Our original teacher came back. He's something of an improv drill sergant, but he's a very good improv drill sergant.
- Zip, Zap, Zop - Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you know how this game goes.
- A game sort of like "Go" but with names only - This didn't go well at first, since not all of us have each other's names. (I think I may know them all, surprisingly.) He responded to our poor performance with these words of encouragement: "Jesus fucking Christ, this game isn't that hard!"
Next was a game of freeze tag, except our teacher called the freezes rather than us. This lead to a discussion about editing, which is about knowing when to end the scene. The best place to stop a scene is at its peak - often times this is the biggest laugh of the scene. We played freeze tag again, but the other half of the class called the freezes while the other half played freeze tag.
After a break, he taught us charcteristics of bad dialogue:
- Denial - Don't say "no" to suggestions. On a similar note, don't deny what the other is saying. He gave us this example: "If someone in a scene says that they have a squirrel, don't say 'That's not a squirrel, that's cookie!'"
I had a question about denial earlier, and so I said, "You took the words out of my mouth."
"Really?" he said. "You were going to say squirrel and cookie?"
"No, no," I said. "That would be cool, though. Do you use squirrel and cookie every time?"
"Yeah, I do," he said.
"Weird," I said. "I use the example 'that's not a pizza, that's a shoe' every time." (An example that my improv coach, Joe, instilled in me.)
He repeated the example I said to himself. "Man," he said. "That's a good one. I'm gonna start using that."
Anyway, more bad things to do in dialogue:
- Questions - This is a given.
- Commands/instructions - If both give commands back and forth, this gets tiring. If only one gives commands, it can become a teaching scene, and that's never good.
- Past/future stuff - I think the message he was trying to give here was "Keep stuff in the scene."
We played a game after this. We were split into two teams. A member would come forth from each team and they would do a scene. However, if one broke one of the preceding rules, they would be kicked out of the game, and a team would be one person short. The team that stayed alive (i.e still had members when the game was over) was the winning team.
Many seemed to find it difficult not to ask questions. One scene started and ended with one line: "Let me ask you this...(pause of realization)...shit."
I seemed to have trouble not bringing up past events. How very western world of me. (He said with what may have been sarcasm.)
One last game: World's Worst. Steven (is that the name I made up for him?) emphasized the importance of "stepping out of that back line like a bullet out of a gun" - even when you've got nothing. As long as there was no "dead stage time", things were okay.
Improv ended and sketch class began. We discussed with Sean the "rules of improv" scenes we tried to do. My take was that because we were thinking so much, the scenes sucked. I've found this is the nature of improv: the more you think, the more likely you are to screw yourself over in a scene. It's best to ingrain "the rules" (like no denying) in one's head so thinking can be avoided.
We tossed around ideas during sketch. After a brief outline of a few scenes were given, we attempted to improvise them. Scenes included a game of bingo full of senior citizens and a man asking for directions - but the direction giver, despite not being helpful, is very unwilling to let him get directions from anyone else.
After a few more scenes like this, the day ended.