Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Short and the Long of It Rehearsal: Games as Long-Forms

Individual show rehearsals have begun! Actually, they began last Thursday with rehearsal for Improvised Bawdy Shakespeare (8/3). I was not at that rehearsal, as I'm not in that show, but I know they were able to run an entire show! (Mostly because that show is a late-night show and will be short.)

Tuesday night we had two rehearsals running simultaneously. While I was at the rehearsal studio at Stagewerx running rehearsal for The Short and the Long of It (7/26), Amber was across town at the Playhouse directing the rehearsal for Love at First Sight (8/11).

I had forgotten how much fun The Short and the Long of It is, to be perfectly honest. Having to play any sort of improv game for as a 45 minute long-form is inherently challenging and ridiculous. For those of you who don't remember the show, because we haven't done it in 7 years, the first half is a pretty standard short-form show. We come out, set up scenes and games, and have a good time. After each scene we give it a name and write it down on a big piece of paper or white board off to the side of the stage. Then at the end of the first half, we do quick tableaux of every scene to remind ourselves and the audience what we did. Then the audience votes on which scene they would like to see expanded into a long-form in the second half. It's been our experience that they invariably choose the hoopiest game scene we played. Not always, but most of the time.

So you end up having to play spit-take, Oompa-Loompa Commentary, new choice, etc for 45 minutes, which is a great way to learn new ways to play a game. Because, really, you have about 2 and a half scenes to play the game as you know it, and then you have to find new ways to play it or it gets boring.

We have a nice small cast for the show. It's just Christian, Dave, Aaron, and I. And hopefully special-guest returning ensemble member Glenn Etter. Really, he has to come back because without him we don't have enough people to play Oompa-Loompa Commentary.

In any case, to rehearse we spent about an hour or so playing games. We started with a game I learned performing in a benefit show on Sunday wherein two people play a scene while two people watch with their ears plugged in a "sound proof booth". Then those two people replay the scene without knowing the original suggestion or any of the dialogue. So really, the second group is just using the movements of the first scene as the suggestion for theirs. It was quite fun.

We also played spit-take, product-placement, Shakesfeare (genre switch where you're alternating back and forth between Shakespearean and horror), and a game Aaron ran us through that I can't remember the name of. It started with a relationship between two people starting a scene. Then rapidly people would tag one person out and then start a new scene wherein the remaining person stayed the same character and the new person was a new character with a different relationship to that person. They're tiny little scenes and veer off in all sorts of wild directions. Our initial relationship was politician and political consultant. Our last relationship was Santa Clause and Satan.

Then we took two of those scenes and expanded them into short long-forms. We started with Aaron's relationship scene. We were able to remember the entire chain of relationships we had gone through, and for the long form we decided that the scene we had done was the end of the long-form. I don't know if I mentioned that, but because we're expanding the scene into a long-form, we revisit the original scene at some point. It can be anywhere in the story, but for this one we decided it was at the end. That rest of the long-form was then exploring the backstory for all of these different characters (which included Colonel Sanders, his twin brother, God, Jesus, several leprachauns, Satan, the Easter Bunny, a traffic cop in hell, and more). Jesus, who only appeared briefly in the original scene, took on a much larger role in the long-form. Then when we got to replaying the original scene, it had all sorts of new meaning because of the backstory. It was fun.

For the second long-form, we chose the scene switching game I had just learned. For that we basically just told two long-forms alternating scenes. So one pair (pair A) would do a scene while pair B couldn't hear. Then pair B would do their scene based on pair A's movements. Then pair A would plug their ears and pair B would play their next scene. Then pair A would replay it and then do a new one for pair B to mimic. As a performer, you only saw every other scene of the other story, which was very interesting. The key to this game, as we learned, is to make bold choices and use the movements from the other scene in as wildly different a way as you can imagine. Even when doing that, though, the stories ended up paralleling each other thematically.

I can't wait for the show! It's opening night of the run and will be a great way to kick things off.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Un-Abridged Rehearsal #3: Short Form!

Tuesday night's rehearsal was all short form! Short form is so much fun, but we haven't done it in so long. We're doing three short form shows, all opening weekend: The Short and the Long of It, Un-Scripted: unscripted, and You Bet Your Improvisor.

What did we do in rehearsal? Mostly we just played. We warmed up, we did scene after scene after scene of whatever we wanted to do. Sure, we could have been more focused, but the point was just to "jam" and focus when we get into each show's individual rehearsal.

So... I don't really have much else to write. We did a wonderfully funny sit-com scene called "Three Men and a Room." Look for it next year on NBC. The key, really, to a funny sit-com scene is getting the audience to do bad audience laugh-track reactions.

Tonight's rehearsal is for Improvised Bawdy Shakespeare. As I am not in that show, I will not be attending. I believe my next rehearsal is for The Short and the Long of It next Tuesday. I can't wait!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Un-Abridged Rehearsal #2: Musicals!

Thursday night Susan took the reigns as director and ran us through a general musical rehearsal for everyone in one of the five musicals we're revisiting this summer: A Tale of Two Genres, Shakespeare the Musical, Theater the Musical, Bollywood, and Let It Snow. As Susan put it, those musicals are all very different, but they'll all involve singing together and moving together.

So, we started with some group movement exercises. We didn't dance specifically, but focused on moving together. The coolest exercise we explored was something she thought up watching a clip from the Tony Awards of the musical Newsies. She had six people up but all "off" stage. Then one person comes out and begins a simple repetitive movement. Then people come out one or two at a time and joins in doing the same movement. We started with a pyramid formation with the originator of the movement at the front. Then we experimented with free-form formations.

It was amazing.

One thing we always struggle with is patience. Time moves much quicker for an improvisor on stage than it does for the audience. Usually just as an improvisor is starting to think... oh no... I've been doing this too long... the audience is going to get bored... I need to start doing something else... Usually by that time the movement is really just clicking, the audience is just enjoying it, and really you can keep going for much longer than you think you can.

Then we warmed up for singing! I was really nervous. I haven't sung in over a year and a half. Warming up made me nervous as I could feel my notes being all off. But, then when we actually got into singing, I did great. I remembered to sing low, in my range, and I had much more breath support than I was expecting. All that yoga, running, and working out paid off.

We started with some large group "who will buy" environment songs. We did one in a private social club and another in a nightclub before it opened. Anyway, the basic idea is that everyone sings just a phrase about who they are in that environment and it builds into a big song. Follow the link to the clip and it will make sense.

Then we moved on to point-of-view songs, except that when Susan turned things over to Christian to explain point-of-view songs he explained need songs. He did a great job of it, though, so it was useful. (Sing about the way the world is, then about how you dream it will be, and then the reality of how it will be... or something like that. He did a better job.)

We filled the rest of the time alternating between point-of-view songs and duets. I was in a fun point-of-view song where the suggestion was VE Day. I sung as a German depressed that they'd lost the war. Everyone in the song ended up being depressed. It was the most depressing song about VE Day ever.

THEN I did a duet with Cort. That's right, Cort came back for the rehearsal. Cort's a founding member of the group, but he said he hadn't been on stage in 6 years! Still, he's probably done more improv in the last six years then most of us, and "performs" all the time as a teacher. We sang a fun song about two brothers making up after some long ago falling out.

It's always so much fun to get together with a group of talented improvisors and just sing. I can't wait for the shows!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Un-Abridged, Rehearsal 1: INSANITY

10 years! Un-Scripted is in the middle of its tenth season and to celebrate our summer show is Un-Abridged: The Best of Ten Years of Un-Scripted. We're bringing back 12 different shows from the last 10 years for one night only from July 26 to August 18. Here's the full schedule:

7/26/2012 The Short and the Long of It
7/27/2012 Un-Scripted: unscripted
7/28/2012 You Bet Your Improvisor
8/2/2012 Tale of Two Genres
8/3/2012 Shakespeare: The Musical
8/3/2012 Bawdy Shakespeare (late night)
8/9/2012 Secret Identity Crisis
8/10/2012 FEAR
8/11/2012 Love at First Sight
8/16/2012 Theater the Musical
8/17/2012 Great Puppet Bollywood Extravaganza
8/18/2012 Let it Snow

You'll notice there's no show on Saturday August 3. That's because we all have a wedding to go to that day.

How are we going to rehearse this? That's a good question and the answer to it was left up to me. I'm the "overlord" of the show. If it were a TV show, I think I'd be the show-runner. In any case, I put it together. The directing duties for each individual "show" were then divided up among previous directors. I'll be in charge of The Short and the Long of It and Fear, for instance. 

The Un-Scripted ensemble makes up the core cast. Then we asked guests who had been in some of these shows in the past to come back to perform in them (Joy, Michael, Molly, Mia, Scott, and Chris Sams). Then we also opened things up to previous members of the ensemble to return (Tara will be in Let It Snow, others are pending...).

Tuesday night we had a great big introductory rehearsal. Tonight everyone in a musical will get together to work on singing and dancing. Next Tuesday everyone in a short-form show will get together for a short-form dedicated rehearsal. Then each show gets one dedicated rehearsal. There are four pairs of shows without any overlapping cast. They will rehearse on the same nights. I know. It's INSANE. 

So what did we do on Tuesday? We went over the ground rules and covered some logistics. We did some "speed-dating" where each cast got 3 minutes to meet and chat. We did a warm-up game where I would shout out the name of a show and everyone in it would clump together. Then we started doing scenes in each group and jumped around from show to show and scene to scene. 

Then we took turns leading exercises designed to bring us together and connect us. We learned a couple warm-ups that Clay learned in France, including "The Holy Grail". We got to know each other, and we finished early. 

Here's the cast!

Thursday 7/26/2012   The Short and the Long of It                Aaron, Alan, Christian, Dave 
Friday 7/27/2012        Un-Scripted: unscripted                      Aaron, Amber, Dave, Greg , Joy
Saturday 7/28/2012    You Bet Your Improvisor                     Aaron , Amber, Chris, Christian, Dave, Mark

Thursday 8/2/2012      A Tale of Two Genres                         Alan, Christian, Greg, Merrill, Molly
Friday 8/3/2012          Shakespeare the Musical                     Bryce, Christian, Merrill, Michael
Friday 8/3/2012          Improvised Bawdy Shakespeare           Bryce, Christian, Clay, Dave, Merrill

Thursday 8/9/2012      Secret Identity Crisis                            Aaron, Amber, Bryce, Clay, Dave, Greg
Friday 8/10/2012        Fear                                                    Alan, Bryce, Greg, Merrill, Mia, Trish
Saturday 8/11/2012    Love at First Sight                                Amber, Clay, Greg, Mark, Trish

Thursday 8/16/2012    Theater the Musical                               Alan, Christian, Merrill, Trish
Friday 8/17/2012        Great Puppet Bollywood Extravaganza    Alan, Amber, Bryce, Clay, Dave, Greg
Saturday 8/18/2012    Let It Snow                                           Alan, Bryce, Clay, Susan, Scott, Tara