Friday, February 26, 2010

Rehearsal #9: Tenor Switch

Whoa, what happened? Suddenly it's Friday and I haven't blogged about Tuesday's rehearsal. (Well, our new dog is what happened.) The further away I get from rehearsal, the harder it always is to write about.

We do continue to rehearse throughout the run of the show. That allows us to spot issues during performance and then work on them in rehearsal. I don't know if the production team spotted any specific issues we needed to work on, but we did sit around and talk about our experiences in the shows.

The main thing I remember about rehearsal, aside from having yummy yummy key lime pie for Clay's birthday, was a new game we stumbled into called "Tenor Switch". It started out as a playwrights exercise. We took two similar playwrights with opposite tenors and played Genre Switch with them. We did Tennessee Williams & Beth Henley and Eugene O'Neil & Neil Simon. It was soooo much fun. We soon learned that it didn't really matter if you started with playwrights, what mattered was switching tenors from light to dark when the bell rang. I hope we break it out in the shows this weekend.

We have a couple of last minute discount offers for this weekend. You can still take advantage of them:
- Use the coupon code "CRAZY" when buying tickets online through our website and get 65% off! This offer is only good for this weekend's shows.
- Say "Wish Clay a 'Happy Birthday' for me" at the door and get tix for just $8! This weekend only.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rehearsal #8: Run Through #2

We did another run-through last night, this time with the cast of Friday night’s show: Dave, Mandy, Merrill, and myself.

We were not in the theater itself, but the one across the hall. As always, tonight will be a storm of chaos before the show trying to get everything ready, but I’m trying not to think about that.

Let’s see if I can pull some takeaways from last night out of my sleep deprived mind:
- We mixed a few longer, slower-paced, scenes into the evening last night that felt like they came straight out of a play. The takeaway was that these scenes can exist side-by-side with shorter fast-paced “sketch-like” scenes, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them or their length. (And lighting improvisors should light them as if they’re from a long-form, not from a short-form show.)
- Commit, something, and something else. I can’t remember. Christian had some three word, three point note. It was brilliant.

Special side-note for Merrill who’s not reading this anyway: Don’t worry so much about getting things “right”. The point-of-view song didn’t falter until you started doubting yourself and worrying about doing it correctly.

- Living at Wonderland
- “Gladiolas” on the porch
- Who’s Afraid of Noel Coward
- Selling your script and getting laid
- Interviewing the great actress
- Everyone needs a secretary

Tonight we have an actual show. My voice seems to be holding out ok, but I’m exhausted. Tonight should be fun! Tomorrow should be even more fun, as long as I can stay awake through it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rehearsal #7: Run Through #1

We did a run-through last night at rehearsal with the cast of Thursday night’s show: Christian, Melissa, Lyn, and myself. I’m glad I got to play with Melissa, because I’m only in the 1 show with her (see the play schedule here).

We were in the actual theater where we’re doing the show, although we didn’t quite have the stage set up how it will be. We still need to put up the doors and wings on the sides of the stage. I’m not sure when that’s happening.

It’s an interesting space to perform in. The stage is larger than we’re used to and it’s raised, which also makes the ceiling shorter than we’re used to. The lights come at you pretty much from eye level, which is always fun.

The run itself went well. The takeaways were:

- Be wary of getting stuck in a “tone rut”.
- Work to vary the number and combination of performers in scenes. It’s easy to get stuck in “2 on / 2 off – 2 on / 2 off” and end up only doing scenes with one person all night (as evidence by the multitude of Christian/Alan scenes).
- Passenger more / fill out background characters.

Some of the highlights of the “show” included:
- “That’s how we did it in Wisconsin!” A Midwestern couple goes swinger speed dating with some cheese.
- Benjamin Franklin, Franz Ferdinand, and Francisco Franco teach children the word “fecundate”.
- Superhero House. The new reality show featuring a very drunk Batman arguing about kitchen cleanliness with Superman.
- “It’s a Meal” and “It’s a Mule”.
- Frankenmime
- Lesbian love in Shakespearean Iowa.
- Room-mate love and existentialist foreign films.

As usual, my “highlights” are probably skewed to scenes I was in, because those are the ones I remember the best. I’m sure other people did brilliant stuff I’m missing. Of course with such a small cast, there weren’t many scenes I wasn’t in.

Tonight we have another run through with Friday night’s cast, which also includes me. I’ll effectively be doing 4 shows this week. Which is great, as long as my voice holds out. Come see me Friday night. My brain should be good and fried by then.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Un-Scripted: unscripted Cast List!

Here is the play schedule for Un-Scripted: unscripted! Note the all-man show on March 4 and the all-woman show on March 11.

Full Cast:
Alan Goy
Merrill Gruver
Melissa Holman
Mandy Khoshnevisan
David Madison
Clay Robeson
Lyn Travis
Christian Utzman

Thursday, February 18: Alan, Christian, Melissa, and Lyn
Friday, February 19: Alan, Dave, Mandy, and Merrill
Saturday, February 20: Christian, Dave, Lyn, and Melissa

Thursday, February 25: Christian, Clay, Melissa, and Merril
Friday, February 26: Alan, Dave, Mandy, and Merrill
Saturday, February 27: Alan, Clay, Dave, and Merrill

Thursday, March 4: Alan, Christian, Clay, and Dave
Friday, March 5: Christian, Clay, Mandy, and Melissa
Saturday, March 6: Christian, Clay, Mandy, and Melissa

Thursday, March 11: Lyn, Mandy, Melissa, and Merrill
Friday, March 12: Alan, Dave, Lyn, and MelissaMerrill*
Saturday, March 13: Alan, Christian, Clay and Mandy

*Transcription error in the original list

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rehearsal #5 and #6: Song and Match

Two more rehearsals, two more to go. After rehearsals Tuesday, I had the strange realization that normally at the point in the process (with 3 rehearsals left at that time) we’d have more than 3 weeks until opening night. Instead, we had a little more than 1.

Tuesday we sang. We had a new musician we’d never worked with come in to play so we could get to know each other. Like a first date at a coffee shop that couples argue about later as to whether or not it counted as a date. I suspect you’ll see him play some shows for this run. His name was Jacob.

What did we sing? Well, we warmed up a lot with scales and a Dona Nobis Pacem. We did some simple Chorus/Verse songs and Verse/Chorus songs in a semi-circle. We did the Un-Scripted Theater Company version of a point-of-view song in groups. This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Three people start a scene, then they each take turns singing a verse about their inner thoughts on the topic at hand, then they all sing at once. When they sing together they’re singing “chorii”, or rather each is singing a simple chorus to the song they sung without trying to unify the choruses or really be heard. When three people sing their own thing all at once:

A. The audience can’t really follow content.
B. It sounds really powerful.

Then generally everyone gets another solo verse and you end on another round of chorii. Ideally the person with the most to say will sing the last solo verse.

Typically in short-form improv shows, a point-of-view song goes like this: One person starts and sings “I love cheese”. The next person, forced to take a different point of view sings “I hate cheese”. The third person also forced to choose a different point of view and feeling pressured by the rule of “Comedy Comes in Threes” to be funny, sings “I am cheese.” We try to avoid this way of playing the game because it’s a lazy shortcut.

Then we did three scenes with songs as if they were snippets from a full-length musical, with an eye towards making out musical scenes more nuanced. The tendency in short-form is to cram an entire story of plot into one 4-minute scene. We’d rather the scene feel like a slice out of a larger work.

We performed one series of these in the time period of “Viking”, which I had never seen before. I wish we’d get that as a suggestion more.

We finished with the “Audience Word Song” Game, wherein you get a list of words from the audience while the singer is out of the room, they start a song and are then shown the words one at a time having to work them into their song as immediately as possible. This does not require singing a brilliant song. The game is impossible. The audience knows it, and roots for you the whole time. As long as the song isn’t a non-sequitorial mess, the audience loves it.

Wednesday. Wednesday. Wednesday. We did more of what we did the Wednesday before, running every cast member through 6 scenes focused on playing with them. We did not finish everyone, but moved on after a while to an exercise in style matching. One person would leave the room. The other three would decide on a genre/playwright/time period/film director to do the scene in. Then the one who doesn’t know just has to follow along and style match as best they can.

The distinction I think, with this exercise, is that it is not a guessing game. You’re not trying to get the other person to guess the genre right. If you know the genre, it’s not your exercise. You just play it as committed as you can and give the other person something to match. That’s their exercise: matching and letting go the need to get it right.

We performed one of these in the genre of “Bronte”, which I’ve also never really seen before. I wish we’d get that one more too.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rehearsal #3 and #4: Doors, Games, & Ensemble

Ah, yes… We had two rehearsals this week, and as they’ve both blended together in my mind, you’re going to get them in one post.

We continued our work on space-objects by working on space-object doors. We had a couple of epiphanies. For one, no one holds on to a door knob the entire time they open and close a door, yet improvisors seem to do that universally for space-object doors. Generally we use the knob to unlatch the door and then swing it open. We grab on to the side of the door to open it further or guide it closed, or we catch it behind us. (I also noticed today that, depending on how heavy the door is, we don’t just use our arm muscles but throw our whole body weight into it.)

And then there’s the twirl.

When opening a door that pulls towards us, we often open it and then do a little twirl as we spin around to pull the door closed. Try it and see.

We also did some work on games and playing games without setting them up. Now, in this format, at any time during any scene someone off stage or on might ring a bell. It could be any bell game in the world or it could just be a bell. The actors in the scene just have to decide how to react to the bell, and that’s the game you’re playing. We discovered that not every actor has to be playing the same bell game at the same time. Oh the possibilities…

I also made some people do an alphabet scene as a half-life scene.

A large part of the success of this show hinges on us building a good ensemble. Part of that involves learning what everyone likes to do. To that end we spent some time talking about what we like to do in shows and what excites us about improv. This is something we’ll probably do at several rehearsals because I already know I forgot stuff I meant to say. There are so many aspects to consider.

Then we started an exercise that will continue through at least one other rehearsal because we didn’t get through everybody. One person is on the “hot seat” and is in every scene for about 6 scenes and every one else rotates in and out getting a chance to play with them and learn what makes them tick. We got through Merrill, Dave, and Lynn last night.

Things are going well, I think. And quickly too. Tickets are on sale now!