Saturday, March 15, 2008

have to make it up

Faced with the choice of using my Park Hopper pass to visit any of the Walt Disney World theme parks or going to a convention seminar with only a vague description in the brochure, the answer seemed simple, I was theme park bound. Then I bumped into Charna Halpern in the hallway. She said that her team would be running the 2:30 session. I knew that's where I had to be yesterday afternoon instead.

The highlight of last year's Children's Miracle Network convention was the workshop run by Charna and the group from improvOlympic. I remember being amazed at the difficulty some radio guys from other markets had with telling a story one word at a time. Joe Bill, who led our small group, arranged us in a circle and came up with a story title. We had to make up the story but we could each only say one word. The key is to listen to what's been said so far and when it gets to be your turn, the next word just comes to you. Sometimes the next word needs to be "the" or "and." Other times you get to use a more exciting noun, verb or adjective. That's where many of the deejays fell apart. They tried to overthink it, perhaps wanting to get a laugh with their word. They unsuccessfully tried to anticipate where the story was going and decided on their word before it was their turn. When their word didn't fit the story, they looked foolish and were frustrated by the game. In this exercise, the group is more important than the individual. Don't try to control it, let it control you.

This year's training session was completely different and just as worthwhile. There wasn't as much interaction on our part. Instead the actors from I.O. used improv games to show the important elements of telling a story. They told a Conducted Story that was heavy on facts and another that was nothing but descriptive details. Neither story was compelling. The third attempt was a nice balance of facts and details. Later they did a scene in two minutes and asked the audience to identify the essential and extraneous parts. They redid the scene in one minute and again in thirty seconds, each time paring the story down to its most important elements.

Because my appetite for watching improv is seemingly insatiable, my wife and I had planned to get over to the Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island tonight like we did last year and the year before. We ended up having too much fun at the Magic Kingdom and at the recently re-named Disney's Hollywood Studios. As a result we didn't make it back out to Downtown Disney. However I did get to see some unexpected improv by a group of street performers dressed up in old-fashioned Hollywood costumes. Their characters were trying to be named the funniest person in Hollywood. They did an improv game I know as "185" although the number they used was 99. A director got nouns from the surrounding crowd and the comedians had to complete the joke that goes "99 (nouns) walk into a bar. The bartender says we can't serve 99 (nouns) in here and the 99 (nouns) say (punchline)." I picked up a trick from them that I may have to use some Tuesday night at an Einstein Simplified show. A couple of the Disney improvisers added a line by having the nouns ask "Why not?" and then having the bartender deliver the punchline. If I ever can afford to retire, I'll have to move someplace where I can watch improv everyday.

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Anonymous Jennifer B said...

You've got me Jonesin' for some more improv soon! I'm glad you're having such a good time in Florida.


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