The Next Step – part 3 – Amy Poehler

This week was has been a busy week of improv related things so lets get started!

Long Form Lesson

This week was of those lessons that I ended up walking away not liking – its not Carleens fault, but this sort of lesson I have always not liked. Its always good to do sessions that focus on one area of improv and to be honest, this is usually what all weekly lessons have done in Newcastle and in London but there is always going to be a couple of lessons you are not that keen on. It does not mean that you end up hating improv, it just beens there are a few bits of the nitty gritty that do no interest me.

This weeks lesson was on justifying who, what and where, we did a lot of these lessons in Newcastle and Ian was the person who did these with us and we focussed on walking into a scene with an idea already to where we have just been to make a scene as it was an easy way to set out a scene and to justify everyone. We also did lessons where you walk on and immediately endow the other person with something and then you have to accept it and go with it. When a different person teaches you these things it can be a little bit frustrating as everyone trains differently.

The first thing we did was a warm up where we got endowed with a physical or personality trait by the person left of us in the circle then we went round the circle having to make it sound realistic as to why we have this trait etc. So for example, someone got endowed that they were a bear, another had cream cheese hair and eye brows, I was really good at divorces (pick em, stick em then flick em…) etc etc. It was a goo exercise to get into the mindset of accepting everything that is thrown at you.

The next game that we did was one half of the room stood on one side of the room and the other half stood on the other side and the person at he end of the room on one of the sides had to walk forward and endow / make a statement for the person facing them to accept and explain why the situation was the way it was or extend on what the person was saying. I wasn’t that sure in this game as it was meant to be played as an exercise and not as a scene which i really do not like doing i prefer acting in a scene then doing it as an exercise and from doing such a basic exercise it changed my mood of the whole of the evening. This sometimes happens with improv, from time to time you will get a niggling in the back of your head that turns on and just tells you your rubbish and this game turned that switch on.

The last part of the lesson this week was scene work where we had to create a scene with the most awful suggestions to make us used to what happens if you are giving a really bad location and suggestion etc. So these were things like be bananas in the North Pole in a Tescos, or Unicorns playing gambling in Japan. We were given the challenge of being Italian in Romania, going to a health spa at night where you are turning into a pumpkin. I had a lot of issues with this game.

The first thing was how specific everything of the suggestion is. In Newcastle, we were always trained that suggestions should not be too specific as it closes you into a tight box with no freedom to do what you want to in the scene. I notice in London, in every class i have been to, the suggestions have been so specific and I am not sure if i like this way of working. The second issue I have is the fact someone gave us a foreign identity. Now, in Newcastle, if we were told we were Italian, you would play it out as Italian and do the accent, i got told to not do this and play it natural. How can you be given a identity of an accent / person and show that in a scene without the accent – it does not make sense to me and this direction on stage threw me and made me not feel 100% in the scene. Another issue I had was the person i was playing the scene with. Now, nothing against this person as they are very nice but you find from doing lessons who you like doing scenes with and who you find it more difficult to do them with and this was one of those situations. I don’t think either of us felt comfortable with the suggestions which made us both not be able to improvise the scene well.

Overall, this week was not one of my favorites for Improv, whilst i am constantly learning, there are always lessons you are not going to like the topic of, and for me, this was one of them.

Case Study – Amy Poehler


Now, before we go onto all the other improv news of the week, I want to talk about our case study which has a very significant resemblance to this weeks lesson – Amy Poehler. Now, i am going to start off with a very blunt point – i do not like Amy Poehler, I have never really ‘got’ her humor or really liked a lot of things that she is been in, saying that I still really want to watch Parks and Recreation. Put that show aside i just never got her and find her voice annoying. However, as soon as her book was released called Yes Please, I wanted to read it. I have no idea why, maybe it was the snazzy cover, or the fact i had read Tina Fey’s, but i knew i just wanted to read it and starting it a few weeks ago i am glad i made that decision.

I am still not sure if I will walk away from the book in love with her or finding the stuff she does funny, but i will walk away from a book that i have really enjoyed reading and have seen her in a different light. She says some really interesting stuff about the improv scene that she has been a part of for years that is really interesting and her views on various topics are also really interesting too.

I suppose the point I am trying to make here is, that it is a bit like this weeks improv lesson. I didn’t like the subject and gritted my teeth whilst doing some of the exercises however, if i hadn’t of done them, i wouldn’t of learnt something new. If i hadnt of read Amy Poehlers book i wouldn’t of learnt a new side of her but it still may not be enough for me to really like her. So I will leave you on this section with a few of the quotes that she has said in her book about improv.

“I would go home and writ in my journal “Amy, take more risks!” “Get better at object work!” “Don’t be afraid to sing!” – Amy Poehler

Other Improv News

This week I also went and helped out with tech of my first improv show in London. When I first moved back to the capital, i decided i wanted do as much as i can in the Improv scene to meet new people, make new friends, and hopefully one day become part of a troupe (thats the plan right there). So when Hoopla advertised for volunteers to help out at shows in tech and welcome people at the door i jumped at the chance. This week I was helping out on the door and with tech at the C3? Five a side improv show. It was good fun and met some new people and a chance to see long form on stage. I hate to say it, but from watching another long form show I am still not sure if I am a fan of the style. It works on shows such as Showstoppers, Shh A Silent Film and Austentatious, but in a short form dynamic, competition or small show I am not sure I like it.

Saying that, I have realised that I really miss doing short form even though I have only been doing long form for only a few weeks, i prefer short form. So I have signed up to do an eight week course starting in October to learn advanced short form!





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