Questions From Facebook #1
First off, I want to apologize for letting 7 months go by in between original posts.While I’ve reblogged several other improv sources here on Tumblr, it’s no excuse to be so slack in delivering my own two cents on topics.
On to the discussion. I went to my Facebook page and asked quite simply: What is a question or topic of discussion that you have about improv?
I got a good number of replies. I’ll try to answer all of the questions. Here we go:
Where do you think the future of improv will lead too? As in what kind of new styles will come from the next generation?
Fun question. I have a few ideas of where improv might be headed.
1.) It seems every year, I see new show ideas from different improv theatres. Things like specific themed shows (Halloween, April Fool’s Day, etc.), old “new” standards like musical improv and checking a person’s Facebook page, and even asking the audience to pull out what’s in their pockets and purses to inspire the show.I expect this trend to continue at a not-too-frantic pace.
I can see more one-man improv shows, stylized shows and themed shows to keep upping the ante. Improv theatres in some of the bigger markets are always trying to deliver something fresh and different to their returning customers. These types of shows are healthy for the growth, popularity and accessibility of improv for the general public.
2.) Personally, I would like to see there be a shift away from the quick, sometimes raunchy for the sake of being shocking, lowest common denominator pandering type of shows. On here, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of playing real and really “acting” as opposed to “improvising.”
I’d like to see slower play. More ballsy, dramatic work. Shows that people are interested in. Captivated in. A show were people empathize with characters instead of laughing at them. I want this to be a popular method of doing a show. More importantly, I want there to be an audience for it. Maybe there is an audience, but we won’t know unless we try. Not to say theatres aren’t already doing this, but you don’t typically see this type of show at an improv festival.
3.) The boring, cynical cop-out answer is that I don’t see improv changing a whole lot from its current standing in the next 10-15 years. It would take a new “mad genius” like a Del Close for the community to accept any fundamentally new method of doing improv. The (probable) sad truth is that we’ve hit a bit of a wall creatively. We’re just finding news ways to wrap up an old gift, albeit a fun and useful gift.
At the heart of it all, we’re putting on a show without knowing how it’s going to go. Plays, musicals and movies find new and fun ways to present basic storylines. In improv, we’re doing the same, except with no script and a far smaller budget.
Thanks for your question. If you have something you’d like to ask or say, submit it to my ask box.
Improvisation…made sense to me. I love the idea of two actors on stage with nothing—no costumes, no sets, no dialogue—who make up something together that is then completely real to everyone in the room. The rules of improvisation appealed to me not only as a way of creating comedy, but as a worldview. Studying improvisation literally changed my life.
Quick Improv Thoughts #3
When you’re in a scene (in either a long or short form show) and you say:
“This/that is the best ____ ever!”
What you’re really saying is:
"I have no opinion and am totally disconnected from what’s going on right now."
If you’re a frequent or even semi-frequent user of this line, it’s okay. It happens and will probably happen again. Nobody’s perfect.
Why is it bad to use this line? It’s just…well…blank. You could have described ____ in a million different ways using a million different emotions. Anything like that could give the scene some spice and your scene partners a chance to see what your character is thinking or feeling.
In using this line, you use a boring, generic qualifier that nothing has, nor ever will be, better than ____. So just don’t be so bland. You know that it’s not the best thing ever. You don’t, your character doesn’t (unless they’re a simpleton), and the audience sure doesn’t think that it’s the best thing ever either. I wouldn’t even want to say this in real life. It’s just too final and too absolute. Boring and absolute? You bet it’s possible.
Instead, say what you’re really feeling. Say what you’re really thinking. Say something that’s really going on in your head. Even saying “I have no idea what to think about ____” is perfectly acceptable. You can at least build off of that.
Saying that it’s the best ever is like overselling a boring product that nobody wants. You’re also selling your creativity short. We all can do better than that.
Is Improv Legitimate Art?
So when thinking up of the next post to write for this blog, I got inspired by sitting in and observing a workshop being conducted by one of my friends. Watching them teach improv and seeing the reactions of the students made me think about improv in a broader sense.
These people are taking the workshop because they want to be there. They see improv as something of worth that goes beyond a strictly monetary value. Then that got me thinking about improv outside of the circle of thought that I (and my friends) have with it. We see it as more than just a “cute” thing we do occasionally. We take our craft as serious as an actor might with his method of acting.
In observing said workshop, I wrote the following note down (pardon the unnecessarily smug existential tone):
"Can improv be considered a legitimate art form? What about it makes people think it’s not? What about it do participants feel justifies it being considered a legit artform?"
I think improv is not only legitimate art, but when done well, it can rival the best scripted plays and those big blockbuster sing-songy musicals that everyone seems to love so damn much. I’ve seen poorly acted theatre performances and I’ve seen absolutely abysmal improv. They both elicited the exact same response from me: “Dear God this is painful to watch.”
So then is the bad theatre show still better than the bad improv show just because it’s been around longer and more widely accepted as performace art? No. Bad theatre is bad theatre, scripted lines or not. So then the inverse must be true as well, right? Great theatre and great improv are both equally enjoyable, therefore both are legitimate art.
These are just my opinions. I would love to read what you have to say on the subject of art and where improv falls in that spectrum. Let’s get a conversation started! What are your thoughts?