IRC Podcast with Kevin Hines

Episode #4 of the IRC Podcast has just been uploaded. Kevin Hines is a performer and teacher at the UCB Theatre in NYC. We begin by talking about a couple of exercises he uses to get students reacting quicker and more realistically to twists and turns in their scenes. We next talk about The Macroscene, a show that came out of his last performance class. Finally, we discuss an exercise he uses to rehearse third beats for Harolds.

Continue reading “IRC Podcast with Kevin Hines”

IRC Podcast with Matt Donnelly

Episode #3 of the IRC Podcast is up and ready. This week my guest is Matt Donnelly who shares a couple exercises he uses in his workshops. The first he calls History, Philosophy, Metaphor and it’s a way to deepen the beginning of scenes by asking students to take an underdeveloped detail of a scene and elaborate using one of three techniques. Next we talk about Bull, Matador a method of creating and playing games which asks which character is vulnerable and then puts the players in either the role of a bull or a matador.

Matt, currently lives in Las Vegas where he teaches with Improv Vegas. When he is in NYC, he teaches workshops at the The PIT.

How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 3

  • “We don’t do short form, we do long form. It’s much more sophisticated and interesting.”
  • “Improv? I don’t do improv comedy. I do improvisational theater!”
  • “You know how they are so obsessed with game? Well we just follow our gut and let what’s funny take care of itself.”

Odds are, if you are an improvisor, you have said something like this when describing your work. You might even have some statement like this in the description of your group or show, maybe even your personal bio. And maybe you have heard someone else say something similar, contrasting what they do with what you do and casting your work in a negative light. Chances are you have felt that defensive lurch in your belly, a wave of anger as you think of things to say in response, to put them in their place.

Me? I’ve been on both sides of this. Continue reading “How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 3”

Improv wiki roundup – Upcoming Improv Festivals

Inspired by a question in a Facebook status, I decided to make a page on the IRC Improv Wiki for Upcoming Improv Festivals. I have started working on it and have gotten a few festivals on the list, but I hope to do some more work on it in the coming days. If you don’t want to add your festival directly to the list, you could also leave a comment here on the blog with the name, dates, location and link for your improv festival and someone will add it to the page.

Some improv groups were added to the wiki this week, Great Heights and Twenty Seven and some updates to Whisker Bliss, UCBW and Un-scripted Theater. We also had some updates to some performer pages including Shannon O’Neil, Julie Klausner, Jodi Skeris, and Rachael Mason.

IRC Podcast with Jill Bernard

Episode #2 of the IRC Podcast is up and ready to go. My guest this week is Jill Bernard from HUGE Theater and Comedy Sportz in Minneapolis. She shares some exercises she uses in her classes. She describes a warm up called Loser Ball which teaches students to embrace failures. Next she talks about an exercise where only one player speaks and the other remains silent. We also talk about an exercise, morphed from a Meisner exercise, where she gets her students to actually do something, rather than pretend to do something.

If you are interested in taking classes with her, visit hugetheater.com.

How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 2

My intent with this series of posts was to go through all the principles from Dale Carnegie‘s book and discuss how each one might apply to the improv world. But as I have been thinking about this topic, I have been tempted to wander down a different path. I may still return to the original plan, but I don’t think I’ll be able to until I’ve written about this.

I’ve been thinking of my own interactions with people over the years, where I did well and where I came up short. I feel like there are some situations and stories I’d like to share that might help me in my future interactions in the theatre and comedy worlds. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is status.

Pay less attention to status

I remember when I was in Chicago, I was intensely aware of status within the improv world. I was a part of many conversations that likened the ImprovOlympic subculture to a second high school. The new students were the freshman. Continue reading “How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 2”

Announcing the Improv Resource Center Podcast

Yesterday I published my first podcast and added it to iTunes. It’s called the Improv Resource Center Podcast and it will live over on my other website (the Improv Resource Center).

I’ve been wanting to create a podcast for some time, but I wasn’t sure what shape it would take until a few weeks ago. I decided to make it very focused and relatively short, in the hope that it becomes a very practical resource for myself and others. Continue reading “Announcing the Improv Resource Center Podcast”

Improv podcasts

Lately I’ve been listening to some improv podcasts from New York and enjoying them quite a bit. I’ve sampled two so far, the UCB Theatre Podcast and Improvised New York. Both are available through iTunes.

The UCB Theatre Podcast is the official podcast promoting the Upright Citizens Brigade’s New York theater. Continue reading “Improv podcasts”

Improv wiki roundup

I thought this might be a semi-regular, fun entry for the blog. About a year and half ago, I started an improv wiki on my other site. It’s grown quite a bit with well over 1000 pages now for groups, performers, shows, concepts and more. If you are an improvisor, please create an account and start adding information that you know. At the moment, there is a lot of good information about the New York scene, but the Chicago and LA improv scenes are not as well documented.

This week I started pages for the New York groups Centralia and Burn Manhattan. I also started a page for Inside Vladimir, a long running Chicago team that featured Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (I added some info to both of their pages also, but they are still a bit sparse). Continue reading “Improv wiki roundup”

Perseverance is greater than talent

Recently, I finished a fascinating book called, The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature
by Geoffrey Miller. In it, Miller makes the case that many of the things that make us human are the result of sexual selection, not natural selection. Our capacity for language, music, art, kindness, intelligence and charity are all traits or abilities that made us more attractive to the opposite sex. They did not evolve because they helped us survive better, instead they evolved because they are ways for us to display how fit our genes are. Our minds evolved to be an entertainment center for potential mates. The better we could sing, or tell stories, or make other people laugh, the more attractive we were. This meant we could attract fitter mates and especially in the case of men, have more offspring, ensuring that the next generation would be even better at singing, telling stories and making other people laugh.

It’s an interesting idea. If you are like me and interested in evolution, but haven’t read much about Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, you should take a look. But I’ll leave it Miller to actually lay out the argument. He does a much better job than I could.

Near the end of the book came the following passage. As an artist, this passage jumped off the page.

Among competent professionals in any field, there appears to be a fairly constant probability of success in any given endeavor. (Psychologist Dean Keith) Simonton’s data show that excellent composers do not produce a higher proportion of excellent music than good composers—they simply produce a higher total number of works. People who achieve extreme success in any creative field are almost always extremely prolific. Hans Eysenck became a famous psychologist not because all of his papers were excellent, but because he wrote over a hundred books and a thousand papers, and some of them happened to be excellent. Those who write only ten papers are much less likely to strike gold with any of them. Likewise with Picasso: if you paint 14,000 paintings in your lifetime, some of them are likely to be pretty good, even if most are mediocre. Simonton’s results are surprising. The constant probability of success idea sounds counterintuitive and of course there are exceptions to this generalization. Yet Simonton’s data on creative achievement are the most comprehensive ever collected and in every domain that he studied, creative achievement was a good indicator of the energy, time, and motivation invested in creative activity.

Let that sink in a little bit. No really. Let that sink in. Ponder it for a little bit before you read on.

Continue reading “Perseverance is greater than talent”