Yes And…- part 1- Shem Pennent and Will Smith

Hello and welcome to the new year and more Improv Diaries! This week saw me return to the world of improv with a drop in lesson at Carleens Tuesday long form based evenings. This would become a regular occurrence in February but it will be on and of for a while but more about that exciting news later…

This week Carleen wasn’t able to be the host so she handed over the reigns to one of her C3Something comedy partners in crime, Shem Pennent. It was nice to have someone else training us, as I have noticed in the last few months having different peoples views and ways of teaching are really insightful and great to help develop you as an improviser.

This week was all about feelings and bringing those emotions to the scene. We warmed up with a very random game that was fun and very different to other warm up games that I have done since starting improv. The first one was to touch as many knees of the other improvisers that you can whilst avoiding others touching your wobbly knees. The next warm up game was a name  game where we went round the circle and had to give ourselves DJ names and act with attitude and then the members of the group would then shout them back with he same attitude.

We then went into warm up scene work, similar to what I did with Improbable where Shem would give us a random word and then we would then create a mini scene out of the word. This was to get us into the role of the who what where and getting into the scene which will help the next part of the lesson.

The main part of the lesson was a take on something that we did with Carleen in about September last year but developing on the concept. Carleen did a lesson about painting a scene / room and then playing with what is in the scene.  (you can read about that lesson here ) This time though, it was not just about painting a scene, it was also to add feeling to the room as well.

Shem split the group into two and started the next part of the lesson. The idea was to paint a room but instead of just describing what is in the room you had to add feeling the object you were describing and the best way of doing that was to add a random personal detail to the object.

After we all had a go at doing this exercise which was quite interesting to do as it gave depth to the room and made you consider adding emotion to objects in scenes to create more depth for the audience to watch and it does build on the emotions that you gain in the scene.

The next round we had to explain the room that we were given but instead of talking about certain objects with a personal reference, instead the person who walked into the scene would some sort of emotion to what they were saying and then the others would build on it. So for example, if the first person walks into the scene frightened, then the people walking in would develop this and be even more scared, screaming, crying, gasping for air etc.

The next and final part of the lesson was to add the emotions to two person scenes. Each couple were given a random word and had to start the scene with a really mundane sentence and then the second person would then react with a lot of emotion to create the next part of the scene. Depending on what the person before said the emotion would constantly change on some sort of emotional rollercoaster to create a scene with lots of emotions.

This week was a good one to get back into the world of improv and what made Shems teaching unique was the little mini active games he would play between each scene. So instead of just applauding people when they came up on stage he would make us do silly little things too make the people performing feel empowered and to make sure that we were not sitting down for too long, but more about that in one of the case studies….

Case Study 1 – Shem Pennant 

It was the first time that I had been taught by Shem but not the first time that I had met him. Back in October I met him very briefly when I helped out with one of the C3 Something 5 A Side show at The Miller Pub. As well as working in improv, Shem also dabbles in stand up comedy as well so i was intrigued to be trained by him.

Shem didn’t fail to impress me, his unique style and approach to teaching was very different to other people that I have been taught by before that it was a nice breath of fresh air. By having such physical warm ups meant that you got to feel comfortable straight away around new people you were improvising with and made there be a really fast energy from the start of the lesson.

The mini celebrations between each of the performances is something that i think was a great way to involve the class and really hope that i see it used more in the future. Instead of just applauding each time someone went up on stage we instead did really random ways to cheer them on. For example, one time we all started shouting ‘oo oo oo’ whilst circling a fist in the air, another time we all got up and did the dance steps from WestSide Story, and then another time doing the clap bit at the beginning of We Will Rock you whilst circling the people performing.

These little things were a great booster for advanced improvisers down to the least experienced because it takes off the pressure of having to perform great every time. I really hope I get to be taught again by Shem in the future and recommend him as a teacher to anyone as he is honest and gives really good feedback to help you develop.

Case Study – Will Smith

I am not sure its the fact that I am currently watching this on Netflix at the moment that I chose this case study or that it popped into my mind randomly but whatever the case is, Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is a good case study for this weeks lesson.

Now when I say that i mean it by the way that Will (and Carlton) dance a lot with such a serious face on and determination that for me, it really relates and reflects the type of mini games we did between scenes.

The little actions and dances we had to do before each group performed was a great way to produce energy and it reminded me of The Fresh Prince because he puts so much emotion and feeling into his dances that it creates really strong laughter for the audience.

Will’s dancing is contrasted with Carlton as when he dances, he is over happy and really excitable which again, produces really high laughter for the audience as it has a lot of energy and the emotion on his face really makes the dancing at a much higher status.


Other Improv News

Ok, so a lot is happening this year and its going to be an exciting year for improv! Firstly myself and some of the guys I met from my course last year have got together to form a troupe and we are doing  our first show soon with a set that I am directing which is exiting. As well as this, our fellow writer Stuart (from Improv London Podcast) has created a new improv show based on lights and colors with improv and I am now part of their troupe as well and going to be performing with them in the near future which is I feel very privileged to be part of their team as its more of an art concept then a comedy show so that will be really fun.

So, over the next few months or so this blog post will not just be about the lessons I go to but also about the progress we go through to become a troupe and the development ahead as it is new to me and I am sure that people thinking of starting a group will want some idea about how the process goes and the work involved!



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