June really got away from me this year. That sentence makes it sound like I can just whip out any June of any year and give you all of the specifics, but I really can’t. It’s just that, May seemed really long compared to June. May wasn’t easy. June has been easier and busier. So much busier.
Last weekend was Learnapalooza, and it was incredibly awesome. As much as I was so nervous leading up to it that I wasn’t going to be prepared at all, the day went by incredibly smoothly and without any major hitches. It was awesome, and I got to teach my first ever improv class, which I will now describe in great detail!
One of our teachers needed to back out at the last minute, so I took over her class, and thanks to many friends and former teachers suggestions and input, I had a pretty solid class. Until the last fifteen minutes, I would say. The class was just a simple, one-hour class on Storytelling in Improv. We started off playing that game where you say your name and put and action with it, so that people know who you are, and then repeating someone else’s name and action, so you rememember who everyone is. It was a lot of fun, and one of the first things I ever did in improv. My students picked up on everything super fast. After that, we did a few rounds of 1-2-3-2-1 Word Story to get them thinking, but then get them out of their heads. They did well with it, but kept getting tripped up until I took away any rules and just told them to tell me a story, but to give everyone a fair chance to speak and stay in the circle. That was when they started putting emotion and energy behind their words. It was a lot of fun to watch their minds collaborate on a hugely energetic level.
Next I had them all stand in a row facing me, and we created a character. They gave me a few facts about this person, which I wrote down, and then repeated to them. They also named the character. Afterwards, I went to each of them, randomly and still in line, and addressed them as this character. I asked them questions, and they built more and more on this character, giving her life. It was a lot of fun. AND THEN THINGS CRUMBLED!
Ok honestly, it wasn’t the worst, but I gave them one last thing to do but didn’t really explain why they were doing it or what I wanted from them, until about the third person. What I wanted was for them to describe in great detail the incredibly mundane topic with which I would provide for them., then I would have their peers ask them questions about details where they would have liked more information. What I did was have one person stand up, and then say “Tell me about (insert mundaine topic here)” and then let them talk for a while and then say “Does anyone have any questions?” as though I knew wtf the I was doing.
The good part about this screw up is NOW I KNOW. The bad part is I felt kind of like I screwed up everything we’d worked on prior to that moment. The best part is that they probably won’t think about it as much as I still am, AND the class was free so they didn’t really lose anything except and hour where they could have been doing something else incredibly awesome.
The moral of the story is that teaching was super fun and I’d like to do it again one day, once I’ve got my shit straight.
Improv is life. I’m not saying that in a weird “I AM SO HARDCORE ABOUT IMPROV” way. It really is though.
Learnapalooza is coming to Lakeview July 21st, so keep your eyes peeled for that if you live here in Chicago and couldn’t make it out to the Wicker Park event! It’s going to be a bit of a smaller scale, since this is the first year for branching out of Wicker Park, but it will still be most excellent!
OH HEY I was really sick last week, in the stomachy/intestinal sense! I am fine now. Seriously. I lost five pounds and my jeans are baggy, but it’s actually nice because I feel like I get to start over with food (ie: healthier, even though I don’t eat all that crappy now, but from now on, less candy ok!). Also I can’t stop thinking about sandwiches again, which is how I know I’m better because the idea of food has made me pretty grossed out most of this week. I might go get one! Later.
I also missed my first improv class here in Chicago, last week. I like to think it is ok, since I was still having improv times in some capacity, but I really wanted to have perfect attendence, even if no one else cares except for myself, because I just don’t like missing class at all. It’s not like I can just pick up someone’s notes and catch up, but it’s also not like I need to worry about “catching up” I will have time to work on those things every time I improvise. I just missed valuable time to work on something important, while also working on something equally important. But, I went to class this week, and it was fucking magical.
Yesterday was class #3 of Advanced Improv with Mick Napier. I would like to take a moment to just say, as I may have said before, that I don’t think I’ve met a nicer group of people than the people, both classmates and teachers, that I have met at the Annoyance. I am seriously considering taking all levels over again just to have the rest of the teachers and meet more awesome people, mostly because I don’t want to leave because I really do love the Annoyance so much, and also because I am really just nervous to go to iO or Second City or ComedySportz (or other places), even though I am sure those people will be perfectly nice as well. At least, I hope they will be. But, I’ve already decided that I’m not starting another program until November or so (once the play is over and I’m planning a trip to Wisconsin for cheese and hopefully a trip to NC for fun!), anyhow, so that will give me some time to think about all of that.
Mick’s class is great. It’s incredible, the amount of knowledge and information you can get in two hours, and still have ample time to do a bunch of scenes and really work on what we’re all talking about. Last week was apparently spent working on avoiding mention of time, the best (blank) ever, and playing scenes using strings of English, but nonsense, words. This week, we focused on popping. Yes.
I think you know my answer, dean…
I’ve been sitting for like ten minutes now trying to think of where to even start with explaining class yesterday. Here’s the thing: If you’re in Chicago, please just go take classes at the Annoyance. If you’re not, try to do their intensive program. I’ll try my best to help you find a place to stay during that time.
Yesterday we worked on jumping all over a scene. All up in it. Keeping the energy up. Keeping the scene popping. The overall takeaway was that it doesn’t matter what the opening sentence is, but what matters is that you say something, and then whatever you discover, just keep it alive. Have you ever played that game where you’re in a group of people, and you’re hitting a ball in the air and keeping track of how many times you’ve hit it, and you can’t let the ball drop or else you have to start over, but no one can hit the ball twice in a row? (please say yes, it’s so much fun. Yes, it’s a ball. Yes, we’re grown ups. GO DO IT, because it’s fun and builds teamwork and stuff). Anyhow, imagine your scene is that ball, and your scene partner/s and yourself are in it together, keeping that ball off the ground. Sure, the ball’s totally still in play if it hits a couch and not the floor, but you need to keep touching the ball (lol) and making sure that ball never hits the floor. Don’t rely on the couch! The couch is helpful but you’re more helpful!
Sorry, sometimes I get carried away with analogies. The ball is the scene’s energy, and you’ve got to keep that up. Keep punching your lines and making them awesome. Jump all over people’s ideas and add to make them go higher. This doesn’t mean you have to scream or jump around like a crazy person, when I’m talking about energy. But I mean, if that’s your thing then go for it. But just keep the scene alive, because once it hits a lull (aka the couch in the above paragraph), you and your scene partners are the only ones who will be able to get it back up to awesomeville again. Our scene energy fizzles because we get complacent. Hold on to your character’s deal, hold on to the unknown of the scene, and just let it take you to a cool place of discovery. And know, KNOW that your opening line doesn’t have to set the tone of EVERYTHING. You can start a scene with “fish blow” and that doesn’t mean you’re stuck talking about fish the whole time…maybe that’s drug slangor something. It doesn’t matter. They’re just words. Make them awesome, have fun, and remember, first and foremost, that you’re an entertainer, and you’re probably doing all of this to make your audience laugh, and it’s ok to play for the laughs. Don’t lose sight of that, at any cost. Just don’t be weird about it, though.
I feel like it’s time for a nap. Oh! Please do not forget Karaoke Idol on is on Thursday, for those of you who are Chicago-based…check out the info and come suppord READ/WRITE Library if you can! I’m competing! I haven’t picked a song yet! Hooray!