Guinea Pigs | Improv Workshop Week #5

I.  Today Was a Good Day
I was going to Ice Cube, but I didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.  I could do without being chastised for the quote.  Forbid I make a rap reference and breach my vow to not cross lines; however what I put into this blog are my own thoughts and feelings.  It is, in fact, safe to give my opinion that I don’t want crazy hellbent anti-gun advocates knocking down my door with pitchforks and torches, assuming I have an illegal weapon when I do not.  Being tarred and feathered is not my idea of a good night.
Aside that, today was a great day in the world of improv.  I didn’t have to use my A.K.  Oh, did I go there?  A.K. actually is an acronym for acquired knowledge.  Whatever experience or knowledge learned throughout these five weeks did not have to be stressed or focused upon.  The workshop, the acting and the improv, simply emphasised that saying ‘Yes, and…’ was all that we needed to do.  Nothing was vocal about it. 
There were only four of us today:  estrogen fest.  Of course, I say that with intentional joking. I am not complaining that Mike and I are the only men; whereas, he instructs while I participate.  It’s just a bit disappointing that Dave did not stick it out; he was doing so well, and he was easy to work with.  Maryanne did not show up, but that was probably due to the weather; when you have to travel, it is annoying and a pain in the ass.  However, Emily and Alexis and Danielle were on their toes; we played new games and the unfamiliarity did not get the best of us.  Where we fell, we got back up.
I believe–our first exercise pertained to doing things we were not supposed to do (i.e. questions, vague statements, and saying no)–this helped loosen us up even more.  A game where we had to forward and reverse our statements was tricky, but a lot of fun.  Danielle and I violated the no props policy, but the damn bed was just sitting there. 
Or should I say lying?
I was considering the stating of our games that we were going to play, but that’s not going to happen.  You will have to come to the Syracuse Improv Collective show at The CNY Playhouse on March 1st. Yes, those are the links.  I encourage you to visit them.  That’s why they are there.
II. To Feed or Not to Feed…
This section was to be a part of a post that I have been working on since Sunday.  This week was busy, so I never really finished it.  However, this plays in nicely, so I have segue.
Last week, Saturday, I went to the Don’t Feed the Actors show at CNY Playhouse, which justified my wanting to continue with improv. It has been a great outlet, almost meditative. The DFTA shows are very similar to Whose Line is it Anyway?: there are six actors on stage, ready and willing to showcase their impromptu prowess. Mike and Joe, our improv workshop teachers, participated in a few skits; this made Emily and I that more anxious to get up on stage. Dustin, one of the actors, upon my entering the playhouse, asked me if I was willing to participate.  Dustin, one of the gatekeepers of the playhouse, is “The Man.”  Every week, every workshop, he is there hanging out and getting work done at the same time.  I don’t think anything negative comes out of his mouth, which adds to his supportive comments. 
Of course, in reference to volunteering, I said yes.
Emily jumped up on stage before I did–this was a volunteer fight to the finish–and participated in a game by making sound effects for the actors on stage. Later in the show, I participated in the “Fill in the Blank” game, which the two actors upon the stage engaged in dialogue; they would pause and point to me or the other person on stage to provide them with a noun, adjective, or verb. Yes, this is just like Mad Libs.
There was no pressure to participate; however, I wanted to. Mike and Joe let that decision be my very own. The breakout show for the workshop participants is March 1st. We have to try and get used to the fact we will be on stage for entertainment purposes. In kindergarten through 12th grade, we all had to stand in front of the class for various reports or projects. In college, the presentations were more intense, but they were along the same lines. However, being an education major, some of us had to stand and present in a dynamic fashion. After college, in the real world, we go on interviews and teach and present information in front of boards or panels. These groups of people we speak in front of vary in size, situation, and environment.
I HIGHLY recommend you attend a Don’t Feed the Actors show.  Follow the link.
Improv is different. This is for entertainment. We can be funny, but we don’t have to. We can be serious, but we don’t have to. Overacting isn’t possible, usually, but you cannot force it too much.  As far as I know, the March 1st show will be packed. This notion is based upon the show attendance this past Friday. Family and friends have already said they will attend; I am thankful of their support. Jumping on stage was uplifting. Mike told me to own it–showcasing my willingness to volunteer–and I stood up, waving my hand wildly.
The lights were blinding, and I could barely see the crowd; that realized fact was good to know. If you can’t see the audience (well), they technically aren’t there. Depending on the tone of the skit, you won’t hear them peep, or–if you do–the sounds will come across as a laugh track. Thus far, I believe the Syracuse Improv Collective workshop is doing a great job shaping us first timers. I definitely recommend participating in the six-week session, and I am going to devote more time into this. It has already been an integral part of this year. I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth.
III.  Guinea Pigs
So, I get to be a part of something great.  With my profession, these past couple years, I have been a part of significant and interesting change.  These past few years, I have learned a lot about myself and what I want to do in my life as far as interests go.  Joining the Syracuse Improv Collective workshop has probably been one of the best decisions I have made.  Being nervous at first, this has proven to be a significant artistic outlet; my instructors and peers feel the same way, so the positive and supportive atmosphere is more than anything could ask for. 
I know I have said this before, but I cannot deny myself from promoting something that is so fascinating. 
Our group, the current five of us, make up the pilot group. We are the first.  We are going to pave the way for good things to come, and I want the improv group to grow.  I have been coming across individuals who want to talk to me about this.  They verbally congratulate me, continuing their thoughts by saying they wouldn’t be able to do it.
Why, I ask.
There are numerous excuses/reasons why they cannot:  not quick on their feet, not funny, too nervous, not creative, not this or that.
It’s nonsense. 
Each week you will be a group of people feeling the same nervous and doubting thoughts.  You are all participating, because you want to improve yourself in some aspect.  It is important not to look for a punchline, because it will ever come or it could hurt the performance.  It’s best to let conversation flow and to go along with what is dealt out.  The only way to truly mess up is to be resistant, to say no, or blatantly display a bad attitude.
Being nervous is a good thing.  Being nervous means you really, really want to do something that you are second guessing. 
IV.  Guinea Pigs (2nd Movement)
Joe asked Emily and I to participate in a project.  Katie, a grad student at Syracuse University, is covering the improv workshop for a project.  She called Emily and I last night, spoke to us briefly about her project; we were all supposed to meet up, but Storm Nemo generated snow and panic.  It was lousy, driving out there in them thar streets. 
Katie met with Emily and I this morning before the session, so she could get to know us better and explain her project a bit more in detail.  Her duty today was to watch the ongoings of the workshop, getting a feel of what it is we do.  Katie wanted to take pictures, take notes, and begin putting together storyboards for her project. 
I think the best part of this is that we all want this student to succeed.  Danielle and Alexis were cool with Katie’s presence.  Emily and I are cool with her wanting to interview us, video and audio, about who we are.  She then mentioned her wanting to take the project further instead of the expected interviews of us and how we fit into improv.  The four of us improv students, no offence to Maryanne (she just wasn’t present), are improv students and up-and-comers; we’re taking it seriously and probably want to take it further. 
I digress, but what Katie wants to do is follow us around.  She wants to film us, to capture us on video, and show what we are about.  This, of course, is outside of work.  I feel like this is a take on The Office, Parks and Recreation, and/or Modern Family in regards to the interviewing and the single camera following the action around. 
Living in Syracuse is pretty fuckin’ great.

One thought on “Guinea Pigs | Improv Workshop Week #5

  1. You are a brave soul. It's odd, I have 0 issues with public speaking, I do it for a living in some sense. However when I do anything remotely "entertaining" like trying to tell a joke, sing karaoke etc I choke up, my eyes water, my face and ears turn red and I struggle to finish. On another note,in the small world category Mike at Syracuse improv and my wife were close friends in high school.

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