Friday, September 5, 2008

Spontenaeity, Not Improv

This is spurred from Late Night on Sep. 3rd, in which it looked as though Dr. Phil pushed Letterman pretty hard and made him not only stumble, but comment on it.

There's a rule about Stage Combat and Improvisation: they don't mix. NEVER improvise a staged fight--it's just not a good idea--there are countless ways to get hurt.

Having said that, I know very well that none of my students obey this rule. So I must elaborate:
  • If you are going to fight non-scripted, have many fight bits (or phrases) set up and thoroughly rehearsed ahead of time. That way, both actors can recognize what's coming even if it isn't planned. Think of it like the ancient commedia dell'arte: though unscripted and spontaneous, each person knew not only a general stock character, but had a myriad of zanni, or movement bits, that a simple cue could catalyze. The bigger one's movement vocabulary, the more sentences one can make on the fly. Safe sentences.
  • ALWAYS always always make eye contact. Always.
  • Keep dialogue going--talk to each other. Know a safety word just in case.
  • If you see someone about to do something stage-combat-y to you, and you don't know what's coming, STOP. I don't care how big an audience or an ego you have. Relax. Don't do it. (Thanks Frankie.)
  • Seriously. ~JennWee Katie and Loren demonstrating at the Barnes & Noble Booksigning, 2007. Safely.


Bonzuko said...

Am I the only one here old enough to recognize the Frankie Goes to Hollywood reference? Should I have explained it?

MacGuffininabox said...

When we you teach us this one? I believe they call it the "toss an unprepared individual onto the hard ground with sharp debris around in a spastic manner." Tsk tsk professional wrestling. Remember Jenn only YOU can prevent broken collar bones.


Bonzuko said...

Wow! Well the first thing I'd teach you is to REHEARSE enough to land on the MAT!!! It's so ironic that you see him land on the ground and right behind him is a big, soft-looking, squishy mat! :sigh:

Paul said...

Fighting "unscripted", as you've put it, actually seems like a good idea for an improv troupe to do, sort of like in a more physical version of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" Prior to starting at Metro, I studied improv for a couple of years, and it's actually amazing how much practice one needs to do even when possible fight scenes aren't involved at all. Rehearsing a couple of stage combat scenes that might pop up sounds to me like a good way to just make sure that all the bases are covered.

Man, what I wouldn't give to have been able to see Ryan Stiles kick the crap out of Colin Mochre.


Bonzuko said...

I assume "Paul" is Paul B., right?
Yes, and (!) it's that sort of precise control that takes so much practice. I mean, can you see how much more rehearsal you guys would need to get it exactly where you want it?

Paul said...

I wasn't sure if I wanted to comment on this one or not but I now feel it is neccesary because the "Paul" earlier in this post is not Paul B. As for comment required for class, at this point in my own stage combat "carrer" I would not be very comfortable trying to improv such things. I have a hard enough time attempting not to hurt myself doing what we are supposed to be doing. That and I can't improv worth a damn anyway.

Paul Behrhorst

Brady Darnell said...

Tragically, you are not the only one here old enough to recognize the Frankie Goes to Hollywood reference.
And perhaps it is my somewhat advanced years that put me in the "Just don't do it" camp. We all feel pretty doggone proud of ourselves for being able to execute a pretty good fake punch, but, at this point, that's all it is: "pretty good." And under very rehearsed circumstances at that. I don't relish the idea of someone running up to me outside of class and attempting to execute a fake punch on me to "show off." THere are just too many "what ifs." What if somebody walks into the middle of things? What if your adrenaline affects your aim? What if I think you're going to do a slap instead of a punch (remember, we're all still novices here) and I move the wrong way?
No thanks. Pick somebody else.
I'll take mine choreographed if it's all the same to you.


Bonzuko said...

Ah, sorry, it was Paul S. Thanks for clearing that up.

Well I'm glad both Paul B. (really) and Brady feel the way I do. Actually, even beyond the safety question, you don't really end up looking cool if it's not rehearsed.

Although...there is something to be said for Paul S.'s idea of a spontaneous yet rehearsed show as well. The only way to do this effectively would be to have a small troupe (like Paul S. suggests) that has rehearsed a lot lot lot lot of hours.

That actually sounds like the Ren Faire group we had, that we saw today in class. Although our fights were choreographed, and rehearsed for about an eon each.

mandy said...

Yeah, i was in an improv troupe in the springs and ah...yeah one collegue gave another collegue a friendly headbutt and got not only some laughs but a nice hospital bill too. Hah! He thought he was a professional...i don't think any of us would work with him again after that! It only takes one "choice" as an actor to ruin your reputation. and when you live in a small city your d.o.a.

Bonzuko said...

Wow, head butt? Ouch.