Monday, December 20, 2010

ToTG Week #5 Show Summaries

Witherlite - Thursday, December 16
Suggestion: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)

Young Oxford student Tesla Witherspoon (Michael) didn't have many friends. Numbers meant more to him than people. After suffering one too many humiliations at the hands of his fellow students, he befriends inventor Jeramiah Turnbottom (Christian) and soon Tesla has created his own invention: The Witherlite - the first electric lightbulb. Soon Tesla is the richest most powerful man in London, but along the way he turns his back on Turnbottom and wins then loses the love of his life Ms. Turner (Mandy). Did the ends justify the means? Not even Tesla is certain.

Algae - Friday, December 17
Suggestion: Jaws

The beachside city of Brighton begins drilling special hotsprings to bring in tourists. Problem is, after they start drilling, people start disintegrating and dying in the springs. The mayor, Bartleby St. James (Paul), is hellbent on continuing to drill more springs, no matter the risk. A London journalist Howard Hubbard (Greg), a grizzled ship's captain Barnaby Willkins (Christian), and a discredited hydrologist Edna Sharpedge (Mandy) join forces to fight the true cause of the disintegrations: Ancient Red Algae released by the drilling. Are they going to need a bigger boat?

Filkins - Saturday 3pm, December 18
Suggestion: Dexter

Tom Filkins (Christian) works as a sketch artist at Scotland Yard with Inspector William McGinty (Alan), an Irishman turned London lawman. Tom has a lovely wife (Joy) and two perfect kids, Emma (Mandy) and Nicholas (Alan), but he also has a dark secret: He kills and butchers London's most despicable criminals. As the City lives in terror of "Jack the Ripper," Tom's daughter Emma and his partner McGinty start putting the pieces together, but Tom knows that once something is broken, the pieces can never be made whole again.

Sara in Hatland - Saturday 8pm, December 18
Suggestion: Alice in Wonderland

Poor young Sara Townsend (Melissa) dreams of a wealthier, more colorful life where she can stay a child forever. Then one day she journeys down aisle 47 of the hat shop of Mr. Hatter (Greg) and Mr. Lupine (Scott) and finds herself in a strange and magical world where all the inhabitants are hats. Along the way, she encounters many strange and magical beings, including the imperious and dangerous Queen of Hats (Mandy). Enthralled by the Queen's power and riches, Sara loses track of time, forgetting that if she stays there she will become a hat herself and never be able to return to her family. Will she stay in Hatland forever or return to her simple life with her mother (Joy)?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

ToTG Rehearsal #17: The Last One

We had our last rehearsal on Monday night. We still have 7 shows to go, but they happen in the next 7 days with no room for a rehearsal in between.

We worked on singing and trying to nail a few things that we've still been searching around for on stage in shows. The opening number was the first thing we tackled. We're experimenting with adding slightly more structure to it than its had. The results were promising; we'll have to see how it works in a show.

Then we worked a little on short crowd scenes to be used as something of a sorbet throughout the show. I guess they don't cleanse the palate so much as serve to remind the audience that there's a larger world in play than just the characters we're following.

Then we worked on having some scenes run into songs and finally we worked on what to do if the musician is playing a type of song that you the improvisor doesn't really want to sing in the moment. The answer is to basically sing the type of song you want to sing and the music he's playing will either contrast it nicely and make everything very dynamic, or the musician will change to match what you're doing. Either way we shouldn't feel trapped by the tone of the song being played. Something that's easy to forget in the moment.

Then we ate lots of cake and went home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ToTG Week #4 Show Summaries

Lord of the Book - Thursday, December 9
Suggestion: Fantasy (Lord of the Rings)

A large red leather book has been passed down through generations to David Atwater (Alan) under strict instructions that it never be opened, but David can't resist cracking the spine. Soon he finds himself and his servant Frederick (Christian) being chased by denizens of the underworld hell-bent on retrieving the book. David must take it to Ayers Rock in Australia and throw it into a bottomless void, while the last remaining descendants of Atlantis pursue him and their lost book of magic. If he fails, all of England will be overrun, but can he succeed without it costing him his life?

The Godmother - Friday, December 10
Suggestion: The Godfather Saga

The Flannery sisters Nan (Merrill) and Colleen (Mandy) leave Ireland and move to London with their younger brother Arn (Alan) in search of a better life. When they open a small watering-hole, they run afoul of Elizabeth Boudicca McGinty (Melissa), a 3rd-generation Irish immigrant who controls everything around the docks. The stubborn sisters try to fight the McGinty clan, but their scuffle erupts into a bloody war with no winners.

Henry Darling and the Lost Jewel of Technocticlan - Saturday 3pm, December 11
Suggestion: Indiana Jones Adventure

Archeologist Henry Darling (Alan) retrieves the lost jewel of Technocticlan only to have it taken from him by his French counterpart Jacques Sinclair (Greg). As Sinclair builds a pyramid under the city of Paris to harness the jewel's power for the vile French, Darling must not only reach the staff of Amun Rah in Eqypt before the French, but he must save the love of his life, Anna Tompkins (Merrill). Can Darling and his trusty side-kick Frederick Hayes (Christian) save the world from the French?

West End Story - Saturday 8pm, December 11
Suggestion: West Side Story / Grease

When Mary Lingshen (Merrill), a flower girl from a violent family, meets Patrick Wilcox (Michael), servant to London's richest man, they instantly fall in love, but in England servants and merchants are sworn enemies. When Mary's brother Frankie (Paul) finds out about the romance, he and his pals beat Patrick up in a bar fight. Mary and Patrick vow to marry anyway, but before they can, Frankie's continued harassment gets Patrick fired. As Patrick despairs that Mary will no longer have him, he runs into Frankie on the street. They fight and Patrick kills Frankie... in front of Mary. She runs away, and Patrick turns himself in to the police only to be sentenced to hang.

His hanging is in the square on a busy market day, but Mary does not come as she cannot stand to look at him. He dies thinking of her, his feelings unchanged.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ToTG Rehearsal #16: Arguing, Plots, & Time Jumps

We actually learned a lot from the performances last weekend, and I don't want to gloss over that by jumping right into rehearsal.

We were arguing too much too early in the shows. Characters were trying to convince the hero or villain to do or not do something. Why is that a problem? Well, it's subtle. A horror movie wouldn't be very interesting if a character actually tried to convince the heroine not to go down into the basement in her nightie to check the circuit breaker. Characters need to be allowed to get into trouble. The solution isn't to agree with everything the hero is doing. It's perfectly OK, in fact it's desirable, to have an opposing opinion. Just don't try to convince the hero to agree with you. State your opinion but leave it at that. Instead of saying "you need to not go down into the dark basement because it's dangerous" you say "I would never go down into the basement on a night like this." Then the hero is free to disregard what you said and walk into trouble.

In a few cases, we stuck closer to the original plot line of the suggested story than we ever have in the past, and those shows were some of the more successful ones. Sticking loosely to the plot freed us from having to worry about where the story was going, but at the same time our finished products were very different from the originals. The Star Wars show in Saturday was a good example of this. We basically just translated Star Wars into Victorian England plot-wise, but we accomplished it with just Luke, Ben, Leia, and Vader characters, plus some "Storm Troopers" and various other characters unique to our story. As a result it felt more like the source material that Lucas might have used to base his story on rather than a rip-off. It was very interesting.

But now onto rehearsal...

We worked on allowing the narrator to not only time jump over things we don't need to see "and then they traveled to England" as well as to substitute narration for action. The narrator can say "and then he swore up a blue streak that would have made a sailer gouge out his ears," but then we don't have to see it. This is a big change from traditional improvised narration. Normally saying something like that would be pimping the actor on stage to do something hard/funny/impossible. In a normal story, however, we don't need to see what the narrator just said. This can be very liberating, but tricky to navigate and actually do.

We also worked on making bigger physical gestures and making better use of the physical space.

I feel like there were many many other very useful things we worked on, but as usual once I get a few days on from rehearsal the specifics start to leak out my brain. I think we will just leave it at that and rush headlong into Week 4.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ToTG Week #3 Show Summaries

Week Three of A Tale of Two Genres sported a science fiction theme. If only Dickens had joined his contemporaries H.G. Wells and Jules Verne in the early days of sci-fi, we might have studied some of the following tales in English class:

Fine Young Cannibals - Thursday, December 2
Suggestion: Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park)

In an effort to save his dying mother Priscilla (Joy), Dr. Clenchface (Greg) works tirelessly to develop an anti-aging serum. He tests it on the poor vagrant population of London and succeeds in reversing the aging process! Unfortunately the serum also robs people of their senses, turning them into mindless cannibal zombies. When Priscilla tells her son that she does not wish to live forever, he must confront his own fears and find a way to save London.

The Soot - Friday, December 3
Suggestion: Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix)

James Abernathy (Christian) has a simple life, but everything to him seems covered in a layer of soot. Then a mysterious Duchess (Mandy) who claims to be his mother frees him from the soot and makes him the aristocrat he was born to be. Soon he finds he's being trained for more than just a place in the aristocracy. The Duchess is waging a war on the industrial revolution and he has been chosen to lead the charge. When she is kidnapped by Agents from Scotland Yard (Alan & Michael), Mr. Abernathy must penetrate their inner sanctum and rescue her.

Professor Who? - Saturday 3pm, December 4
Suggestion: Time Travel (Doctor Who)

Professor Evangelus (Scott) creates a clock that allows him to travel through time and space. Modesty Greene (Merrill), the daughter of Aloyisius Greene (Greg), famous sea captain and friend to Prof. Evangelus, longs for adventure and excitement, but gets more than she bargained for when she meets up with Prof. Evangelus and travels to ancient Egypt. Soon Modesty is kidnapped by the Sleepers of Eldritch who are trapped in time and more or less imprisoned in Big Ben. With Modesty in danger and all of London stuck at eternal midnight, the Professor has no time to lose.

Tower Wars - Saturday 8pm, December 4
Suggestion: Star Wars

Peter Gillowsby (Michael) lives in the small rural town of Ardenshire, miles away from the power struggles in London where the King was securing his totalitarian power. Then on his 21st birthday his boss, Mephisto Haverford (Christian), gives him his father's sword and reveals to him that he, Mr. Haverford, is the last of the Queen's Special Guard. He offers to train Peter in the ways of the Samurai. Meanwhile Lord Grimsby (Alan), head of the King's Secret Service and a Samurai himself captures Emma Whitefield (Merrill) and tortures her for information on the resistance. Peter and Mr. Haverford rush to the Tower of London to save her, but Mephisto is slain by his old pupil Grimsby. Peter attacks Grimsby in a fit of rage only to find out that Grimsby is really William Gillowsby, Peter's father. As the dark lord is thrown into the moat, Peter and Emma barely escape before the Tower burns to the ground.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

ToTG Rehearsal #15: Ready For Your Solo?

We started Monday night by doing an exercise in exaggeration. In pairs, one person would say an adjective, and the other would describe a character using that adjective but in an exaggerated way. "Dudley Longshanks was so tall that his his top hat scraped the clouds and caused lighting." The point is, he's not really that tall, but we can use metaphors like that in our descriptions as narrators.

Then we worked on solo songs. We'd have six people go up. One person would narrate us into a scene. The scene would play out a little, and we'd have a solo song. We tried to cycle through everyone, but do to time constraints towards the end we sang some duets.

From a vocal perspective, I find myself getting more comfortable singing higher in my range. I'm not sure where that's coming from. My problem for years was trying to sing too high in my range, or singing above it a I guess. Then I started deliberately singing lower, which helped a lot. Now I open my mouth and higher notes are coming out, but they sound good so I'm going with them. Maybe now I'm actually singing in my range instead of above or below it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ToTG Week #2 Show Summaries

Play it Again, Jonah - Friday, November 26
Suggestion: Wartime Romance (Casablanca)

Persephone Sweetbottum (Melissa) wanders the seedy streets of London searching for news from the front of her fiancée, Jonah Whitehouse (Greg), but he is trapped behind enemy lines in France. As he struggles to survive, he becomes tempted by the sweet farmer's daughter Sophie (Merrill), but when he is betrayed by the local resistance, he manages to escape back to England. Can he find Persephone before the mean streets consume her?

The Trouble with Sarah Appleton- Saturday matinée, November 27
Suggestion: Alfred Hitchcock(Vertigo)

There's a new pastor in town. When Sarah Appleton (Merrill), the troubled wife of the local inventor (Paul), comes to him for help, Pastor Dartel (Michael) becomes embroiled in a chess match he never quite understands. Then Sarah's twin sister Dora (Merrill) comes to town and changes the game. Can the pastor hold on to his sanity--let alone his life?

The Spice Who Loved Me - Saturday evening, November 27
Suggestion: James Bond (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)

Only one man can stop Godric Nobchomper's (Michael's) plot to seize control of the spice trade: White. Jeremiah White (Paul). The Victorian superspy returns from assignment in India to tackle the case, only to find Nobchomper's real ambition is to control the world's food supply! The fate of the world rests in his ability to rescue the sweet ingénue accountant Melissa Etheridge (Mandy) from Nobchomper. Will White stop the poisoned cinnamon from infiltrating England's shores? Will he save Miss Etheridge? What side is Paprika Forkworthy (Joy), England's only female naval captain, really on?