Sunday, January 25, 2009

Improv tour diary

I went out checked out Jet City Improv in Seattle yesterday. I've been so obsessed with longform the past 2 years that I had pretty much forgotten that short form existed. My two favourite games currently are He Said She Said and Three Way Dub, mostly because they are split-control games. Here's 3 games I saw yesterday that I had never heard of/seen before and really liked:



Double Blind
2 improvisors (C,D) leave the room. The remaining two (A,B) perform a short scene from a suggestion. A leaves the stage and C is called in. C gets a new suggestion and now B and C perform a scene. B says the same lines and performs the same physicalization as before, while C improvises along. At then end, D is called in. D gets a suggestion and performs a scene with C, where C must use the same lines and physicalization as they just performed.

This is a great combination of broken telephone and the game Actor's Nightmare. I could easily see it being extended in a few ways. Like Actor's Nightmare, it is funny when moments align well as well as when they are non-sequiturs. However, the scenes need to be pretty short to be memorized. Bold choices in the scenes are really helpful here, as it makes the subsequent alignment/non-sequiturs much more entertaining.

Game-O-Mystery
This is pretty meta. 1 improvisor (A) leaves the room, while the other improvisors come up with a game. They come up with a name first ("Mish Mash" this time) and then simple rules, from the improvisors only. Then, A comes back, and they get a suggestion and perform a hilarious scene, after which A sees if they can guess the rules.

This time, the rules they made up were:
  1. If someone speaks, at least one other person must be squished into them
  2. If A raises their voice in pitch, everyone claps and we change scenes.

It makes more sense if the improvisors come up with the rules, since game rules are very important to make a scene "work." Also, its more entertaining if the rules have some dependency on what A does. Rule 2 didn't get triggered for a while, so one improvisor came in with the feed of "sex-changing powder" (the suggestion was "Renaissance", from yours truly) and in improv-land, the way to act female is to just pitch your voice up 3 octaves. This game is very familiar to Interrogation.

Backwards-Forwards
They played a game many people have seen, where an improvisor sits on the side of the stage and plays the scene like a video, "backwards" or "forwards". (Aside: do people ever say "ahead by one frame"). When going backwards, the improvisors would say their lines forwards. This could be a point of contention if you cared enough. Personally, I enjoy trying to make backwards vocalizations, but it helps for remembering where you're going if you actually say the lines.

After establishing the scene for about a minute, they did something I had never seen before: they rewinded to before the beginning of the scene! This provided some interesting exposition about one of the characters (he was undead, and could come back to life by inhabiting someone else's body) which "explained" some of the apparent intentions of the characters. The exposition was made more interesting because the first time we (the audience and improvisors) saw it, we were going through it backwards. This seems like a good reason for not making backwards vocalizations. 

The show also had a dedicated musician and lights controller. The lights didn't go just on and off either, but they had "disco", "horror", etc. modes. Check them out if you're ever in Seattle.

1 comment:

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