LEAPpost 2: plans and tone

Long form improv shines a light on one of my challenges: the need to have a plan, to create a “script”, to join events together into some holistic pattern that has meaning for me. When we do an extended form together, I am constantly trying to create links between scenes, by performing corollary scenes to ones we have seen before, or perform “subsequent” scenes. I even tried playing someone else’s character to create such a link before Bobbi told me that was no-no. She is much more interested in having us create a “collage” of scenes with no direct linkages, until the end of our aimed-for hour of improv. Given what is happening in my life both personally and professionally, it is no surprise that I am drawn towards having a plan, and fearful of ambiguity and uncertainty. I also recognize the seeking of patterns as a quintessential Quaker trait. It’s aspect of my faith, which calls me to take responsibility for sensing the Divine patterns.

I was also struck yesterday by the connection between this form and commedia. In both forms, the story being told is subservient to the relationships between the actors/characters doing the telling. Both forms rely on an intense kind of focus from the actor, who needs to focus both in the shared work between herself and her partner and also on the shape of the whole thing the ensemble is creating together. Commedia is a much more structured and formalized form, with its stock characters and well-known plots. Long form is more mysterious, and in some ways more immediate. It’s hard work – there is absolutely no tuning out allowed. Even when off stage I am nearly on stage, so complete is the listening and watching required to prep for an edit or a snog.

I hit a bump yesterday around the idea of “tone” – specifically comic tone. We did a sequence of exercises meant to buff our comic skills and sensibilities. What ended up happening is that some of us – like me – created over the top characters, and others simply continued with creating scenes as we had before, which weren’t especially funny. The things is, we have each created funny scenes, but they are funny almost by accident, and when we draw our attention to “comedy”, it seemed to send us off into some other territory. Bobbi and I had an interesting discussion about the word “realism” too. I tend to regard any kind of character transformation as unrealistic, though it can be quite truthful. Bobbi uses the term more to identify an aspect of believability.

Anyhow – onwards.