Shame!

First Time?

I felt instant improv shame earlier this week…

I’ve been reading Mick Napier’s “Improvise. Scenes from the Inside Out” (a book I feel I should have read a long time ago, and feel even more shame about having waited so long to pick it up.) In a Harold show, playing with people with whom I don’t regularly play, I pulled a rookie “This is my first time…” move to initiate a scene.

According to Napier, first day/time scenes are justifications allowing the improviser to be incompetent or uninformed in the scene. Basically, by admitting to not knowing anything, you put the onus on your partner to do all the heavy lifting.

Reading the book, I honestly didn’t think I had a problem with “first days” or too much justification. But as I entered the scene on Tuesday and those words came out of my mouth, I wanted to hit the Rewind button and swallow them back in.

I imagined Napier walking into the theatre, hearing me utter those words, roll his eyes and walk right back out.

Luckily, I had a good partner. And heavy-lifting, he did.

A nice thing about a long form set is that there’s often chances to redeem yourself.

Hit it Harder

Later in the set, I rolled around on the floor for what felt like hours (it was maybe max 15 seconds.) This is a pretty big physical offer, even for someone who doesn’t mind the occasionally large physical offer. In these moments, I felt a strong sense of “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING? YOU LOOK LIKE A FOOL” — not only in my own head, but I imagined it coming from the other characters in the scene and every other improviser in the audience.

It had also been a while since I’ve felt those feelings on stage. It’s often my job to be foolish. By now, I’m pretty used to it. But it is interesting to notice that sense of the anxiety to conform still exists in my trained-to-be-silly brain.

Conversely, I also felt a sense of ridiculous joy rolling around on the floor, in the act itself, and the reaction it was garnering from my scene partners. This helped me double down on my commitment to it.

“If you feel like bailing in an improv scene hit it even harder, instead” – Mick Napier

That I did. And I even brought the rolling around back in a later beat.

All this to say that the shame I felt at the beginning of the scene did not stop me from committing. The inner judgement didn’t close me off and make me comment on the scene instead of fully engage in it. It may have even helped me play harder.

So don’t let shame, embarrassment or self-judgement shut you down. Improv needs you to be open, and it’s hard to do that if you’re worried about pleasing everybody, including a director from Chicago you’ve never even met.

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Intergalactic Women’s Day

I had a marvellous time last night at Holodeck Follies, the monthly Star Trek-inspired improv and variety show put on by The Dandies. Dale creates this wonderful sense of community in the show, which brings together two of my favourite subcultures; the improv world and the world of Trek. This month, he kicked it up another notch by putting the emphasis on the women of Trek by inviting many talented women improvisers, and other female comics to perform on the show in honour of International Women’s Day.

In a community where we see things like ‘the token woman in an otherwise all-male sketch troupe’ or the ‘obligatory one woman on a stand-up show line-up,’ it’s wonderful to attend a show that not only features women, but celebrates them. Not that this is surprising for the Dandies, or people who follow and respect the philosophy of Star Trek in general, TBH. But The Dandies continually stack their shows with a diverse array of players; and not to fulfil any sort of tokenism, but rather because they know a tonne of fantastically talented and diverse performers.hf-mar15-jamillah-brie

A personal thrill for me was attempting to stick to my Captain Janeway character; stern and serious, while playing against a sassy and outspoken Lt. Uhura, played by Jamillah Ross, with whom I’ve never got to play, (unless you count on Twitter.) The low-energy, severity of her character is sortof the opposite of the loud-mouthed dweeb I typically portray!

Every woman brought something great to the set, and what a fantastic group of women they were: Tracy Rowland, Deanna Palazzo, Taz Collins, Dana Jean Phoenix & Marcia De. Along with the weekly cast of the USS Albatross and a roomful of trekkies, it was spectacular, supportive show, which I recommend to all; Trekkies and normals alike.

I leave you with the Holodeck Follies traditional exit greeting: Laugh Long and Prosper!

You’re Never Trapped in a Cave

…or a mud hut, for that matter.  This was certainly well proven tonight in the National Theatre of the World‘s May 30th edition ofThe Script Tease Project, which I thought was brilliant!  Now, I’m pretty stupid, because I’ve only seen NTOW twice since moving to Toronto (if you don’t count the multiple times I’ve seen them on various TV commercials & in a bunch of the photos lining the walls at The Second City.)  I saw them do Carnegie Hallin the first few months after I’d started at Humber and it completely changed my understanding of what improv could be.  They are the outstandingly talented improvisers and ever since I first saw them, I have had the strongest desire to learn to emulate their skill and technique.

I also saw Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram perform together in November’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival – which, if you’d like to take a step back in time, you can read about HERE.

BUT ON TO THE MATTER AT HAND!  It was my first time seeing them perform @The_NTOW’s #ScriptTease format.  If you haven’t heard anything about it, well… who better to explain it than the cast itself:

The Script Tease Project ’12 – YouTube

Tonight, the playwright responsible for penning the first few pages was Anusree Roy, award-winning playwright and performer.  And, well, since Glenn Sumi moderated the Talk Back after #ScriptTease tonight, I’m just going to direct you to his feature in NOW all about Anusree so you can find out more:

OK – so you know how the show works and you who the playwright is – good?  Good.

Anusree Roy’s play:  Starving

The play was set in a mud hut in Calcutta. Naomi is Babui, wife of Gokul (Matt), but she is pregnant with the child of Gokul’s brother, Komol (Ron.)  To feed his starving wife, child and himself, Komol has killed a cow and it is lying outside in the village square.  But they are Hindu and cows are sacred.  The stakes are high and…

You know what, if you want the play-by-play of the play, you really should read what the live Tweeters were getting up to during the show ->  Here check out the feed, it’s hilarious: @The_NTOW

What I will do is tell you about how amazing an experience to watch these guys and lady live.  The moment the scripts are put down and the lights come back up, you’re truly taken into their universe.  Even though there’s not but a rug, a stool and a tiny bag on stage, you’re right there in that hut – and those seemingly meaningless objects become the funniest rug, stool and bag you’ve ever seen in your life.  They seamlessly flow in and out from dramatic and deeply emotional moments into the silliest nonsense:

  • “Please! Let me have a fun fun barbeque!”    (This is Calcutta, remember – after two years of drought!)
  • “There is no fish curry.  Eat the rug.”

No!  There are too many of these…  Just read the Twitter feed!!!! DO IT!!! Read it!!!  Or better yet, go see one of their shows.   This run goes until June 3rd, so you still have plenty of time.

THEN you’ll see how amazing they are at character work – I imagine South Asian accents are probably pretty tough to pull off – but then again, I’m still new to Toronto.

THEN you’ll see what good chemistry looks like.

THEN you’ll see what truly great improv is.

“It’s Jazz.”

Seriously.  Go see this show.  Call 416-504-7529 for tickets, or get them by e-mail at info [at] passemuraille.on.ca.  (Comedy nerds might be happy to know that Scott Thompson’s Script Tease play will be performed on Saturday, June 2nd @ 8pm.)