Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fear Post-Mortem

I've been wanting to do a quick run-down of my take-aways from directing and performing in Fear. I can't believe it closed only a week ago. The problem with a one-week run is that your so focused on the show opening, then suddenly it's closing you're on your way to your last show and you need to pick up gifts for your production team so they get random things you could find at Andronicos.

Then suddenly it's over.

What did I learn?

For a directing standpoint, I learned that it really doesn't matter who you kill off when. I used to think it did. I used to think you needed to find the protagonist early on so you could folllow their story and make sure they stayed alive so you don't end up telling a bad sci-fi horror movie plot that ends with the wrong character still alive.

Then I realized in a modern horror-story, especially an improvised one, you don't need to worry about that at all. In the post-Scream self-aware horror-story landscape, every convention has been turned on its head and broken for effect. Hell, you  can even trace that back to Psycho, where Alfred Hitchcock had the audacity to kill off his biggest star right at the beginning of the move. Horror stories are all about playing with expectations. If you set someone up as the hero and then you kill them off, clearly you did that on purpose for effect. If they live to the end, you must have done that on purpose too.

In improv you have the ability to adjust on the fly. If the person you all thought was the protagonist gets killed, then you're telling a different story, and you start telling that new story. In the first show, I kept Susan's character alive when she clearly wanted to be killed because, in my mind, she made it to the end of the story. Had that happened a couple shows later, I would have just killed her and saw what happened.

By the end of the run, we'd played this out to the extreme wherein the killer actually wins. The last two shows had the evil element triumph at the end of the show. Sometimes that's just the way it goes. You have to let the story be what it wants be, but I don't think we could have let the killer win until we let go the idea that certain people had to live to certain points in the show. Or maybe I just needed to let that go, but either way, we got there.

The other big lesson I took away was to communicate. In improv, you always have to walk a fine line between over-communicating your hits and not communicating them well enough at all, but there's other levels of communication as well. Twice I found myself onstage about to kill someone in a certain way and I realized I had no way to accomplish it safely with out communicating what I wanted to do to my fellow improvisor. But I had no way to do that silently. So, in both case, and in both cases it was with Merrill, I simply told her under by breath on stage what I was about to do. "I'm going to stab you in the ear." "I'm going to trip you over backwards." She knew what was going to happen and could accomplish it safely, and I'm sure no one in the audience heard or saw. There's no reason not to communicate on stage, if you can do it properly.

Then there's communicating backstage. You have a hit. What's the bare minimum of information you need to communicate to someone to put them on the same page as you? I knew I needed to do a scene with Larissa's character, but as the killer, if I just grabbed her and brought her onstage for a scene, it's reasonable to assume she'll assume I intend to kill her. That's not what I wanted. So I told her "I want to do a scene with you. But I don't want to kill you." That gave her what she needed and we could a scene on the same page. It took two sentences. I didn't detail what I wanted to happen in the scene. That was all I needed to say.

Those are the things that stuck in my mind. The cast was kick-ass. Everyone did a great job of playing intense emotions and killing each other with panache. I loved it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fear: Full Run Summaries

Here are show summaries for the entire run, including slightly edited versions of the three I posted previously.

Tuesday, October 25: First the Eyes
The ghost of a Civil War general returns to a rural Maine B&B, possessing one of its unwitting guests (Alan), forcing him to kill until the General (Christian) has enough power to regain human form and spend one night with his love (Susan). First the eyes, then the thorns, then the blood, and then the soul.

Wednesday, October 26: The Queen Christina
The law firm of Rogers & Rogers charters the ship Queen Christina to find an island lighthouse owned by one of their recently deceased clients. In spite of the Captain’s (Greg’s) efforts to prevent it, the ship finds the island itself, but anyone who sets foot in the lighthouse is changed forever…

Thursday, October 27: Harold’s Door
A group of teens in the town of Littleton, MT sneak into the abandoned 1950s research facility and bomb shelter under the school playground to drink and make-out, but there’s a reason the facility was abandoned. One teen’s (Christian’s) father (Bryce) has been trapped in a demon world, and he’s ready to return with his new friends.

Friday, October 28: Yellow Eye
The university grad students on Arcola Island have the lush tropical island to themselves for a winter-break archeological dig. When they learn of the lost treasure of the pirate Yellow Eye, their paradise turns into a nightmare when one student’s (Merrill’s) greed drives her to murder.

Saturday, October 29: Bogsville
Bogsville, Louisana is a pleasant, quiet town surrounded by swamp. But the murky waters hide a murkier underbelly to the town that is only revealed when Vondra (Mia) returns from her home in the swamp to visit her cousin Sheila (Susan) and runs into her former flame Mickie (Greg).

Sunday, October 30: All in the Family
The Newville Ski Lodge had been built in the 1940s by the superstitious and strict Newville family patriarch. It included 13 ski runs, 13 lifts, and an indoor apple orchard with 13 trees of 13 different kinds of apples.  His grandchildren soon learn that, even in death, he exacts strict punishment for breaking his rules through his ever-loyal servant Christopher (Alan).

Monday, October 31: Sunshine Acres
Sunshine Acres is a place rich people go to "get better."  Only the treatments they get are a little unorthodox. Cynthia (Larissa) finds out a little too late that Caretaker Ursula (Mia) isn't what she thought she was, and Caretaker Michael (Clay) is EXACTLY what she thought he was.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fear: Shows 1 - 3

We've had three performances of Fear, which puts us a little less then halfway through the run. In a normal run, three performances would have taken us through the first weekend.  The shows went very well, if I do say so myself! Here's a look at the briefest of brief show summaries for each:

Tuesday, October 25: First the Eyes
The ghost of a Civil War general returns to a rural Maine B&B, possessing one of its unwitting guests, forcing him to kill until the General has enough power to regain human form. "First the eyes, then the thorns, then the blood, and then the soul."

Wednesday, October 26: The Queen Christina
The law firm of Rogers & Rogers charters the ship Queen Christina to find an island lighthouse owned by one of their recently deceased clients, but anyone who sets foot in the lighthouse is changed forever…

Thursday, October 27: Harold’s Door
A group of teens in the town of Littleton, MT sneak into the abandoned 1950s research facility and bomb shelter under the school playground to drink and make-out, but there’s a reason the facility was abandoned…

We've had quite a few interesting deaths so far involving such things as eye-gouging, castration, and being pulled through a portal into another dimension by demons. We have reports of audience members scaring their spouses by whispering "first the eyes" while trying to fall asleep. We've even had a few repeat audience members already!

The show runs through Halloween night.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fear Rehearsals 6 and 7: Happiness and Texture

Rehearsal 6 came just a week after rehearsal 5 back in September. Rehearsal 6 was just two weeks after that and a few days into October. The scary thing is that rehearsal 6 was our last rehearsal as a complete cast. There will be a partial cast rehearsal in October while I'm out of town. Bryce will helm it and steer the cast through the final stages of the narration concept (that we're still working out). We've arrived at a stage that we often arrive at in our rehearsal process: we have all of the tools we need for the show, but we haven't actually used them all to build a show yet. To be more specific, we haven't done a run that made it into the second act yet. That will have to happen during rehearsal 8, especially since a key element of the narration layer can only be worked on in the context of the end of the show.

But we did learn some valuable lessons about the narration in rehearsal 6. We were focusing on the opening narration to start the show, and we kept having problems. Then we realized that the opening shouldn't painted a gloomy foreboding picture of our location, but should make it seem like the happiest, most wonderful place on Earth. For one thing, this will provide a nice contrast. For another, people know what show we're doing when they sit down. They're going to know that as wonderful and beautiful a place as we're describing is, there is a dark underbelly. Something bad is going to happen. We don't need to tell them that. They know that already. They'll already be building within them selves a sense of dread.

In rehearsal 6, we left the opening behind and began the delicate process of inserting the narration into the rest of the show. We only got as far as a few very interesting first halves (what was going to happen that winter at Hanover Farms?), but we learned that (so far at least) you really can't do too much narrating. It doesn't break from the reality. Rather, it heightens it. It brings more texture to the show and fosters the audience's imagination to really see what's happening.

We also learned that likable characters can be seriously flawed, or even... unlikeable. It seems like a paradox, but it's not. People are people. If they're real and complex, they're going to have likeable aspects and unlikeable ones. Playing characters in that way will hooked the audience even more into them. We care about them because we see ourselves in their faults and in their triumphs.

Tickets are on sale now! Remember, the show only runs for 1 week, 7 performances. Don't blink, or you'll miss it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fear Rehearsals 4 and 5: Creepy and Intense

For our August rehearsal, we started out focusing on scenes with creepy undertones, hence my What is Creepy post from around then. Then we ran a couple of first halves. I knew we weren't ready yet to do a run, but I wanted to see where we were exactly. The process showed me, and the cast I think, where some of the holes we have yet to fill lie.

During the long month between our August and September rehearsals, I spent a lot time thinking about what sort of suggestion to get from the audience. Something that would solve some of the problems I could see during the half-runs in our rehearsal. In doing so, I stumbled across an idea to add a layer of narration to the show.

We spent the first half or rehearsal on Saturday playing around with it. The idea definitely has promise, we just need to work it at the next rehearsal to see if we can get it where it needs to be. I'm not describing it because it's hard to describe, and I have no idea what form it will take when all is said and done.

For the second have of rehearsal on Saturday we worked on violence and death. This is a key aspect of this show, but one I had wanted to wait to work on until absolutely necessary. We went over some improvised stage combat techniques and then we took turns doing little scenes where one character killed another.

They were intense, because as Merrill said "We're really good at it."

That's why we have always done this show as a short run. You just can't live in that sort of emotional space for very long, whether your the killer, the victim, or the audience for that matter.

Here's an early draft version of the flyer:

Friday, August 12, 2011

What is "Creepy"?

What makes something creepy? When we get the feeling that something is creepy, it’s generally a warning sign. We’re always looking for small subtle changes in our environment that could lead to danger. We’ll get the creeping feeling that something isn’t quite right. We might not be able to put it into words, but subconsciously we know something’s wrong. This is the essence of “creepy”.

Something is creepy if it’s not quite normal. People can be creepy. Places can be creepy. Just about anything can be creepy as long as it’s just a little off.

People who exhibit one emotional state are creepy. If you look at someone for 5 seconds you might see 10 different emotional states flash across their face. People are constantly changing their emotions and degrees in which they feel those emotions. Even if someone is happy all the time, they’re not the same level of happy all the time.

People who have no self awareness are creepy. We all have some level of self awareness. A lack of it is itself creepy but it also makes other behaviors creepy as well.

For instance: Inappropriate touching. If I touch you inappropriately and I know that it was inappropriate and telegraph that I know that by apologizing, joking, being embarrassed, or making it clear that I was trying to provoke a reaction from you, it’s not creepy. But if I touch you inappropriately and have no awareness that it was inappropriate, it’s creepy.

Another example of this is obsession and “really liking” something. We all “really like” certain things more than the average person. We’ve all been obsessed with things from time to time. But, we are aware of it. We know we like this thing too much. We know we’re obsessed with something. We have perspective on it. We know it’s not normal, so it’s ok. If we don’t show that awareness, if we think our obsession is normal, that’s creepy.

In short, a person is creepy if they exhibit an abnormal behavior or trait while showing no awareness that it is abnormal.

Children often come across as creepy. They’re sort of in a no-win situation. For one thing, they are inherently different than adults. They act differently. They’re proportioned differently and look different. They generally have no self-awareness. If they act like children, we find them creepy because they’re not acting like adults. If they act like adults, we find them creepy because they’re not acting like children.

Locations can also be creepy, if they’re abnormal for no discernible reason, or if they’re abnormal in a dangerous way. Kubrik made the Overlook Hotel in The Shining creepy by deliberately making it spatially impossible. The set was rife with impossible doorways, hallways, and windows. Dark places are creepy because they might contain hidden threats. A room full of cobwebs is creepy, but not for the reasons you might think. Walking through a spider web is scary because you didn’t see it and there’s probably a spider on you now. Cobwebs become cobwebs when a spider abandons the web (by either leaving or dying). A room full of cobwebs is creepy because it implies a lack of living things. For one thing, the spiders are all gone. “Why have all living things left this place?” It must be dangerous. For another thing, nothing has moved through this room recently to knock down any of the cobwebs. “Why has this place been so abandoned?” It must be dangerous.

Objects can be creepy too, especially ones that are meant to look like living things. Dolls almost look human but are always just a little off. Masks can look creepy on their own or can make someone wearing them look creepy because they distort features or hide them. Any object can be creepy if something about it isn’t quite right.

Making the show creepy will do more than just help set the mood. It will put the audience on alert and make them easier to scare.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What is "Fear"?

What is “fear”? Why do we fear things? Simply put: we fear things that might kill us. Change, the unknown, and anything we don’t understand might kill us, so we fear them. Then why do we fear things like public speaking? People don’t generally die from that.

We like to think of ourselves as highly evolved, intelligent beings, but the fact is that we’re not nearly as far removed from the wild as we like to think. Of the 200,000 years or so of human history, we lived about 185,000 of those in the wild. Before we were human, we spent about 3.8 billion years evolving out of the first single celled organisms. Civilization is a very recent development (and even today there are people living in the wild).

So we aren’t hard-wired to instinctually fear things that would kill us today in a modern world. We fear things that would kill us in the wild. We don’t fear public speaking because we fear speaking. We fear standing up in front of a group of people who are all looking at us. That’s a very exposed and dangerous position in the wild. You don’t know what this group of people is going to do, and as far as your instincts are concerned, that group of people might as well be a pack of wolves.

If we instinctually fear things that would kill us in the wild, why do people do stupid things like wade into raging streams above roaring waterfalls? On a certain level, people enjoy being afraid. If they didn’t, no one would come to our show. There’s an evolutionary advantage to that. If we avoided fear at all costs, we never would have left the cave to look for food and would have died out a long time ago. Seeking out the occasional fright helps keep us in practice.

Sudden changes in our environment scare us because they could be threats: a loud noise, a sudden silence, a flash of light, a person in a room you thought was empty. But it goes beyond that. How do we avoid living our lives in fear? We learn how the world works; we develop belief systems; we come to expect certain cause and effect relationships. In a sense, we decide what’s possible and what’s not. When something happens that we have come to believe is impossible, it scares us not only because it is a threat but because it throws into question the rest of our beliefs. “If I’m wrong about this, what else am I wrong about?”

How does this help us scare the audience? We’re going to scare the audience by scaring the characters in the show, but our characters are human and react like humans do. As actors and improviser, we can simply choose to be afraid of whatever is happening. If the audience closely identifies with your character, they won’t care exactly why you’re afraid; they’ll just be afraid for you. This only goes so far (but should not be discounted).

Instead, we now have a few strategies we can employ to scare our characters. We can threaten them with death or physical harm. Instinctually, we fear those things. (A serial killer about to break down your door and hack you to bits = scary.) We can also show them impossible things such as supernatural phenomenon. (Your sibling who just died sitting at the foot of your bed singing you a lullaby = scary.) More subtly, we can set up expectations and then break them. This can be as simple as screaming after a long silence or as complex as having our hero’s lover knock on the door before entering throughout the show only to have the monster knock on the door at the end.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Basics of a Horror Plot

Basic Horror Plot:

Once upon a time... There was a group of characters.

And everyday… Those characters did stuff.

Until one day… Something put those characters in danger.

Because of that… Some of them succumb to the danger.

Because of that… They fight to get out of danger.

Because of that…

A.      They succeed. The danger is defeated forever. At least one of them survives.
B.      The danger is not defeated forever, but at least one of them succeeds in escaping it (for now).
C.      The danger prevails. All of them succumb. (This is Torture Porn: Not what we’re doing.)

The Evil Must Succeed on Some Level
The difference between horror and thriller is that in horror you actually see the effect of the danger. In thriller, the danger threatens an outcome that the hero fights to prevent and succeeds in preventing. The outcome never comes to fruition. In horror, the danger succeeds, at least in part. The outcome and its effects are seen (and horrify the audience). Our hero fights to prevent it from happening AGAIN either to themselves or to others.

Armageddon is a thriller because the asteroid never succeeds at destroying the Earth.

Silence of the Lambs is horror because we see what both Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter are capable of.

The Evil’s Intention is Therefore Important
The intention of the evil determines whether or not it succeeds. If the villain in Cape Fear were simply trying to kill his old defense attorney, it would be a thriller, but he’s not. He’s trying to get revenge by terrorizing the attorney’s family. He succeeds at this, but eventually the attorney stops him. This makes it a horror.

The alien in Alien, Michael Meyers in Halloween, and Jason in Friday the Thirteenth are all trying to kill (for different reasons). They succeed in killing. They just don’t kill Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, or whoever it is that survives in Friday the Thirteenth.

The demon in The Exorcist isn’t trying to kill. I haven’t seen it in a while, but I imagine the demon is trying to make people question their faith.

The intention of the evil also figures prominently in ghost stories. Ghosts are rarely trying to kill. Often they are trying to help or warn people of other dangers, but a helpful ghost can be just as dangerous as a malicious one.

The Hero Must be in Danger of Succumbing to the Danger
If the hero isn’t in direct danger, it’s thriller. In other words, I can’t be fighting just to save a friend, family member, or loved one. I must also be fighting to save myself. Taken is a thriller because Liam Neeson is in no direct danger of becoming a sex slave himself. He’s just trying to save his daughter.

The Danger Must be Extraordinary
Death is an ordinary danger.  Being shot is an ordinary danger. Movies about snipers, like Phone Booth, are thrillers not horrors. For death to be the danger, the method must be an unpleasant one or involve some mental anguish. “A fate worse than death” is an extraordinary danger. In short, the danger must be horrifying.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fear Rehearsals 1, 2, and 3: Catching Up

I have been grossly negligent in writing about Fear rehearsals for two reasons. One: I’ve had my head squarely up the ass of Act One, Scene Two. My role involved far more work than I had anticipated. Two: With rehearsals a full month apart, there’s just not the same pressure to blog about rehearsal right away. When we’re rehearsing every week, if I don’t blog immediately, suddenly there’s another rehearsal to write about and I get behind. With rehearsal every month, I have loads of time and then suddenly there’s another rehearsal to write about.

We’ve had 3 rehearsals, sort of. The first involved just a small group of ensemble members as we tried to decide if we had enough people to do the show as just that small group. We decided we did not, so we asked a few people to join the show. Normally we have auditions, but because of the special nature of this show (spread out rehearsals, compressed run, etc) I decided just to ask people to join the cast. I do not recommend this. It’s a lot easier to cast from a small fixed pool of possibilities than it is from the entire world.

The second rehearsal, therefore, was the first with the entire cast. We’re having longer than average rehearsals (4 hours instead of 3), and for this one we spent a great deal of time working on space-object work. Or rather, we spent a great deal of time working with actual objects. We don’t often improvise with props (although if you’ve seen Act One, Scene Two you might not know that). It was interesting to see how using props changed the nature of the scenes as well as to note how we actually use real objects differently from how we frequently pretend to use them when we improvise.

Our second full-cast rehearsal was just last weekend. As is often the case in our rehearsals, I’ve spent a great deal of time thus-far focusing on the first few scenes of the show. In the first rehearsals, we worked a lot on characters. Last weekend, we focused on building environments and worlds that we could play in.

It’s amazing how long and short 4 hours is. It’s also amazing how long and short a month can feel. This whole rehearsal process is something of a structural experiment. It’s a little too soon to tell how well it’s working, but the rehearsals have been great so far.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Act One, Scene Two: Opening Night #machineofdeath

We opened Act One, Scene Two on Saturday, July 9, with a special Machine of Death cross-over event. The show's first scene was a piece written by Dinosaur Comics author Ryan North for the book Machine of Death called Murder and Suicide, Respectively. Ryan joined us for the interview by phone (he was in Florida for the final Shuttle launch), but David Malki ! of Wondermark was in-attendance (pictured above) to sign books and give out death slips.

They both took part in the interview:

The show itself was a lot of fun. If you were there, here's what you saw; if you weren't, here's what you missed:

Dr. Isabel Rosch (Joy) and Dr. Sidney Nelson (Christian) have been developing the Machine of Death, and in so doing, have stumbled upon a genius idea: with rats and statistics, they can send a message to themselves from the future... and maybe avoid their own predicted deaths: murder and suicide, respectively. Meanwhile, director of marketing Charles (Steven) is anxious to monetize the Machine (while avoiding knowing his own results, of course). His plans are slightly derailed when Sidney inexplicably quits, having won the lottery (message from the future!), and goes on an open-ended rock-and-roll bender. As news of the Machine leaks out into the world, it attracts the attention of relatives, and then the general public; the now pocket-sized machine finds its way into every mall in America. But the tidal wave of its effects starts with its inventors: Charles is still longing for Isabel, who’s pining for Sidney, who’s gone off the deep end. While trying to avoid their predicted ends, our characters accidentally bring them upon themselves...

Now, at the end of the show, if you were there, you'll remember that Joy's character took a fall. Then Joy improvised the most realistic space-object blood anyone had ever seen. We're pleased to announce that after a night in the emergency room, Joy is alright and the proud owner of 3 staples in the back of her head. Phew. We know you like to get method Joy, but that's taking it a bit too far!

Steve with Joy's script:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Act One, Scene Two: Second Preview

On Friday, July 8, we had our second preview featuring a fist scene from playwright Annette Roman called After the What the...!?

She didn't want to give too much away about the piece in the pre-show interview, and neither did I:

I sat next to her during the show, and based on her near constant laughter, I think we did a good job. Here's what happened:

It’s the Rapture, or is it? Samson (Greg) sits at home with his wife (Mandy), teen-aged daughter (Joy) and 8 year-old son (Steven) getting more and more agitated as the minutes of judgement day tick away. Then his spiritual leader Pastor Bob Judas (Clay) arrives to say a surprising group of people have vanished. Meanwhile, in heaven, Eve’s boyfriend Adam (Steven), Adam’s atheist mom (Joy), Eve’s transgender Aunt Jezebel (Merrill), and the old Arab immigrant couple the El Sawhis (Mandy and Greg) learn that God is going to send them back to Earth for three days. Then they can choose whether they come or get left behind. Adam tries to figure out how to bring Eve with him. Pastor Judas loses his faith and finds Jezebel, and God is too busy playing mini-golf with Gandhi to pay too much attention.

After the show we had a talk-back with the audience. We like to do these after previews so we can find out how well the show met the audience's expectations. We always learn new things and have a good time:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Act One, Scene Two: First Preview

I haven't written anything yet about Act One, Scene Two except for a quick post over on Experiment Farm (read here). That post will give you the background on my involvement as the show's Literary Manager.

The first preview was Thursday, July 7, and featured a first scene by playwright and improvisor Dan Wilson entitled Silent City. In the words of Trish, the show's Assistant Director, Silent City "takes the conventional noir detective story and gives it a bitter, comic twist, complete with gender role reversals."

At the top of each show, we're bringing the playwright up onstage to interview them about their piece and about their writing-style in general. The point of this show is to improvise the piece how they might have written it, so the interview gives the performers all sorts of good information to work with. Here's Dan's interview:

The show itself was a lot of fun. Here's the "official" show summary that will go out in this week's email to our mailing list:

P.I. Carol Stone (Stacey) is a woman, a failed meteorologist, and completely deaf. Although you'd think all of those things would be a disadvantage in a town full of darkness, she has a knack for solving crimes. In her first big murder case, the seductive Brad Grube (Christian) reports his sister Maxine missing. Another lone woman crime-fighter, Detective Diaz (Mandy), pals up with Carol to solve what turns out to be her murder. Was it evil ODC-afflicted speech pathologist Herr Redding (Clay), who had an affair with her, or another of her ex-lovers, Steve Stevenson (Aaron)? Partnered by the eager, exact direction-following, incompetent William (Steven), Carol neglects repeated texts from her boyfriend Peter (Greg), putting their relationship seriously in jeopardy. However, having figured out the clues, Peter rushes to unmask Diaz as the real murderer, who confesses all in a final fit of clear communication. Peter and Carol make up and marry, and the play ends with on a happy note - just as their next case starts with William's falling through the office door, stabbed in the back.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stories within Stories

If I tell you a story about something that happened to me, you can question me directly about the details, and you can think I’m lying. It's harder to suspend your disbelief.

If I tell you a story about what a friend of mine told me happened to him, you can’t question the story directly, and you don’t doubt that I am telling you the truth about what I was told. I’m not lying. Once you believe that I’m not lying, it’s easier to then believe the story I’m telling you because you’ve already agreed to believe in something. It's easier to suspend your disbelief.

That’s why so many horror stories, especially novels, are stories within stories, Frankenstein being the prime example.

Studies (that can’t find references to at the moment) have shown that once you get someone to say “yes” to one thing, it’s easier to get them to say “yes” to another. Salesmen use that to their advantage all the time. They ask you a simple general question that you’re likely to say “yes” to first and then continue with their pitch.

It’s the same principle.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Voices From the Past

I keep journals, off and on. I have since high school. Most of them are fairly unreadable today, even for myself, but sometimes I go back and read parts of them anyway. Generally I skip over my youthful, hormonally induced rants about my insecurities and read the parts that chronicle interesting events I lived through or witnessed.

But tonight I stumbled across one of my more philosophical musings, written almost exactly 17 years ago. At the time, I was describing why I wanted to do theater and direct plays, and I will transcribe it as I wrote it:

I like plays because it's the perfect thing. It exists in one performance. It affects the audience and you can see its effect. That's all it's meant for. All other performances are academic. A book or a painting may have an affect in one hundred years, but what good does that do the author? To write a book you have to wonder "will anyone read it and what will they think?" Then comes "will people in 100 years read it and what will they think?" That's stupid. You can't sit there and watch them read it. I want to direct and see people's responses. Any thought of the future is stupid, pointless.

Then the immediate next section reads:

I like things to have an end. A movie doesn't end because someone can see it again. A book doesn't end. Someone can read it again. A person can stare at a painting for days. A play ends. It may be performed more than once, but it's never the same way twice.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I do improv, why do I find it so much more satisfying than other art forms, and my thoughts have been running almost exactly along those same lines that I wrote down 17 years ago. In fact, I wouldn't say the above is actually true of scripted theater, but it is true of improvised theater. Simply add the word "improvised" in front of the word "play" above. It's no wonder that I took to improv so thoroughly.