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There’s only so much you can do by yourself in order to develop your improv skills, especially on your lonesome. Try shaking it out in front of a mirror and you’ll see what I mean. Lately, my improv development has been watching episodes of the old sketch show Full Frontal.
Yeah, I’ve been watching sketch comedy to improve my improv. I must sound crazy - like telling you that I'm learning how to ride a bike by driving a bus. Sure, they are both forms of transportation but they are executed very differently! The same goes for sketch comedy and improv, but there are lessons we can learn from the former to apply to the latter.
It’s said that a great improvised scene could be written out beat for beat as a scripted sketch. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s approach to scenework is that a scene should have an identifiable pattern that the performers find during the scene, which is then played back and forth. The pattern starts off as something familiar and even relatable, but gets more and more absurd as time goes on. This is known as the game of the scene. The idea is that once we have found this game, we can strip out the specific details from the scene and apply the same game to a different scenario - meaning that we are getting to the funny thing even quicker because we have established rules.Continue Reading
The split-second moment before you step out on stage is a heady one. It’s terrifying. Nerve-wracking. Uncertain. It’s also thrilling. Exciting. Addictive. Occasionally there’s a confidence that goes with it – the notion that this is single-handedly going to be the best thing you can contribute, and the reaction will be insane. Other times though, there’s nothingness – no solid initiation, no clue as to what will happen, no idea. You just hope for the best.
But each time is the same. Each time you’re jumping into the void. There are no guarantees. No certainty. And once you’re out there, there’s no going back.
This leap into the unknown has a parallel that’s scarily similar to my own personal life right now. To make the rest of this post make any sort of sense, I should probably just spit it out: I’m gay.Continue Reading
I have been studying at the Improv Conspiracy since April 2015. In that time I've watched innumerable shows: Harolds, Remixes, Jams, Cage Matches, etc. Each one a delight in its own right, each one making my heart healthier for the privilege. I sat and watched in awe of these performers and a deep desire to join their echelons, to become part of a team and tread the boards of the Improv Conspiracy Theatre as a performer.
I auditioned and had my wish granted when I was assigned to the Fresh Blood program, with the infallible Simon McCulloch as our coach, and training began. Different from studying, no longer a set curriculum to follow, but adding our own influence to how we trained, and with Simon’s wise guidance, a chance to make the team our own.
As we trained, getting ready for our first show, I realised that as an improviser what I needed in my career, in my improv journey, is to perform. It’s important to log some serious stage time. There is only so much, watching, reading and studying you can get under your belt before you have to get up and do it.Continue Reading
Your end-of-term performance is done. You think you rocked it, though there were some problems, but ah well... the other student performances going on in front of you seem to meander to the background, as in your head, you're busily replaying and analysing every move you made. It's an unyielding internal debate, and standing at the opposing podiums are Uncertainty and Satisfaction, while the person getting drunk in the stands provides a welcome distraction. Over the next day or two, you're coming down off the high. Then, the email arrives. The heart sinks. Imagined future scenarios get much darker. You've been repeated. At that very point, the reasoning and attempts to comfort seem irrelevant.
I once murmured to someone when I first started improv at the Conspiracy that it'd be good to do every level twice, since you could (back then) start Level 1, and top out of Level 4 in 36 weeks. That is a very short period of time to learn a lot. It seems that, for me, this idea is becoming reality, and not of my own choice. I have been repeated once each for Level 1, 2, and the new Level 3. There's a small subset of people who know what it's like to experience a slower growth than their peers. These are the people who have stuck with it, who see more in it than the sting of the results, who didn't crack it and give up, and who come back time after time. It'd be naive to assume the experience is the same for everyone, it seems that no two improv journeys are ever alike. Though, I will share with you how it has been for me.Continue Reading
In my opinion our individual identity is a combination of who we believe we are and how we are perceived by others, with each informing the other. An identity gradually builds over time. Expectations form. Habits accumulate like tartar.
Who am I?
I am a white woman. Tall, slim and often described as “attractive”. While these labels are associated with “compliments” they can become restrictive. And before you jump in with “Bitch please, being a pretty white girl, how f**king restrictive could that be?!”, which is a fair response, please let me elaborate.
There is an immense pressure to be “attractive”, whatever “attractive” actually means, you know, subjectivity. As an actress, this pressure is so normal, it could reasonably be accepted as part of my job. I have been weighed in auditions. I read brief after brief calling for an “attractive woman” and scripts describing “the wife” as “pretty, girl next door type”. Naturally, the identity of an “attractive woman” is believed to be a valuable one. It gets jobs. And men, I’m aware you have similar pressures too, but the value of a woman falls to her appearance so readily and naturally that it is an issue that needs to be addressed until more change is evident.
I’ve experimented a lot with the correlation between the way I am treated and my appearance. On the days when my hair is grubby, my face is naked and I wear clothes that are two sizes too big, I am a breath away from invisible. There are days when I like it this way because when I wear heels, get my pins out and don lashings of mascara the attention can be overwhelming. Greetings from a stranger- “Hey baby girl” (I am clearly not a baby). VERY attentive wait staff. Being purposefully and inappropriately touched on public transport. Well intended friends drowning me in praise. Is this who I am? Is this my identity? My appearance?Continue Reading
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