Chaos Attraction

Improv 301 2.0 Week 5: The Old Reach and Grab

2016-06-09, 6:28 p.m.

Previous week here.

Yesterday I went to Harold Night and ... Okay, so I've been wondering when Brian says that your entire Harold has to be 25 minutes long, exactly how long every bit of it has to be. Because there's fifteen different elements in a Harold!
1. asking the audience for a suggestion
2-4. three monologues based off of the suggestion, or someone else's monologue
5-7. three scenes (call it Round 1)
8. group scene 1
9-11: three more scenes (Round 2)
12: group scene 2
13-15: three more scenes (Round 3)
I have been trying to figure out the math of this in my head and have gotten...well, my usual semi-scrambled. So while I was at Harold Night last night, I decided to time with my phone's stopwatch app how long each part of the show went. The group I decided to do this on was very efficient, so that worked out. The results were:

Asking the audience for a suggestion: 10 seconds!
Monologues: either a minute or a minute and thirty seconds long, so around 5 minutes total
Round 1 scenes: 2 minutes, 2 minutes 30 seconds, and 3 minutes, so 7:30 total.
First group scene: 1 minute.
Round 2 scenes: 2 minutes, 2 minutes 30 seconds, 2 minutes, so 6:30 total.
Second group scene: 1 minute 30 seconds.
Round 3 scenes: 1 minute, 30 seconds, 30 seconds, so 2 minutes total.

When I got into class the next night, I asked Brian about this. He said that everyone in Harold Night is on the clock and a light goes off after 20 minutes to warn them about finishing up, and usually they run long if it takes a long time to set up Round 1 because someone wasn't clear on what they were doing at the start.
He said the first beats (round 1) should be 3 minutes apiece, the second beats (round 2) should be 2 minutes apiece, and the third beat (round 3) should be 1 minute apiece. Opening question and monologues should be about four minutes and group scenes should be 2-3 minutes. I just did the math on this and I think group scenes are really more like 2 minutes--then his math came out to 26 minutes.

Anyway, back to class: Tonight's lecture was on environment: it's the where of the scene that fits on a stage, we should use a "cut to" to switch the location, usually should be in one location. We tend to not use 90% of the stage and we shouldn't perform in a void. Use the environment to hit the pattern. See the environment you're in, not the stage.

We did the warmup by playing Herd of Squirrels (i.e. the one where you pretend to be herds of animals), which Brian said was the best part of his day.
Then we did this game where we were supposed to be hiding some secret plans in a room (each person would move the plans elsewhere) and we were supposed to figure out from what everyone else was doing what kind of room we were in. When I did it I hid the scroll in the back of a painting, and Brian said he liked how I just shook the scroll to make it roll up by itself. Heh heh heh. The second group that went, well....of course they did it in a bathroom, one guy wiped with the scroll and threw it in the trash, someone had to hose it off in the shower...

He then did another lecture on how to think of pattern. He suggested an exercise in which you pick an event--say a birthday party--and write a list of grounded things you'd find at a birthday party. Attach any unusual thing to this--say, a Mafia birthday party--and then think of ways to change those grounded items based on that theme. For example: have exploding candles, bad presents, bullet ridden bouncy house (or just use bouncers to bounce off...), stolen goods goodie bag...
"If I can understand my reality, I can find the unusual." Layer the unusual over the top.

(Okay, I'm gonna say this: for all that we're all generally doing really badly in this class--one other chick said she's never been so bad except in this class and I agreed--it has encouraged Brian to give us more lectures on idea farming than I had in the previous class. So that's good and useful, at least. I am starting to wonder if we just haven't had much in the way of good ideas to work with on the monologues that people have come up with, though. Heck, Brian's admitted sometimes he was kinda stumped.)

Then we did another exercise in which we described various things in a room, figuring out what kind of room it was. I did a taxidermist's and a dentist's office, other folks did a pool scene and when someone described something brown floating in the pool, they said to the guy who wiped with the scroll, "I thought of you."

Funny moment: one guy came into class an hour late and when Brian spotted him walking up, he said, "Everybody clap when he comes in!" So when he came in, we clapped and said things like, "Hey, you finally found parking!" and "You're up next!" Similar comments happened when someone went out to the bathroom and returned five minutes later.

Then we did another full Harold practice, though the first beat scenes ended up being stopped for discussion of how to improve them and then they started over again. I don't remember what the heck the monologues were at this point--I think one involved someone pooping his pants on the bus and being held back in kindergarten and I was thinking "I am NOT doing a scene about pants pooping, especially since someone had done that at Harold last night and had done a much better job of it and all I could think of was the scene in which a scared shark was pooping at being too scared to attack people. The other ones...yeah, no recollection of what the monologues were, but I was not inspired whatsoever.

The only inspiring thing I heard was the first attempt at the first scene, in which someone was ending up in a teaching scene about trying to get her mother to fit in at the nursing home and made a crack about "graduate to death." We'll get to that later. Anyway, they eventually turned that into scenes about old ladies starting a gang in the nursing home. At some point Brian suggested that they could have done some animal abuse and one person in the scene replied, “I can’t think like that, I can just be cruel to children.”

The second round of scenes turned into defining the "bases" when someone was trying not to be slutty any more. ("A few weeks ago back when I was a slut...") Mostly this was pretty priceless for the euphemisms that the guy kept coming up with during the scenes to express his disappointment. Such as:

"Tittysauce." (Brian's remark was that he couldn't wait to go home to his girlfriend and tell her, "I wanna get up in that titty sauce. And then she'll punch me.")
"The old reach and grab." This one made people not only crack up, but one guy started hitting the walls.
"The old fishing expedition."
"The old happy wiggle."

The girl who originated that one said after they redid it, "I'm so glad that went tragically wrong when it did."

The third concept was...a guy who was terrible at usual things like shoe-tying but was otherwise supposed to be good at things. Brian pointed out that this kind of boiled down to "someone's being dumb" and it needed a balance of "I'm awesome" vs. not being awesome. Something like "badass with no minor life skills." It still kinda did come off as somewhat dumb even in the reboot to me, but whatever. So it boiled down to the two guys doing shooting and fighting scenes and then "oops, I can't tie my shoe" or whatever.

I originated the first group scene, based on the "graduate to death" idea. What's the stupidest kind of graduation I can come up with? (These days that's a hard stretch given that we do improve graduations and these days kindergartners get graduations.) So I thought of doing an all day long computer class* and then having an impromptu graduation with walking and valedictorian speeches. Say it's a Word Perfect class for even dumber dumbness. Alas, nobody really got that and they all decided it was a kindergarten graduation and Brian pointed out I shouldn't have talked so much to try to set it up. I should have just set it up, given people an example of what I wanted them to do and let it go.

* I have been in three days of all day long computer classes that have...actually been pretty ridiculous and pointless, but at least they got me out of work for three days. Also I taught a guy to knit so that was fun.

The second group scene was, of course, kids being annoying on the bus and then the bus driver gets her gun out.

I can say this for the third round of beats: all the people in them managed to blend all three groups into one funeral scene. We noobs don't really try to do blends very often, and I was impressed that this class in particular gave it a shot.

Final class notes:
The Anti-Cooperation League team talks about what to remember before a show.
First scene should be easiest dumb scene.
Do the do thing = if you can come up with something to do, do it.
“I am this unusual character.”
Just give an unusual idea.

Jam tonight was...super wackadoodle and involved a lot of discussions of child slavery! So Eric (who likes to do monologues on what a horrible person he is--last week he did one about dumping a bunch of baby mice into nature when he couldn't find anyone to take them) did one about how someone from his old hippie college was complaining about Nestle using child labor, and Eric decided to troll them by saying things like, "Well, they're doing a really good job!" and "Well, I'm in support of delicious chocolate!" Then the next guy started his monologue about how he once swam with dolphins and that reminds him of child slavery....

So this led into a scene where I played a ah, frisky dolphin that made everyone laugh just by having me wiggle across the stage a few times and then get snuggly on a dude. I think Eric about lost it there.

And later there was a scene (not mine) in which a bride was debating the ethics of buying a wedding dress made with child labor, and look, there's still a bit of blood on it....Eric was so freaked by this he called pause on the scene to break in and apologize to the audience and say things like "Remember this show is free!" I still say the previous week or two with animal murder was FAR worse than child slavery scenes. Heh heh heh.

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