This week I decided to up my game with Improv and to start learning a new form – long form. This style of improv is more narrative based and can lead to stories being told over a longer time then short form, meaning you can build up characters, relationships, identities and even develop it to be musical etc.
This week i went to a session held by C3Something Improv and taught by Carleen at the same location of the MayDay drop in I went to last week. They are both under the name of The Nursery but different people train on different days which is nice as you have a different variation or people to learn from.
This week was all about opening scenes in Long Form which was a great lesson to introduce me properly to the style. Now if you remember, I dabbled a tiny bit with Long Form in Newcastle when we were introduced to masks and were meant to do another lesson on long form but never did. You can read my mask article by clicking here.
We started off with a warm up game where this week it was easy to learn names then confuse everything yay! The warm up game was done in the style of a form of long form improv i deteste and saw a few of them up in Newcastle and didn’t like them because of this one thing – opening monologues. (luckily the person training us also didn’t like them hooray! More about that later..) This is a form of long form that each member of the team will stand at the front of the stage and give a paragraph or so about who their character is and a bit of detail about them.
I agree with what Carleen said about them and in all fairness it is more then likely one of the big reasons I do not like them either but i will sum it up in my words as i can’t remember exactly how she said it. Opening Monologues can be a bit boring to watch (my words there) and it can be a lot for other members of the team to remember, also the way that everyone is stood in a line behind the person giving the monologue can look quite mundane just standing there and not doing a lot. I think this is what was putting me off long form. I hate the monologue, i hate the halfway monologue even more with a passion. I find it drags out and goes on what seems like forever and i do not feel it brings anything to a scene.
Anyway, back to the lesson. For the warm up game we each had to say a monologue about ourselves that the next three people will say what they liked about the monologue in five or less words – so it was a little bit like the headlines game that we played as a warm up before Rat Race games in Newcastle. I am not sure if it’s because of my job but I found summarising monologues in 5 or less words really easy to do and came up with some good mini headlines such as “Calamity James has shame” and “Starstruck By Hunger”.
The next thing we did after this warm up game was split the group into two so there was six people on each side of the room. My group went and sat down as the audience and watched the other six
Perform the next challenge. The first opening scene we were going to learn about is painting a scene. The audience will suggest a random object, so this time it was a balloon and this means that all the scenes that are painted have to be ballon related somehow.
One person steps forward and starts to “paint a scene” describing what they can see Surrounding them without over describing the peoples emotions and what they are thinking in a scene as they will leave no space for the improvisers in the next section. The first scene that was painted was a blimp that crashed with a fireman with his own puppies and a clown status catching on fire. Someone will walk in front of the scene to erase that picture to create a “new one” that’s completely different. The other two that were created was a child at a zoo dressed like their mother, and a child at a birthday party on their own whilst someone looks through the window.
When these scenes were created we swapped over and my group had to take what we had just seen and make scenes from them. I did a scene with a girl about the fireman and the clown at the blimp on fire. We turned it into a scene where the fireman was very self indulged and egotistical and the clown which was my character was actually a performance clown. I turned the clown into a character who couldn’t run away from the fire behind because they had superglued their shoes to the ground because they couldn’t stay still and now was regretting it as he couldn’t get away from the fire and the fireman wasn’t that bothered and more caring about their fashion and who they have saved in the past. The scene got quite a few laughs which is always great to hear.
The improvisers doing the kid at the zoo turned it into a mother who was over protective of her daughter and wouldn’t let her have any fun and the child on their own with the person at the window turned into a man begging to be let in to the house but the child refusing as he knows that he slept with his mother and he is married to the aunt…
The next thing we did was a different opening scene and this was focus object. So this is when the audience suggest again a random object which all the people on stage throw things at it saying it is something. Some got the suggestion of a flip flop which we had to say things to it like “it is plastic” “it is colourful” etc and even more extra gent ones like “it is the reason johnny depp hates me” “it is the reason I am sick” etc. We did this in three different styles such as Shakespearean as the main points were starting to be highlighted and in the last round each of us had to step forward and become one of the personality traits we put out there. The other group then came back on stage and had to create scenes from the personalities traits that we set up from the flip flop game.
Case Study – i Bugiardini
Now, if you remember at the beginning of August, The Phoenix Remix blog was live at the Edinburgh Fringe festival writing live reviews about shows that we saw in a day and this was one of the groups that we saw and also had one of our highest reviews (read it here).
i Bugiardini are an improv troupe from Rome and the style of improv I saw them do really links into what Carleen was saying this week about opening scenes in Long Form.The opening scenes in which we started off with the painting a scene ones, Carleen told us to imagine it at a silent film and filling in the details so the audience gets a gist as to what the scene is about.
iBugiardini, who i saw at the Fringe, did a long form improv show called Shhh! It’s An Improvised Silent film and this is a perfect case study to go along with this theory that Carleen said. I went to this show specifically for two reasons, one I am a massive silent film fan and two I wanted to see how it worked in the world of improv.
In between the black scenes where the type / information would be written live, a group of improvisers would create the story just by using movements and working with the music of the improvised piano. It was fantastic the way that they created scenery. The one I saw was about Deep Sea Diving and to create scenes they really created depth to connote the visual. For example when it was under the sea two people would pretend to be waves to connote this, and then the others would be fish or items under the ocean.
These little attentions to detail made such a difference and can be applied to the form of the opening scene. Without giving a person a personality trait or a story, you can easily build up the scene around them, just like iBugiardini do.