Questions From Facebook #3 And #4
How can we get more long form shows in Raleigh?
If we’re seriously in danger of losing long form improv in Raleigh, we need to make a concerted effort to bring people in to see us. Get new customers and make it such a big night each time that the owner has no choice but to keep it going. As the saying goes, “Money talks, bullshit walks.”
Also, keep teams together, perform when you can and seek out new venues that will let you host an improv night. It might cost money to do the last bit, but it can also be a great motivator to get people to see your show (and introduce a new audience to longform improv). If they like you, let them know where they can find you so you can build a fan base.
Of course, all of this is much easier said than done.
What is the artistic purpose or function of an opening in a longform show?
I currently coach a team who doesn’t do an opening. They don’t need it. They can create an entire show just off of the suggestion. It also gives them more time to focus on the show and actually perform and not worry about doing “a good opening.”
I’ve seen lots of openings. From the creative to the bizarre. They’re a way to pool together ideas to use in the show. It can also be a way to create some energy and push the show forward immediately. If done correctly, the audience follows along, the team makes reference to something from the opening, and the audience goes crazy with laughter and everyone feels smarter for having witnessed it. Cool, yes, but it doesn’t happen as much as we would like. So why not just cut that bit out?
Openings, for me, get in the way. I don’t want to really see a team dick around with an organic, weird opening that even I look at and think “What the fuck am I watching?” People who have never seen a longform show see that and are confused. They just want to laugh. Audiences are very fickle, and for some, you’re already in the negative with them before you can even improvise.
So I’d say, if you do an opening, do one that fits your team’s style of play. Make it interesting, but forgettable to the audience. Talk about the possibility of not doing an opening. Regardless of what you do, people paid money to watch you and laugh, not to find out where you got your inspiration for scene C1.
Questions? Comments? Let me know here!
EDIT: I’m pretty cynical when it comes to improv, and I tend to take things at a base level. My good friend and respected improvser Corey Brown had this to say in the comments section below, just in case you didn’t see it. It’s a different take on openings, and it’s worth reading.
"I think you are missing the point on openings a little bit. For me, openings are meant to help all the performers get onto the same page faster when we get to the scenes. We don’t have to feel our way through the basics because we know we are doing ‘Fire Doctor’ from the opening.
They are also a way for me to know what you think is funny, so when I initiate scene 3A, I can initiate in a way that says ‘Hey man, I found your idea funny in the opening, and I want to support that idea.’
Are openings NEEDED? No. If they were, monoscenes wouldn’t exist. TJ & Dave wouldn’t be doing what they are doing.
The opening isn’t for the audience, and I’m not worried about them for those 3 minutes when doing my opening. I’m worried about listening to my team’s ideas, and I’m trying to figure out a way to take those ideas and better them stronger and funnier.
I want to do an amazing scene about a funny idea that we created as a team.”
Quick Improv Thoughts #4
It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Whatever you do, you should be able to just “play.” Heighten it, lower it, expand on it, and squeeze all the juice you can out of it.
When You’re Not Performing
If you love to improvise as much as I do, you find that it’s more than just a hobby.
When that thing is taken away from you, either through an illness, injury or through other circumstances beyond your control, a piece of your identity is missing.
Lately, I have been suffering from a type of improv withdrawl. I have not performed regularly in well over two months. I have been actively doing improv in some facet since I’ve moved back to Raleigh. This time for my club to “re-evaluate” our longform nights has been giving me fits. I just want to get back on the stage.
It has gotten to the point where I had considered going back to short form, but that just doesn’t satisfy the hunger to perform. I like the feeling of a well-worked show, not about having the best punny joke in a game. I suppose I like acting without a script. It’s a challenge and the feeling of accomplishment after a show is unlike any other. I want those times to come back.
Have any of you ever experienced a dip in performance time or had shows go on hiatus? Tell me about your experience.
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?