Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rehearsal #8: Keep it Going

As we get deeper and deeper into a show, especially a show that’s going fairly well, there becomes less and less to work on in rehearsal. They become more or less an opportunity to connect and keep everyone on the same page. That’s mostly what we did this week. We worked on some games (Oompa Loompa Comentary, Genre Combo, Genre Slide, Genre Roller Coaster, State Trooper) and ended early. It was also St. Patrick’s Day, and I didn’t want to keep people too late in case they had plans or just wanted to beat the drunken traffic home.

The show runs for two more weekends, but this is actually my last. I’m directing Impact Briefs: Puberty which opens in May and needs to start rehearsals ASAP. All that is to say, I likely will not blog about next week’s rehearsal as I won’t be there.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Rehearsal #7: Everything at Once

After a very successful first weekend of shows, we had rehearsal on Tuesday night. We started with a warm-up that I had noticed the cast of Saturday night’s show playing before the show. It involves standing in a circle and playing every improv circle warm-up game all at once with no introductions or explanations. One second your playing bipity bipity bop and the next your playing kitty wants a corner or the Dukes of Hazard, or anything really. And it doesn’t matter if people don’t know the game you’ve just switched to because the whole point is to style match and fake it, or just change the game right away to something you know.

We had a great time and laughed ourselves quite silly.

Then I wanted to move into an exercise in “building scenes” and style matching. The idea was for one person to come out on stage and say a couple things to help establish the type of scene they’re doing and for other people to come in and add to the scene while matching the tenor and style. Unfortunately moving to an exercise started by a single person onstage killed a lot of the energy we had just built up in the warm-up. In the future I might not lead with this exercise.

Then did another round of the bell-game exercise we did in Rehearsal #3 in order to break out of the “new choice” rut we fall into whenever a bell rings on a scene. After that, we did another rapid-fire round of introducing scenes and getting suggestions without stopping the show.

I’ve realized a better way to describe this concept is that every interaction with the audience or scene set up has to be done as a scene itself (which then leads organically into another scene, meaning you can’t have a scene to get the suggestion and then a completely unrelated scene using it). That also means improvisors can’t reference theatrical terms like “scene” or “actor” and such with out first establishing a context wherein that’s allowable. (“Welcome to the Westfield Community Theater Players production of such-and-such” etc.)

I admit it is difficult to come up with these creative intros and even harder to segue them into scenes without always using “now let’s see that film” or “now the Westfield Community Players will act that out”, but that is the point and challenge of the show. Just because it’s hard to do, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Another way of looking at it is this, if you want to use the audience as an audience, you first have to establish that they’re not this audience in this theater watching Un-Scripted: unscripted. First you have to endow them as a different audience at a different show and then go from there.

Bryce was detained at work and arrived at rehearsal very late. When he arrived we ran him through the meat grinder by playing scene after scene with him until finally we were all ready to be done. We closed with another round of “every circle warm-up game at once” and that was the end! Watch it all in time-lapse:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Un-Scripted: unscripted Week 1

I had a moment in the show on Friday night that transcended being simply a “magic of improv” moment and became a “magic of storytelling” even a “magic of culture” moment.

I knew I wanted to do a scene with the bell (a little desktop bell-man’s bell frequently used in improv games), but I didn’t know what I wanted it to be. Because we’re not explaining many scenes in advance in this show, just about any scene might find itself “dinged” by the bell. Then it’s up to the improvisors in the scene to collectively and instantly decide what bell means, or what effect it has on the scene.

The default response tends to be New Choice, where the improvisor says or does something different from what they just said or did until the bell-ringer is satisfied with the new direction of the scene, but it could mean any number of things including Accent Switch, Genre Roller-coaster, Move-On, etc.

So I brought the bell out onstage and placed it on a chair, in a position of status, and then sat backwards in another chair looking at it intently. Mandy joined me onstage and as soon as the lights came up I said “I traded the beans for this bell.”

And that’s when it happened. A knowing chuckle rippled outwards through the audience as everyone in the theater and everyone in the cast knew that the bell was magic, without ever having to say the word “magic.”

That’s how I want to be able to tell stories, be they onstage or on paper.


We had a really solid opening weekend with three fun and well received shows. Saturday night was so sold-out that even I didn’t get a seat. So please buy your tickets in advance online. If you’d like to see some clips from last weekend’s shows, Clay has posted 6 scenes on the Un-Scripted YouTube Channel in High Definition (click the HD button for Hi-Def):

The Roman Empire Strikes Back - Parts 1, 2, and 3
Rap Battle: Chocolate vs. Crochet
Shrödinger’s Hepcat
Acting Class (with Joseph)


Here’s how I didn’t get a seat at Saturday’s show. As we were closing up the house, I took a quick glance at the audience and saw 1 free seat, which I assumed Bryce would take as he was taking notes that night. So I went out and headed up to the booth. A few seconds later Bryce came up to the booth saying there were no seats left. As the booth only holds two (Bryce and Joy who was running lights), I had no place from which to watch the show.

I heard parts of it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rehearsal #6: Final "Dress"

We had our last rehearsal before opening on Tuesday. After warming up we talked through a few business items related to the show and then launched into a quick tutorial on how to use puppets. We’ve worked with puppets a lot in Un-Scripted, and I’d love for them to make appearances in this show as well. We practiced with them a bit and then talked about how to interact with the audience (in general, not related to puppets).

Then we ran a couple mock first halves. I wouldn’t call them “dress rehearsals,” not only because we weren’t dressed for the show but because we were in a rehearsal space, not the theater and we did not have a keyboardist.

The first one went amazingly well. So well, in fact, I hope they can do as well tonight in the show! Highlights included:

Row Boat Cannibalism
Playbook Star Trek
Mamma I Don’t Wanna Learn Needlepoint or cut off my left breast to be an Amazon warrior.

The second one had a tough act to follow and was a little more shaky. Highlights included:

Australian/French/Japanese/Russian Children’s Shows
Silent Tea
Bryce’s beat poetry typewriter scene.

Tonight we open! Sweet. I don’t play until tomorrow. Tonight I take notes so I can help guide things in the right direction. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


We had load-in last night for the show. Although, as Mandy said, we didn’t load in so much as clean up. The previous tenants in the space left it a bit of a mess. I don’t really understand why groups do that. People are slobs.

In any case, we cleaned up, set up the cyc and the legs, arranged the lights. I figured out how to arrange the box office in a suitably aesthetically and functionally pleasing way. Clay and Joy made the concessions cart look pretty. Christian and Dave arranged the concessions and t-shirts. We were out of there by 9:30. Of course that makes it seem like a short load-in. Clay and Mandy started at 3:00 with the rest of us showing up closer to 6:00.

Watch all 6+ hours of it in time-lapse!