Improv City Tours

Here’s an excerpt from my first scene with Tara DeFrancisco:

ME

Scott from your Section 2 wanted me to give you this.

KRISH OPENS HIS ARMS.

TARA

Sure, we can start the morning off with a hug.

I’m in Scandinavia this week marking my five years as a working stiff, and when I was trying to figure out where I should travel, a friend posted that iO was offering classes in Europe. I looked at the list, and Copenhagen became the winner.

Tara and Rance Rizzutto started off the morning with some group exercises, which including Calligula, an exercise that’s remarkably close to Follow the Follower, but with stage picture in mind, and one that could easily work as an opening. They followed up the exercise by asking the question, “What kinds of themes could one pull from that, and what relationships could those inspire?” The question struck me as interesting because I find it easiest to use the opening to draw inspiration for characters, whereas I find it challenging to define both my scene partner and me into a single initiation line, much in the same way conveying premise is more of a challenge for me. I imagine exercising the same muscle would be useful in conveying either skill.

After the warm ups, we broke off into two groups, and I found myself in Tara’s class. The focus of the first day was on scene work, and there were a lot of insightful notes/observations:

  • “play it instead of say it” – an aesthetic in which one replaces character paints or lines of the “cut to ten years later” variety, i.e. those that break from the flow of the scene and require side support, with single lines between characters in the scene that achieve the same purpose.
  • being truthful doesn’t mean being neutral, particularly when it comes to defining one’s emotions – I think the heart of this is that a character should deliver a truthful line with emotion, which can overcome any concerns that being truthful might sound stilted or robotic.
  • “making up a new fact at minute two means that you weren’t paying attention at minute one” – when in doubt, slow down and replay what’s been said.
  • coyness can often only allow one idea or pattern to be played, and when that idea or pattern loses steam, it can be more of a challenge to move forward, especially if that coyness obscures the emotional state or stakes for the characters.
  • “The moment you’ve lied to the audience is the moment they hate you forever” – this is a variation on a quote by Elaine Stritch: “You cannot tell an audience a lie. They know it before you do; before it’s out of your mouth, they know it’s a lie.”

Outside of actual improv advice, we started Tara’s session by sharing mini-bios of ourselves, and the result allowed us to bond a bit and making it easier to improvise with one another. I’ve already made a few friends from the classes, which may make turn this into one of the coolest ways I’ve explored a new city.

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One Response to Improv City Tours

  1. shirley r says:

    Nice post. Thanks for sharing. Defintely want to see how “play it instead of say it” works out. I think I have seen something like this from MUT’s Five Play (their main stage) troupe.

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