Improv Diaries – Getting To Know Steve Roe, Meisner, Tomato Soup and Dreams… [Case Study James Witt and Ace Ventura]

This week has been a busy one in the world of improv – rehearsals for Punders was just looking ahead to the June show, so instead of boring you with admin, here are some other things that have been happening.


Hoopla Fest Lessons 

As part of the Hoopla Festival, there was a number of different workshops that were happening to sort of showcase just some of the lessons and teachers that Hoopla have on offer. There was a a variety of different things on offer with different topics and I decided to pop along to two of them.

Steve Roe – The Meisner Technique  

When I saw that Steve was teaching a lesson I knew I had to attend because everytime that I have done, I tend to learn a lot and something new. I didn’t really know what the Meisner technique was or what I was letting myself into but I went along anyway mainly because I knew it would be taught well no matter what it was.

The Meisner technique which I soon learnt was all about the focus for an actor to  “get out of their head” Some exercises for the Meisner technique are rooted in repetition and this is what we looked at in these two hours.

Repetition of certain words and statements can create more truthful scenes. In pairs we had to comment on what people wore. For example -‘you are wearing glasses’ and then the person you were commenting on would say ‘I am wearing glasses’ say this until it doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Once we had mastered the first part – which felt really weird mentioning the samet hings over and over again, we then did a number of different levels:

Phase 2 – Physicality, noticing movements

Phase 3 – Noticing emotions on the face

Phase 4 – State how you think he person is feeling but say it as a statement

Once we had mastered all these levels the next thing we had to do in a  scene was focus on the space you choose between you and your partner – – whether you are close or far away from one another automatically creates a scene and creates comedy. The main things that I really learnt from Steves lesson was:

  • Meisner technique really impact as scenes truth and comedy not about words more about the scene partner
  • When repetition is put into a scene 80% should be about repetition and ever so often you should add information from our scene location you have been given

It was a really fun lesson and because the numbers were odd I got to do a lot of scene work with Steve Roe. Usually in lessons this doesn’t get to happen and it was such a delight because the ideology is so silly that it created some really stupid scenes and it was really fun and utterly hilarious. This included  scene about a posh person trying to buy tomato soup.

Jame Witt – Musical Lesson Dreamweaver Quartet Style 

The other lesson I decided to do and was incredibly excited about was learning how to do musical improv in the style of Dreamweaver Quartet. For anyone that knows me, I love anything to do with music and improv so the fact that one of the elite music improv performers was doing a class I had to go.

We started off the lesson by doing a number of different vocal warm ups to get us ready for an afternoon of singing. This included things such as scales, the game hot spot and a pleasant little song about daffodils and the mountains. We then went on to focus around the world of dreams. ( for anyone that wants to learn more about Dreamweaver then click here )

The first thing we did was learn about the different types of  characters that people have in dreams and there is 13 in total ranging from the magician, the hero to the leader etc

We were given one of these traits to do – I was given a leader and I automatically thought of a prince who is cocky think he is gods gift to women (like the prince in Shrek) and then brought it to modern london. We had to then do a monologue as that character and whenever Rick started to play the piano we had to burst into song and sing as that character – it was super fun.

For the last half of the lesson we broke into teams of four and then it was our time to give performing a mini musical about dreams a try. It was really unusual trying to recreate someone elses dream but also fun and creative at the same time. It was so much fun and definitely something I want to explore more of.


Character Lesson with Sue Harrison

This week was the last part of the character course with Susan Harrison, we started off the lesson with a bunch of warm ups including a Game of Thrones version of zip zap zop and hot spot. We then picked up where we left it last week – the counselling session game.

Last week, you may of remembered me talking about a game where a bunch of characters enter the same room and are there to talk to a person sort of like an AA meeting. Sue gave us all an objective to work on as a character – i was given the challenge of thinking of a celebrity and using quirks of that person in the seen. The first person that springs to mind was Jim Carrey – it always is Jim when i think of Character – but I specifically set to focus him on Ace Venture mixed with Stanley Ipkiss from The Mask. I will talk more about Jim later but it worked and I really enjoyed doing it. For the final part of the lesson and the course we spent it doing various scenes with different scenarios.


Case Study – James Witt and Ace Ventura 

This week there was only two people that I really wanted to talk abotu – so lets start with James Witt first. I have never been taught by James before, but everyone that has been taught by him has said nothing but positive and great things about him so the fact that he was teaching one of my favourite genres of improv, I HAD to do it no matter what. It was a pleasure to be taught by James as I found him such a great teacher, he really just dives into a topic whilst also describing something to well and in depth that you understand it first go.

I suppose James lesson was the closest I have had in improv to a school teacher – now that seems like a bad thing to say but I mean it in the highest compliments. I felt that when I walked away from the room I had learnt so much that I felt that if I was given an exam I would pass.

This week in character class I had to create a character being inspired by an impersonation of someone. My instincts automatically went to Jim Carrey – the one thing I love about Jim him is that he is so great at creating characters and he does this by bringing a number of different quirks to one to make them unique and stand out that even if you haven’t seen a film for ages you can still remember distinct things that the character does.

My original plan was to create a character that was a mix between Ace Ventura and Stanley Ipkiss from the Mask to create someone that is balanced between crazy quirky and sensitive. However, when I went on stage it ended up being predominantly Ace because I felt the scene needed some crazy. I constantly was thinking about what Ace would do when the attention wasn’t on him and remember in the films he constantly eats bird seed – so I sat there pretending I was getting seed out of my pockets and looking around at the world around me. I also remember in the films that he doesn’t like to stay still so throughout the scene I would move how I was sitting and kept coming up with unusual way to sit on my seat.

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