this point anyway.

Doing an audition scene with some of the ensemble. on TwitPic

Monday, September 22, 2008

What I Learned from Running the Bollywood Auditions

We had auditions last week for the Great Bollywood Puppet Extravaganza. As the producer for this show, I was in charge of coordinating the auditions. About a week or two earlier, I attended Impact Theatre’s season auditions because I will be directing Briefs for them next spring. A lot of actors didn’t show up for their scheduled auditions slots, and we all sat around talking wondering if actors realize that directors remember when they don’t show up. The next time they audition for the same director, they already have a preconceived notion that the actor is a flake.

When I was putting together my email to send to auditioners giving them all the details on the audition, I thought of that conversation. I wondered if maybe actors had just never thought of the idea that flaking now could bite them in the ass later. So I added this line to my email:

If you're going to be late or can't make it, call me at as soon as possible. Failure to do so will hurt your chances of getting cast in this and/or future productions.

Wow, did that work! Everyone who cancelled gave me plenty of warning they weren’t coming, and not a single auditioner was late.

So if you’re running auditions any time soon, you might think about saying something like that to your auditioners. Having it spelled out like that really hit home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bollywood Production Meeting #1


We had our first of an indeterminate amount of production meetings for Bollywood on Friday. It went well as production meetings go. We talked a lot about auditions, which are coming up next week, and we brainstormed ideas for the set and scenery. It’s been a long time since I produced a show and I’m having trouble getting myself back up to speed. I’m sure there’s a million things I should be doing. Right now I’m just focused on making sure the auditions go smoothly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bollywood Auditions

The Un-Scripted Theater Company (www.un-scripted.com) is looking for
experienced improvisors for their upcoming show: The Great Puppet
Bollywood Extravaganza!

This November, we'll be bringing you a show that will send our sixth
season out with a bang. The puppets from "The Great Puppet Musical"
are back, visiting an exciting new world: India. Classic, universal
stories of true love, family, and adventure unfold, along with music
and dance, all in the style of a Bollywood movie. People and puppets
will be improvising together onstage as they sing and dance their way
through a 2-hour Bollywood adventure. Don't miss it!

We're looking for improvisors who ideally have experience improvising
longforms. Singing and dance experience is a definite plus;
puppeteering and/or Bollywood experience would be an awesome bonus,
but is NOT required.

Rehearsals will begin September 30th, and will run Tuesdays with
occasional Wednesdays, until the end of the run.
Performances will be weekends, at the SF Playhouse Stage 2: Nov. 28 -
Dec. 20, probably Thursday/Friday/Saturday with a possible Saturday
matinee as well. There is a $50 stipend for the run of shows.

Auditions will be conducted as a group in one two-hour block, with
everyone present at once. In order to give you the best opportunity to
show us your improv skills, we try to keep our auditions as light and
low-pressure as possible (more like a workout or improv jam than a
normal theater audition). We'll even email you the audition paperwork
ahead of time, so you can fill it out in the comfort of your own home
and bring it with you. We want our auditions to be fun and
stress-free, so you can just come and play with other improvisors who
love improvising as much as you do.

To reserve an audition slot, send an email here with your choice of
audition date: Monday, September 15th, or Tuesday, September 16th.
Auditions will be in the Union Square neighborhood; you should be
prepared to show up around 7:15 and you'll likely be done by 9:30.

Once we receive your email, we'll send you a confirmation notice with
your date and time, location, and the audition sheet to fill out at
home.

Let us know if you have any questions. Cheers!
Mandy Khoshnevisan, Director
Dave Dyson, Assistant Director
Alan Goy, Producer

Friday, September 5, 2008

So Long Farewell

Un-Scripted: unscripted closed last weekend. I was in all three shows. In fact Tara, Max, Mike, and I were each in every show, with Christian doing 2 and Dave the other to round out the cast.

We had a lot of fun, but it was bittersweet not only for the typical end-of-the-run reasons, but because Tara is moving to Maine, making these her last shows with us for a while if not forever.



Sigh. She will be missed.

That said, the shows themselves were quite fun. Of course, a week later, I can hardly remember what any of the scenes were. I’ve put off writing the last post about this show because I didn’t want it to be over yet. But it is.

Tonight we have our first production meeting for The Great Puppet Bollywood Extravaganza! In addition to being in it, I will also be the show’s producer. I intend to blog about the production process as well as the rehearsal process. We’ll see how successful I am.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stuck!


Saturday night we stuck the landing.

While I had a great time in all of the shows this last weekend, Saturday’s show was by far the most fun. To be honest I can’t even remember how we ended the show, but every scene in the second half was strong enough to have been the end of the show. The first half was none too shabby either.

Mandy brought an audience member up on stage to read lines from Ibsen for a Playbook scene. Audience member Brian overacted fabulously resulting in probably the best Playbook scene I’ve ever witnessed. Having an audience member do it makes that game so much better. It should always be played that way.

I had a lot of fun singing in the show, which, if you’re a frequent reader, you’ll know isn’t my strong suit. From the “Monster Sex Machine” song as puppets to both songs from “Columbus! The Rock Opera”, I never felt like I was in over my head. Bringing back the chorus from “There’s a New World On the Horizon” during the song “We Were Here First” will go down as one of my fondest improv memories.

That and the subtle feeling of everyone else in the cast and everyone in the audience seeing Christian and I loading our muskets without ever having to say what we were doing. The cast developed a wonderful group mind that grew to include the audience itself. That feeling makes improv so special for performers and audiences alike.

Come this weekend! We’ve got almost the same cast every night this weekend, which should lead to some great ensemble work.

**

More Un-Scripted on the Web: This guy saw our show a couple weeks ago and blogged about it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stick Your Landings


I've been somewhat remiss in my blogging about this show, mostly because I went to Japan and missed two weekends. Then I got busy at work this week and didn't have time to blog about rehearsal on Tuesday.

We did genre work on Tuesday. We like to do genre scenes at the Un-Scripted Theater Company. We practiced Genre Switch (which I hadn't played in years) where you switch back and forth between two genres. Genre Slide, where you start in one genre and slowly transition the scene into another genre by the end. Genre Roller Coaster, where you do a scene and keep changing the genres throughout. And Genre Combo, where you take two genres and combine them into one scene. That's probably my favorite.

In the show tonight, we played some genre roller-coaster, using a "magic bell" that would transform the scenes. It was fun.

The show tonight was a lot of fun. It was a very solid, good show. It would have been a spectacular show, but we didn't stick the landing. The damned show just wouldn't end. The last 15 minutes or so were hell, not only because the show wouldn't end, but because it was about a million degrees in the theater by then. The show finally ended with a prolonged whimper at 10:07. Jesus god, shoot me now.

Why wouldn't it end? We couldn't find it. We couldn't find the button. The capper. The tag. What's more, we all had ideas on how to end it and kept fighting each other for control of the scene so we could push our idea. We just needed to let it go and let it end and stop trying to force it.

Had we not performed the third half of the show, it would have been amazing. As it was, it was a good solid show.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Opening Night!

Wow, the show last night was so much fun! I’m not sure if I was wrong and shouldn’t have been worried at all about opening night, or if I was right and being worried kept us all engaged and made for a great show. Either way, we had a really solid show for the first night of a run.

Yes, we learned some things to make the show better. Christian was really single entendre with his transitions last night, but he took that note well. What do I mean by that? Well, instead of taking an element from the previous scene and using it in a different way in the next scene, he was taking an element from the previous scene and using it literally in the next scene, which led to some confusion about whether or not we were in the same world.

I think we also would have been better served doing “second scenes” later in the show rather than immediately after the first scene. We got some feedback from people in the audience that they either wanted us to use the themes we developed more or less (such that they weren’t themes). From inside the show, I really enjoyed that no theme overly dominated the show. I’m not sure I’d like doing it that way. A big part of the success of this show is going to be the cast enjoying themselves, so I’ll have to watch that carefully.

I did some fun characters that I’ve never really done before. I played one to introduce a scene that even while I was doing it I was thinking “This is someone new. I really like him though.” Unfortunately, as soon as the show was over, I could not remember the character at all. I’m not sure I could recreate him. D’oh.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Un-Scripted on the Web

Here are some places Un-Scripted has popped up on the internet lately:

From the Blog The Snail Shell, the author writes about seeing us perform as part of the SF Improv Festival during his trip to the Bay Area:

- An improv show. Two sets, one by some people I don't remember much, one by the Un-scripted theatre company who asked the audience for a (non-musical) playwright, then improvised an hour-long musical in the style of that playwright. For our show, it was Oscar Wilde. It was really slick. And there were only three of them!


From the Daily Californian article about the San Francisco Theatre Festival: "Un-Scripted was lively, energetic and quite impressive"


And a scene from last summer's Shakespeare: Un-Scripted appeared on YouTube. I was in this scene and I'm not sure I can follow what's going on. Stage improv does not translate well to the screen. Just remember that this scene is from a long-form and that some us play more than one character, as delineated by our hats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dress Rehearsal!!

Wow, now we've got the added pressure of being the Best Theater Company in the Bay Area on top of opening Thursday. In many ways it's unfortunate that we win Best Theater Company right before opening the most traditional improv show we've done in years. The timing would have been so much better to win it right before Three or Theater: The Musical.

I was suffering from generalized nausea inducing stomach bug which left me extremely low energy because I hadn't really eaten much all day. So I didn't really do much. The dress rehearsal section I was in... well... Let' just hope this is a moment of "in like a lion out like a lamb." The second dress rehearsal section that I watched was much better.

I think this show will come together, but it might take a show or two for it to find it's legs. Come! Definitely come! Just realize we're still working out the kinks. Or maybe that's just the nerves talking. When I used to direct shows, I never wanted my cast feeling perfectly comfortable going into opening night. I always wanted them a little worried. That kept them engaged.

Best of the Bay!!!



We won Best Theater Company in the Guardian's Best of the Bay poll!!!
Here's what they said about us:

The Un-Scripted improv troupe elevates comedy from one-liners and shtick to full-fledged theatrical productions with a talented cast and eccentric sensibilities.

Link

Our next show Un-Scripted: unscripted opens this Thursday! Here's when I'm playing:

Thursday, July 31
Saturday, August 2
Thursday, August 21
Friday, August 22
Saturday, August 23
Thursday, August 28
Friday, August 29
Saturday, August 30

Get tickets here: www.Un-Scripted.com
Read all about the rehearsal process here: Something Like a Chicken Sandwich

Monday, July 28, 2008

Improv Festival Shows!

Thursday Christian and I did a two-man Shakespeare Sci-Fi about a hero marooned on a desolate planet where he finds love with the local queen. Together they restore the planet’s water supply and return it to its past glory.

Friday we did a two-man Becket Mafia story about two bank robbers who first have to take out a $1 loan so they can make change to feed the meter for the get away car. They rob the bank, and get jobs!

Saturday Mandy joined us for a Three-ter the Musical. We got Tennessee Williams and did a wonderful little story about a man who seduces his brother’s wife and steals the deed to his house. That’s some uplifting musical theatre!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Two-Man Show this Weekend

Christian and I will be performing a two-man show as part of the San Francisco Improv Festival this weekend. The format will be something akin to Theater: the Genre. We'll get a playwright and a genre and then combine them.

The other half of the show will be USC's Second Nature who will feature a different guest monologists each night, including DANIEL HANDLER on Saturday!!!

For tickets or info go here.

Here's the skinny on Second Nature's guest monologists:
Thursday July 24th Guest Monologist:
Midori
An educator and columnist on adventurous sexuality, she's also the author of "The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage", "Master Han's Daughter" and "Wild Side Sex: The Book Kink". Midori travels the world presenting to universities, education events, organizations and media.

She's known for her humanistic, humorous and warm classes that help people to spice up their sex lives and encourage self-discovery and personal growth. www.planetmidori.com

Friday July 25th Guest Monologist:
Andrew Leland
To all accounts, Andrew Leland dropped out of college to become the managing editor of The Believer, a national monthly literary magazine based in San Francisco that stresses the interconnectivity of books to pop culture, politics, art, and music. He also serves as managing editor of the magazine's imprint, Believer Books. His writing has appeared in BOMB magazine and SF Weekly. Mr. Leland has served as a Judge for the Jackson Phelan Tanenbaum Literary Awards.

Daniel Handler
Daniel Handler
Saturday July 26th Guest Monologist:
Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket
Daniel Handler is the author of the literary novels The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, and, most recently, Adverbs. Under the name Lemony Snicket he has also written a sequence of books for children, known collectively as A Series of Unfortunate Events, which have sold more than fifty-three million copies and were the basis of a film starring Jim Carrey. His intricate and witty writing style has won him numerous fans for his critically acclaimed literary work and his wildly successful children's books.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Handler attended Wesleyan University and returned to his hometown after graduating. He co-founded the magazine American Chickens! with illustrator Lisa Brown (with whom he soon became smitten), and they moved to New York City, where Handler eventually sold his first novel after working as a book and film critic for several newspapers. He continued to write, and he and his wife returned to San Francisco, where they now live with their child.

Handler has worked intermittently in film and music, most recently in collaboration with composer Nathaniel Stookey on a piece commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, titled The Composer Is Dead (the book with CD will be released in 2008). An adjunct accordionist for the music group The Magnetic Fields, he is also now a member of the post-punk combo Danny & the Kid. He is the screenwriter of the film Rick, a revamp of the Verdi opera Rigoletto, and the film adaptation of Joel Rose's novel Kill the Poor. He is the author of Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Biography, The Beatrice Letters, and Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid. Handler has also written for The New York Times, Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, Chickfactor, and various anthologies, including The Best American Mystery Stories 2005.

He was crowned last year at the prestigious Literary Death Match at Litquake for not only his literary prowess but his mean small basketball toss. In other words, Daniel Handler is the MAN.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Finding the Game, Literally


You’ll often hear improvisors talking about “finding the game” of a scene. We took that concept a little further last night by actually playing improv games within scenes without setting them up or even agreeing amongst ourselves before the scene what game we were playing.

This made for some interesting scenes and some funny moments. People would go out on stage with the intent of playing one game, only to have it morph into another. Max, for instance, wanted to start a silent scene, which Tara then turned into Standing, Sitting, Kneeling, and Laying Down. Unfortunately Max never really caught on to the fact that that was the game.

The scene was funny on its own, but anyone in the audience familiar with the game would have enjoyed it on a second level as well. I wouldn’t want to do a whole show this way. I’m a big believer in not hiding anything from the audience, but doing it this way allows for some wonderfully playful discovery leading to scenes you would get no other way.

I knew as soon as we started the exercise that I wanted to start a spit-take scene internally. I kept my water bottle with me at all times, slipping it my pocket when I’d go onstage, not only so that it would be handy, but so that my fellow improvisors wouldn’t suspect anything like they would if I suddenly grabbed a water bottle before heading out. I casually took a drink of water every time I was about to out and start a scene, just in case. The first several times I did that, the scene moved off immediately in another direction so I just swallowed my water and played whatever game had come up, but one time…

I went out with Christian and sat for a long time with out speaking, while he stood for a long time without speaking. When he finally said something, I spit in shock and surprise and then pulled my water bottle out of my pocket. Ah, the effect was beautiful and launched us into a fun spit-take scene.

My other highlight of the night was Mandy and I playing “The Feables”. I’m sure Dave intended for us to sing (did I mention we had David Norfleet at rehearsal and sang a bunch?) when he went out onstage and said “Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you The Feables”. Instead we played really old people telling an inane joke as if we were on a seventies variety show. So fun.

Only one more rehearsal left and then we open! Woohoo!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rehearsal #5: Acting

Last night we worked on our acting skills by doing some scenes in the style of playwrights. Actually that’s not entirely true. We started by practicing scenes wherein the characters follow along their own trains of thought rather than reacting specifically to what someone just said. This is hard to do, but produces scenes that feel like they’ve come from a play rather than improvised. We’re taught to Yes And so much and listen so attentively that scenes are way more linear than real life. To do it well though, following your train of thought requires a lot of Yes And-ing and listening.

Then we moved on to scenes in the style of Woody Allen and then onto Neil Simon. I did a really fun Neil Simon scene with Tara, Christian, and Dave as bumbling bank robbers.

Next, we practiced scenes that let into duets. We’ve been singing in rehearsal to a guitar, and it’s really interesting the difference between improvising to a guitar and improvising to a keyboard. I think I like the guitar better, but I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s that the chord progressions are more predictable. Maybe it just fits my range better. Not sure.

Finally, in the remaining time, we practiced the format, doing a series of short scenes and games. Not sure what we’re doing tonight, but I’m sure it will be fun!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Intros and Transitions

Dave’s vision for this show is for it to be seamless in such a way that it doesn’t seem like an “improv show.” To accomplish that, we had to develop ways to get suggestions and set up scenes without just coming out on stage as an imporvisor to do them.

So, last night, we worked on ways that characters can interact with the audience organically in order to get their suggestions or participation and set up scenes. I’ll admit, when Dave first said were just going to spend some time just doing scene intros, I had a hard time envisioning how this would be helpful, but once we started I dove right it. We had such a fun time coming up with new and inventive ways to seamlessly interact with the audience. I can’t wait to try it out in a show.

Then we worked on transitions, or really, we worked on running little chunks of the show to see how each scene could flow from the next, using what we’d just done with intros. It worked really well. The show is shaping up quite nicely.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rehearsals #2 and #3

Rehearsal #3 was last night, but I wasn’t there.

Rehearsal #2 was last week, and I can’t really remember anything specific about what happened. That’s me falling down on the job. I remember doing scenes and singing and having a really good time.

Rehearsal #4 is next week and I will be there. I’ll also blog about it! Crazy, I know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Rehearsal #1: Getting to know you


We had our first rehearsal for Un-Scripted Un-Scripted last night. The exact punctuation of the title is still up in the air, so until it gets set, I’ll refer to it that way. I like the title. It reminds me of “pizza pizza” from the old Little Caesars ads, or the Circus Circus casino.

It’s a short form show, which we as a company haven’t done in over a year and I personally haven’t done in almost 2 years. I’m really looking forward to stretching those muscles again, especially with the cast Dave’s assembled. Unfortunately it looks like Derek might not be able to do the show after all, but even without him I think it’s a strong group.

Last night we worked mostly on basic exercises, word-at-a-time stories, I am a tree and genre freeze tag. Then we moved on to playing some moving bodies. That game really does show you all the different physical things you could be doing in any scene if you weren’t so focused on the words.

Many improvisors don’t realize this, but most games where developed to help build skills for regular scene work, but they were so enjoyable in their own right, they became used in performance. Moving bodies lets one person focus entirely on talking and another focus entirely on movement. The result is very eye opening for both. One thing we noticed, for instance, was the scenes had more head petting than we’ve ever seen in a regular scene, but there’s no reason not to do that in regular scenes.

Then we moved on to 4-way dubbing, which builds your listening skills as well as teaches you to have reactions to things. Since you can’t speak for yourself, you have to react and hope the person doing your voice gets it. Or, you have to react to justify what they just had you say.

Rehearsal #2 is tonight. I think we had a solid beginning.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Auditions!

The Un-Scripted Theater Company is looking for experienced improvisors for our upcoming improvised show: Un-Scripted: unscripted.

Show Description:
To heck with formats! This August, Un-Scripted breaks down the walls between us and the audience, bringing you . . . whatever we want! Short scenes, songs, musical instruments, things we did long ago and want to bring back, things we've never ever tried before and always wanted to. It's a shortform show that will seamlessly flow along without breaks for introduction, sweeping the improvisors and the audience on a ride of improvised possibility. Fun, huh?

Auditions will be Monday and Tuesday, June 16 & 17, 2008. They're group auditions, so you should plan to be there from about 7pm to 9:30pm. To sign up, email the producer Mandy (rhymes with Gandhi) and let us know whether you prefer Monday or Tuesday. Mandy will send you a confirmation with your date, the location (still TBA), and your handy-dandy audition paperwork.

In order to give you the best opportunity to show us your improv skills, we try to keep our auditions as light and low-pressure as possible (more like a workout or improv jam than a normal theater audition). We'll even email you the audition paperwork ahead of time, so you can fill it out in the comfort of your own home and bring it with you. We want our auditions to be fun and stress-free, so you can just come and play with other improvisors who love improvising as much as you do.

If you'd like more information about the audition and rehearsal process, and what we might be looking for when casting, you can visit the auditions page of our website. We offer a stipend of $50 for the run of the show.

Rehearsals will begin around June 24th and continue on Tuesdays until the show is over. The show performs Thursday-Saturday, August 2 - 30 at 8pm, at the SF Playhouse Stage 2, 533 Sutter St. in San Francisco.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reviewed!

We got a great review last week in the East Bay Express. Of course the show is over now, but still:

Meanwhile in San Francisco, the Un-Scripted Theater Company is improvising full-length stage musicals in the style of the non-musical playwright of your choice. The group has done fully improvised musicals before — notably The Great Puppet Musical and the holiday show Let It Snow — but this is the first go-round for Theater: The Musical. Over the month of May a rotating cast of actors has been coming up with two-act tuners in the mode of David Mamet, Samuel Beckett, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Woody Allen and Neil Simon. (Simon wrote Sweet Charity, but rules are made to be broken.)

The night we saw the show it happened to be an all-female cast and the playwright chosen from audience suggestions was Lillian Hellman. (No one uses her book for Candide anymore, so it's easy to pretend she never wrote musicals.) Usually five out of the pool of ten actors perform, but this time six women quickly whipped up the characters and story arc on the spot and belted out improvised lyrics to the spontaneous keyboard compositions of David Norfleet.

More melodrama than comedy, the plot that emerged was somewhat inspired by The Children's Hour in exploring fear, loathing, and sapphic suspicions at a girls' boarding school. Susan Snyder became the new teacher, Mandy Khoshnevisan the snobby establishmentarian, Karen Hirst the spiteful gossip, Tara McDonough the awkward nerd, Debra Shifrin the budding idealist, and Laurie Glapa the absent-minded dean.

Some songs were meandering, others remarkably catchy, but on the whole what emerged was often quite funny and more solidly constructed than some scripted musicals that have passed through the neighborhood. (Lestat comes to mind.) When there were long pauses, especially when things were still taking shape, the actors used the awkwardness as a character choice.

Because each performance is an entirely different show than the last, you could see three completely new musicals in the one weekend remaining, each never to be seen again. Theater: The Musical isn't just subverting musical theater by making it look easy — in a particularly immediate form, it's what live theater is all about.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Week 4: Beckett Finally

Last Thursday was my last show and we got Beckett as the playwright! I was so happy. Read more about it on experimentfarm. There’s one more weekend of shows left. I won’t be there, but that’s no reason not to go.

Here’s the summaries of last week’s shows.
Thursday: Upstairs Upstairs – in the style of Samuel Beckett
Colfax (Laurie) and Mingo (Alan) wonder if anyone lives upstairs from them, while Elizabeth (Mandy) and Charles (Christian) wonder if anyone lives below them. When Mingo’s twin brother Milo (Christian) goes upstairs, he gets trapped as Elizabeth and Charles’s servant. Then the worms move in, and everything changes.

Friday: The Teacher’s Lounge – in the style of Lillian Hellman
Miss Prescott (Susan) gets hired by Dean Nickelson (Laurie) and Miss Leone (Mandy) to fill the post vacated after the suicide of Miss Annabelle Lee (Tara). When her teaching style clashes with the school’s traditions, and Miss Leone’s machinations, Miss Prescott soon worries she’s on the same path as Annabelle. Can the Dean convince her to stay, or will she jump out her own window?

Saturday: Gwen’s Men – in the style of Oscar Wilde
Gwendolyn (Mandy) would prefer to live out her days on the estate of her best friend Cecile (Tara) and her husband Edmund (Christian), but the Lord and Lady Trenton (Christian and Karen) are determined to find her a husband. Charles Maquire (Debra) would gladly oblige, but his poetry turns Gwendolyn’s stomach. Until some mistaken identity at the cross-dressers ball and a duel gone wrong cause her to change her mind.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tonight's your last night to se ME (and Week 3 recap)

Tonight’s your last chance to see me perform in Theater: The Musical!

I missed last Thursday’s show because I had laryngitis, but my voice had recovered enough for me to play in Saturday night’s Tennessee Williams show. We kept it lighter this time, since the audience clearly wanted it lighter. I played a character who smoked the whole time which was a good exercise in space object work, and a character who was subtly in love with Larry’s character. It worked well, considering the main storyline was about Tara being secretly in love with Laurie. (The audience wanted lesbian Williams.)

Tuesday night at rehearsal we worked a lot on absurdist playwrights (Albee, Ionesco, Beckett) and split screen scenes. Something we’d been having problems with. I’m excited to play tonight, but sad it’s my last night.

Come tonight! If you can’t, come see the show before it closes May 31.

Here’s what happened last weekend:

Thursday: Writer’s Block – in the style of Woody Allen (yes, he wrote plays)
Marsha (Mandy) has writer's block until she starts dating her accident-prone therapist, Dr. Allen Goldstein (Christian), who is even more neurotic than she is. But when her cutthroat editor Kathleen (Laurie) convinces her to put everything into her new novel, Allen starts to wonder if Marsha's been grabbing the extinguisher because his arm's on fire – or because her career is.

Friday: Shooting Richard – in the style of David Mamet
Famous actor Richard Sylvestri (Christian) wants to make art films, but his agent (Mandy) and producer (Sal) keep forcing him into mindless Hollywood schlock. When the mob calls Sal’s loan, he needs Richard dead to save his skin, but he can’t dupe the young Hollywood starlet Cassandra (Debra) into pulling the trigger. So he pulls it himself.

Saturday: The Broken Figurine – in the style of Tennessee Williams
Virginia (Laurie) is becoming a woman and Peter Calhoun (Larry) has come courting. Melinda (Tara) tries to talk her best friend Virginia out of returning his advances. He’s a mean brute of a man, but that’s not the Melinda’s only reason. Melinda doesn’t like men. She wants Virginia for herself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Week 2: Williams, Martin, and Simon

I managed to survive performing in all three shows in the second weekend of Theater: The Musical, but I’m not sure my voice did. I got off to a rocky start when my character had to scream at Larry on Thursday and it all went down hill from there. Hopefully I can recover by Thursday.

Other than the voice damage, this weekend was a study in playing supporting (yet important) characters who didn’t need to be on stage much.

Thursday night I went out in the second scene as Larry’s character’s old father. As soon as I left the stage after that scene I knew two things: I would have to yell at Larry at some point, and my character would die. Turned out that was my only scene in the first half. I had two in the second. My character didn’t need to be in it anymore than that and I was quite content. My yelling followed by my immediate death ended the show. Very satisfying.

Friday my character wasn’t as pivotal, but I got into a great banter with Larry onstage about the fact that my character refused to read specials boards at restaurants. I could have kept that argument up for hours.

Saturday I probably should have been onstage more. I played the love interest and should have had more songs with the lead character. Even so, I did have more songs in that show than any other. Unfortunately I had a heck of a time finding my notes. Finally in the last song I managed to sound good. At least I got there.

Over all, I think we learned this weekend that we need to sing more. Not only will it deliver more of what the show is promising (being a musical and all) but it will slow us down and force us to do less. More singing = less plot.

Here are last week’s show summaries:
Thursday: Southern Gothic – in the style of Tennessee Williams
Charlotte (Tara) struggles to change her abusive husband Beauregard (Larry) on a southern plantation. When the ghost of Beauregard’s mother seeks to intervene, the whole family must confront the truth about their past.

Friday: Pirates & Producers
– in the style of Steve Martin (yes he’s also a playwright)
Rachel (Mandy) tries to get her producer sister Carol (Laurie) to make her 400 page pirate romance script with little success. Then she starts dating Richard (Larry) whom she thinks owns a bowling alley, but when she discovers he too is a producer can she make the 7-10 split?

Saturday: The Wedding Plan – in the style of Neil Simon
All Sandy (Debra) and Brian (Alan) want is a simple wedding, but when Sandy’s family takes over the planning, the wedding start spinning out of control. They call off the wedding, prompting Sandy’s mother (Mandy) to dig herself a grave in the living room. What will she do when she finds out they eloped?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Week 1: We Can Do It and I Can Sing!

Theater: The Musical successfully opened last weekend. Our houses Thursday and Friday were on the lean side, but Saturday sold out, which is great for opening weekend. I came away from the weekend with two nuggets of incite.

First off, we can do this show and do it well. Thursday’s Mamet was definitely the rockiest, but it was the first night and happened to be the cast least suited to doing Mamet well. Tara excelled, but everyone else seemed a bit at sea. Even so, it was a solid show. Friday night we nailed Eugene O’Neil right down to his darkly depressing core, and Saturday night we did a highly entertaining Neil Simon. There was some room for improvement on the Simon, but I’m not sure we could do a better O’Neil. Maybe if we sung less in the first half. Either way, I’m convinced now that we can take any playwright the audience gives us and do an entertaining and satisfying show, even for playwrights we’ve never heard of (I’ve never read any O’Neil).

Secondly, I had a bit of an epiphany in regards to my singing. I’ve started listening to the music more closely, mostly as a way to not listen to the sound of my own voice. When I’m focusing on the music, I can harmonize more naturally and singing feels easier. When I’m paying too much attention to the notes I’m singing, I get too self conscious and singing gets really difficult. I’ll have to see how that works moving forward.

Here are little summaries of each of last weekend’s shows:

Thursday: Don’t Screw Up! – in the style of David Mamet
Miss P (Laurie) hires competing photographers to follow her ex-lover Laroue (Mandy), but one of them (Susan) double crosses her. The slow-witted Tina (Tara) figures it out and spells doom for Laroue’s double (Larry). In the end, Miss P discovers that Laroue was right under her nose the entire time.



Friday: The End of the Play – in the style of Eugene O’Neil
Aspiring author Tim (Alan) struggles to break free from his overbearing family. His father (Karen), an alcoholic washed up actor, uses the young Mary (Debra) to recapture some of his youth, while Tim’s younger brother Robert (Christian) resentfully fills the void left by their dead mother.


Saturday: Big Plans – in the style of Neil Simon
Christopher (Christian) has gotten into UCLA, but his mother Rachel (Tara) doesn’t want any of her children to leave their home in New York City. Meanwhile Chris’s father (Alan) is so eager for his kids to move out, he’s started turning Chris’s bedroom into a solarium, complete with fully grown corn. Will Chris and his sister Kathy (Laurie) finally have the courage to stand up to their mother?