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.