This weeks improv lesson was in a really unusual place – it was in a bookshop. A bookshop you say, well yes, I didn’t know until this week that there is theatre space hidden behind the back of a bookshop in South London and for a rehearsal space its not the biggest but its really nice. The thing I loved about having a theatre space hidden in a bookshop is that I love reading. I obviously didn’t get a chance to look around the store this time as I didn’t know it existed but the next time i am there I am going to see what theatre and arts books are available!
Anyway, back to this weeks lesson which for me was a big step into a different area of improv I haven’t really done but more about that later. We started with a warm up game that was music based that was really good fun. We all stood in a circle and closed our eyes and started making music noises and it turned into a type of song. When it was finished we were asked to name the piece of music we just made. We did this a few more times and when we finished we then had to make scenes out of the names we had just called the music. We were to create scenes that were inspired by anything that we just did. It was a fun way of getting into scene work.
The next thing we did was work on scene work without saying anything but numbers. We were given a location and then in pairs we would do scenes where all we would say is random numbers. This was so that we weren’t focussing on what we were saying but to build up a scene with emotion and scene work. When we had all done a scene with the number game we then had to redo the same scenes but this time putting dialogue to the scene. This actually was helpful as the actions and the scene were already in place so by just adding dialogue you were justifying the feelings, emotions and story as to what was happening.
Once we had all done this with dialogue we then started to focus on what scenes could lead on from the ones that w had just done, taking the strongest characters and focussing on their traits and what makes them interesting and throwing them into different situations to see what happens next.
After doing this for a while we then jumped into doing a full 23 minute Harold. I had never done a full one of these before and from jumping straight into the deep end it was really fun. For those reading this wondering what a Harold is then let me go int a bit as to what it is. In improv there are two main types of show, the short form which is mainly games like Whose Line Is It Anyway and then there is long form which is like a improvised play so to speak. There are many different formats to the long form focussing on different styles and Harold is one of them.
As Improv Encyclopaedia.com describes it:
Harold is a long format, and consists of a number of sub-formats. It basically consists of 3 components:
- Scenes, with 2 to 4 players
The format starts with a suggestion from the audience – this could really be anything. Players will start associating around the suggestion, and then an opening game is played. In this game, a lot of associated elements round the audience suggestion are presented. The opening game might be a song, a monologue, or simply a group association based on the audience suggestion. The idea is to use the elements and themes that come up or about in the opening game in what follows
I had a lot of fun doing the Harold and it was interesting how it branched out. The thing that I enjoyed about it was seeing how the characters develop and how they end up all intertwining at the end. We got a lot of positive feedback for the Harold we performed and I felt good after it and is something I want to develop in.
This week I was trying to aim in throwing myself into characters and delving into scenes I may usually not want to be a part of it. My mind was in edit mode and I could keep seeing ares where extras were needed and sometimes shyed away from them which in the future I will not.I felt a lot of high energy this week and I feel it may of shown in my improv which is always a good thing.
Case Study – Mike Myers
This week I have spent a little bit of time watching Austin Powers films and I wonder if the character study of Mike Myers may of been something i channelled this week in my comedy. I like Austin Powers for many reasons and a lot of them aren’t really about the basis of the film.
Whilst I adore the one liners and some of my favourite quotes come from the film, the one thing I think really stands out in Austin Powers is Mike Myers character acting. He plays so many different characters in them that sometimes its hard to remember which ones as he is very good at disguising himself into different roles.
I feel that Mike Myers is a great case study to look at whilst doing improv and felt that watching him helped me this week with improv. I thought carefully about the characters I was bringing on and also tried to remember comedic timing and mirroring. There was a scene in the Harold where I was on stage with an improviser who is very good at bringing energetic characters on stage so i though the best thing to do was to mirror his enthusiasm to see what would happen on stage and it brought a very big scene to the stage that we were praised for.
If you look at the scenes that Mike Myers also has done with SNL he really does use facial expressions to make a point and this is exactly what I was trying to do this week as well, by using facial expressions, and emotions you can bring a character to life and bring a laugh to the audience without saying a word just focussing all on the actions instead.