Neil Casey 401 Notes Day Three→

  • Group games are all about making small moves following the patterns listening to what everyone’s doing.
  • Terrible group game is character a and 7 character b. bad is joke a person in a line. Not terrible but we can do that. Third bad one everyone talking over each other.
  • A group game is not just a scene it can be but a good group game is when the intellect and ability of ability of 8 improvisers following a simple pattern. A lot more ouija board than video game
  • Everyone’s tempted to take control but you’ll find something much more interesting if you’re just reacting, just like follow the follower: you did something and I’m going to do something like it not the same because I’m me

Bill Arnett workshop notes on character→

  • In the info of a line, what’s important in that line?
    • What’s conveyed?
  • Character > situation
    • The character is what’s important
  • If your worst scene is still a realistic depiction of life, you’re golden.
    • Gagging is unrealistic.
    • Frequent direction:  “This is really happening, <x>!”
  • Don’t play the action, play the person.
    • Again, character > situation.
  • You can always disclose your opinions/knowledge about the other character.
    • This lets you ‘check in’.

Loads of good stuff in these notes.

Will Hines – Tracers Form Workshop

In preparation for the Del Close Marathon, the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Centre offered a bunch of workshops covering various topics. I attended a workshop with Will Hines covering two ‘harder’ long-forms that he saw many times when starting with the UCB – The Sleepover and Tracers. Below are the notes and impressions from Tracers portion of the workshop.

How It Came About: Tracers was a show that ran at UCBNY in early 2000. It was inspired by the show Close Quarters which ran years earlier in Chicago, and later spawned shows at UCB such as Vantage Point and Retraced.

Form Characteristics:

  • A company of 6 to 8 performers.
  • Take a suggestion at the top of the show.
  • Scenes all happen in the same geographic location. If your location is kitchen, you might see scenes at the dishwashing station, at the bar, at the FBI van in the car park across the street.
  • The first scene establishes the location plus the people.
  • Scenes heighten a lot!! Every scene is a short little play which gets bigger and bigger (like a balloon).
  • Tone can change between scenes. You can have a slow-played dramatic scene in one location, followed by a gamey fun scene in the next.
  • We never go backwards – all the scenes are happening at the same time.
  • Two gimmicks to use in the show: Callbacks and Foreshadowing
    • Callbacks: If something happens in one room, it’s repeated in the next room (eg callbacks – someone screams the word ‘murder’ in scene one. In scene two, you will hear someone scream ‘murder’ in the background). This requires memory, so don’t do it too often.
    • Foreshadowing: Backwards callback. You’re encouraged to do it. People in the backline adding something (via a walk-on) which is used later on in the show. This can include emotion!
  • The show isn’t made by the gimmicks though. It’s made by the scenes.
  • Transitions: French Edit your scenes – walk out in front of the performers and start a new scene.

General Notes

  • Everyone has their own little issue which comes up in each scene.
  • Not everything needs to be solved.
  • Loads of emotion between scenes.
  • Plot doesn’t matter because it’s easy to get stuck in information established in the previous scenes. We want to see relationships, confessions, moments.
  • Take your time, there’s no need to rush.
  • Show Balance: If you take, you must give – be it confessions, character names, gifts.
  • Use the entire stage to indicate the different spaces you are located in.
  • If you drop a bomb, let it land. Look at the person for a beat to inform your character choice.
  • Make instinctive choices right away.
  • Be comfortable with silent tension.

“Just have fun”

That’s my least favourite improv note, “just have fun”. You know what’s fun to me? Scenes that make sense and are funny and where people are listening! Just have fun, that doesn’t mean anything!
Karin Louise Hammerberg on UCB Long-Form Conversations

A lot of people take a single note, and say this is the solution and it’s not. [..] Because I spent a year getting that [particular note] hammered into my brain, it’s now just muscle memory. But it takes so long to get that muscle memory to work!
Dru Johnston on the latest UCB Long-Form Conversations podcast talking about actioning notes.

Will Hines – The Sleepover Form Workshop

In preparation for the Del Close Marathon, the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Centre offered a bunch of workshops covering various topics. I attended a workshop with Will Hines covering two ‘harder’ long-forms that he saw many times when starting with the UCB – The Sleepover and Tracers. Below are the notes and impressions from The Sleepover portion of the workshop.

How It Came About: Mother were a Harold Night team at UCBNY known for their high energy, aggressive playstyle. Sometimes the play was too aggressive – scenes would get tagged out almost immediately, and shows had a tendency to fizzle out on occasion. The name “The Sleepover” came from the team’s tendency to run sleep over themed group games in Harolds.

The new form, workshopped with Armando Diaz was intended to improve the team’s acting chops, while slowing them down and forcing hard commitment to characters. The Sleepover has elements of La Ronde and the Deconstruction – each player starts by playing one character for the initial run of scenes, and later scenes as part of the montage/run start with the characters seen earlier until tag runs/side support commences.

I learned this from watching Mother’s shows. If you end up taking a class with Mother, they’re right.
Will Hines

Opening: After taking a suggestion, each player steps out one by one to announce their mantra. The mantra is a line of vaguely inspiration dialogue inspired by the suggestion such as “go big or go home” or “God is on our side” , and is presented as if the person is talking into a mirror. This is used to inform each player’s emotional character choice, so once you have said your mantra make a decision based on what you said – this will be your character for the show.

Be aware of volume: each player should say their mantra at least three times loudly before fading down, and stage picture: everyone should be standing out of line (north/south rule), using the entire stage.

Once everyone has stepped out and said their mantra, everyone should start repeating their mantras louder and louder and then leave the stage one by one, until only one player is left (Player A). This player is considered “activated” and can then pick a second player to activate and then perform a scene, with the second player (Player B) initiating the scene.

In summary:

  1. Suggestion
  2. Each player announces a mantra, one by one
  3. Each player leaves the stage, leaving one player (activated)
  4. The activated person picks a second person to activate.
  5. The second person initiates a scene.

Opening Scenes: When the scene starts, you develop who you using the mantra as inspiration. In order to start in the middle of a scene (as opposed to “hi, how are you?”) the initiator should be answering a question that was asked off-stage. The scene plays out as normal – remember to name each other and use philosophy, history, specifics, and relationship as keys to helping the scene develop. Characters should have emotional tones – no-one is identical, and give gifts through agreements and confirmation.

You are rewarded for simple choices that are easy to remember.
Will Hines

Scenes are edited by having the non-activated players step out and repeat their mantra. Players A & B leave the stage. Player B then activates another player (Player C) who initiates a scene with Player B. The rest of the players leave the stage, and the scene plays out. As a result, every character in this universe knows each other. USE NAMES.

The opening run of scenes repeats until every player in the team has had at least one scene. In a team of six players, the scenes would run in the following order:

  1. Player A & B
  2. Player B & C
  3. Player C & D
  4. Player D & E
  5. Player E & F

The final scene can be wiped with a sweep edit. Alternatively everyone can step out to repeat their mantras before leaving the stage.

Montage Run: Once everyone has performed a scene, the montage run of the show commences. Anyone can initiate with anyone else, and side supports, tag outs, and edits are performed as normal. The only condition is the scene must begin with the two characters seen in the earlier scenes. This can (should?) be played deconstruction style – bring back all the fun things that came up earlier and mine them for all their worth, getting quicker and quicker until you hit that big bang.

Ending: Blackout on the high point.

“Del Close Notes”→

Some notes from Del about his improv philosophies and the Harold that I found with some digging. I love point five.