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Improv done did. - Blather, Rinse, Repeat
October 10th, 2008
11:32 pm

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Improv done did.
So, years and years ago (10? 12?), I kicked and clawed and begged my way into an improv group in Cambridge, MA. I would have bribed people, if I had known who to send the unmarked bills to.

And then my career got in the way of all that fun, and then I moved from Cambridge.

A year ago, the theatre where I volunteer began doing improv performances. I volunteered to usher, because they needed ushers, and ushering is something well within my skillset.

And then I mentioned something along the lines of "back when I was doing improv...". Actually, I think I mentioned it a couple dozen times, and someone said "oh, you should TOTALLY come to improv practices!"

And I totally did.

By the way, some people are uncomfortable with the notion that there are practices, that somehow improv should be completely unrehearsed. And, you're right, of course. But think of basketball or soccer. Those have practices. That's the kind of thing that I'm talking about - a lot of skill building.

Which isn't really to say that improv comedy is in my skillset these days. I don't cringe up on stage, I know my non-geographical locations from my holes in the ground. I speak in the direction of the audience. I justify my actions. Yes, And.

But you look at the rest of the crew that were up on stage with me tonight, and they were all professional-quality performers. And, literally, I'd say that they were each professional actors, amongst other things. I'm still an amateur, and that's just fine. I had fun.

The other performers made sure to say that they enjoyed performing with me, which was kind, and in time, I expect I'll be more and more comfortable. This will be good - I had fun, and it was a novel experience to perform in this space that I've painted and ushered and audienced in. So that's all good.


I can't even recall what characters I was up on stage. I told a story of Jeremy versus the Zombie Bride of McCain in the style of Kung Fu Movies, and there was a Still Beating Heart involved, but other than that, it was a blur.

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From:rechercher
Date:October 11th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC)
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Someday I'd like to try improv, but unfortunately I haven't done *any* kind of theatre since I got married (over 10 years ago).
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From:tsmaster
Date:October 11th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
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I don't know what avenues you have available to you, but I'm finding improv fitting into my schedule a lot better than traditional ("prov"?) theatre, as I don't have to set aside six weeks of evenings rehearsing and some number of weekends to performing - just one practice a week, and a couple of shows here and there.
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From:ginsu
Date:October 11th, 2008 02:21 pm (UTC)
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some people are uncomfortable with the notion that there are practices

Yes, I've known professional improv comedians like Jeff Nolen and have run into this also.

I think it's part of the general misconception about "talent" -- that it is a natural resource you're born with, not something you can develop.

People are generally uncomfortable thinking about art and developed skill over time as related notions, much preferring the ability to seem to come instantly, as a transcendent gift from a charitable Providence.
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From:tsmaster
Date:October 11th, 2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
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I think in a lot of cases it's as simple as a misunderstanding of what an improv practice is. I suspect that some people hear "practice" (or, even more misleading, "rehearsal"), and think that the performers are preparing the responses, creating half-baked scenes, ready to be pulled out on stage.

"If somebody suggests politics, let's give them a scene about McCain!"

"Sounds good, or, how about a scene with McCain and Obama!"

"Yeah, McCain and Obama are space zombies, trying to deliver cheese!"

"we should write this stuff down so we'll remember it."
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From:ginsu
Date:October 11th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
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That's the specific example for improv. But I find this same sort of thing in other creative areas.

I remember a Studio 60 episode in which there are two attractive young women touring the set after the show was over. The lead writer explains who he is and what he does. They cannot seem to grasp it; they seriously think the actors are simply improvising all the material on the fly in every show. I'm sure that event (like everything on that show) was drawn almost directly from Aaron Sorkin's actual life.

If you asked the average American how a video game is created, I think you'd get something closer to "they make it up as they go" than the answer you'd give. This is not just due to naivete; it's also what they'd prefer to believe, because it seems more like mysterious, wonderful fun and less like painstaking study and disciplined work.
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From:tsmaster
Date:October 11th, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
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I doubt that they'd even have a concept - I've had many conversations, often with people of my parents' generation, where I mention that I develop games, and the response is something like "it must be fun, playing games all day".

Er, well, sort of. Authors don't read books all day, playwrights don't get their job done sitting in an audience, nor screenwriters while eating popcorn.

I suspect somewhere behind that, if you pressed them, is some magic moment of creation, where the finished product appears, nearly formed, and all that a human needs to do is to polish it into a finished product. Tighten up the graphics on level 2, and then we'll switch over to creating a strategy game.


Of course, I do consider myself lucky - every year or two, I get to point to a box on a shelf that is a tangible token that I'm adding to the pleasure in the world. THAT much is rewarding. And working towards that end makes the day to day code monkeying much more enjoyable.
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