By Alyce Wilson
March 14, 2006 - Your Scene is Ticking
We did more scene work at my improv class this week. It gets a little easier as you go. We did a lot of work with partners, and that was primarily how we worked on scene work. Dave gave us a platform and we did a short scene. In all cases, we were supposed to discover some sort of trouble and then try to resolve it. Then he had us share what we'd done and gave us pointers.
There was an amusing motif regarding Boris. Somehow, in his exercises with the first three partners, the subject of a bomb came up, though he said he wasn't always to blame. This became a running joke for the rest of the class, that bombs were popping up everywhere, particularly when Boris was involved.
I worked with Geoff and we were dock workers unloading something. This was probably my most successful scene, because we kept it simple. I dropped a box, and Geoff opened it and discovered I'd broken the Maltese Falcon. So after we determined it couldn't be fixed, we put the box over next to another team so we wouldn't get blamed for it and took a break. "I think I'll take up smoking," I said, and Geoff said he'd have one, too. We stood there smoking cigarettes until Dave called time.
In none of my other exercises did we actually reach a resolution. I worked with Ricardo, and we were supposed to be morticians. We discovered that the body was of my ex-fiance, Roger. I wanted to put a dress on him, because "he didn't really like girls; he wanted to be one." Ricardo unzipped the bag further and discovered something was missing: I said, "Yes, his entire abdomen!" We talked about whether he'd been eaten by an animal.
When we told Dave about it, he said we should have stopped with the fact that it was my ex-fiance and explore the idea more.
It was funny: Lindsay and Ciara, who had mutually decided they didn't like each other, were working on some sort of a dog with tentacles and arguing over whether or not to use rouge! That's great.
When I worked with Lindsay, we were lab technicians. I decided going into it that I would like her and that she had higher status. So I brought her a container: "Here's the solution you asked me to make." She started finding fault with it. She smoothed it on her hands: "Oh, the hand lotion." (Which it hadn't been until that moment, but I went with it.) But then she observed that it was green, which was the wrong color, and it had lumps in it. She threatened to bring in our supervisor Steve. This wasn't fully resolved when Dave called time.
Dave suggested that I could have found a resolution by perhaps changing the way I was acting towards her. Maybe I would decide to rebel, for example.
I worked with Carol, and we were coworkers at a nursery school. The kids had gone home and we were cleaning up. There was Play-dough all over the floor, and we started scraping it off, Carol discovered that the tile floor was coming up. This, again, didn't fully resolve.
I'd decided before I even came to class that night that I was going to be careful about not stepping on scene partners. Instead, I was going to concentrate on listening to them and contributing what made sense. In other words, not always trying to lead things. This went much better, because I discovered that it became a more collaborative process because I was actively paying attention to what the other partner contributed. I was more in the spirit of "yes and!"
When we'd gone around the circle once, Dave congratulated us on our work. He said we'd done a good job with it. To transition into other work, he split the room in two and had us do a competitive round of "What Are You Doing?" Whenever somebody on our team messed up, they were out and somebody else from our team stepped in.
Our team technically won, but we had one more person than the other team, so it was really sort of even. I was the last one up, paired with Geoff. Our topic was "zippers" and you weren't supposed to repeat an activity. The second time he said "zippering," he was out of there. So technically I won, but it wasn't due to any great accomplishment on my part.
Everybody agreed this is a really difficult game because it's hard to think of more than one thing at once.
Dave introduced a new idea: speaking in gibberish. He said this is used in a lot of improv games. One tip was that it was important to actually be trying to convey something, rather than just saying, "Blah, blah, blah." He paired us up and we would talk in gibberish. First, we just introduced ourselves in gibberish.
Then we had to give the other person a command and see if we could get them to obey. Carol told me to go to the door, which was pretty clear, so I did it right away. When it was my turn, I told her to get her jacket, and she got it and put it on. She even put the hat on, too.
"Are you dressing Carol?" Dave asked when he got to me. I nodded and smiled.
Then we played a game called Interpreter. First we did it in small groups of three. I was with Carol and Ciara. You have one person who's an expert in something, and they speak only in gibberish. The second person is the interpreter and the third is the host, who asks them questions which are interpreted through the interpreter. We did it three times so we could do all the different parts.
First, Ciara was talking gibberish, I was the interpreter and Carol was the host. The subject was about spring water and she was from France. That was pretty easy, actually, although I found myself wishing I could have found more ways to make my interpretations funny, as Dave had when he demonstrated the game with Geoff as the expert and Colleen as the host.
Next, I was the host with Carol as the expert and Ciara as interpreter. She was a German expert in signs. That was pretty funny, because Carol had fun with it, using a lot of gestures, and Ciara came up with some creative interpretations.
Last, I was the expert, Ciara was the host and Carol was the interpreter. I was Japanese and an expert in the deadly blow fish. I had a lot of fun with that, making big gestures and approximating a Japanese sound to the gibberish. When Dave asked us what we'd learned, Ciara joked, "That Alyce speaks Japanese."
Then we took turns going up in front of the whole class. When I went up, it was with Geoff and Lindsay. I was an Egyptian expert on kite flying, Geoff was the interpreter and Lindsay was the host. Right off, I decided to have fun with it. When Lindsay asked how I got into kite flying, I talked excitedly in gibberish and mimed getting a string caught to me and being pulled up into the air.
Lindsay decided to get more creative with her questions. She asked me to talk about my involvement in a tragic kite flying accident. At first, I didn't want to talk about it, but when pressed, I acted out somebody wrapping string around a spool and then the string getting tangled around her neck and pulling her into the air. That got a reaction.
She said she understood it was a dog the happened to and asked how the dog was doing. I talked gibberish and pantomimed a dog lying on its back with its legs up. Geoff said, "He's no longer with us."
At the end of the session, as he was leaving, Boris called to the class that he knew there was only one more week but didn't know if he could make it. He wanted to tell us all good-bye. As we said good-bye, someone called out, "Watch out for bombs!"
Dave has told us that even though there are no spring classes, he might be able to get us information on other classes available. I'd have to see what the schedule was like. I'd really like to work with the same people again, but I'd be open to a new situation, as well. I think I've learned a lot from this class, and had a lot of fun, too.
I've challenged myself and learned I have abilities I'd always seen in
my creative college friends but didn't realize I possessed, as well. I've
also learned that you never know what you're going to discover on stage,
but that if you're in a scene with Boris, beware anything that ticks.
2005 by Alyce Wilson