Friday, November 16, 2012

Head-in-a-Cart Takes an Improv Class: Week #7

You’re probably wondering what happened to week 6. Or maybe not.  Anyway, I missed class because I was at AFI Fest hanging out with friends.  Priorities.

I felt badly that I missed the class and dreaded that I would be really behind.  Then I found out other people missed it too so I didn’t feel like such a bad, irresponsible student.

Before we got on stage to do warm up exercises the teacher explained the format of our graduation show and how it would unfold.  He is going to divide the class into two groups.  Each group will pick a spokesperson and a team name.  The team not performing will sit in the front row and participate as part of the audience.  The spokesperson of the team performing will introduce the team by saying “Hellooooooooo, we’re the Bananaramas!” or something like that.  Then he will ask for a one word suggestion from the audience, repeat it to the rest of the team and the team will repeat the word in unison. Then one person will step forward and do a monologue based on memories invoked by that word.  It’s supposed to be honest and full of details so that we can get plenty of material for scenes.  The scenes can be inspired by the original word suggestion or anything in the monologue.  After a 2 min. monologue, the monologist will join the rest of the group and then two people will step forward and do a scene.  This is not determined by whose turn it is or anything like that.  Anyone can step up and do a scene and anyone from the backline can step in and bestow a gift to help the scene.  So each group will perform a monologue, and 3 scenes and then solicit another word suggestion and another monologue and 3-4 scenes depending on the time.  During the last two-thirds anyone can do a monologue if they choose instead of a scene.  I know it’s confusing. I was confused too.

We warmed up with our thumpers and a game called Zoom Schwartz Elvis Profigliano.  I don’t want to forget my thumpers and for history’s sake I will list below. 

1.     “Scary Teri”
2.     Ouch ouch ouch and jumping up and down yelping like a puppy in pain.
3.     I gotta pee I gotta pee while I squeeze my thighs together.
4.     Oh shit that’s my ex!
5.     OMG I’m so positive! while I jump up

 I had more but I forgot them.

Then we did a quick scene to remind us to establish location and relationship right away.  My partner and I got the word “comb” and I said, “Honey, you’re losing your hair.”  He said maybe I should get Rogaine and I said no go to the doctor because I think it’s more serious than that. He vacillated and I said, honey you know I don’t like bald men.  He said “ouch.”  Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the teacher and thought, oh shit.  He’s balding.  So I said, you know it’s not personal.  It reminds me of my dad and it freaks me out. It reminds me of his clown wig cap and how he used to scare the shit out of us.  The teacher ended the scene.

After warm up we basically just ran the show.  Each team did the first third and then we did the last two thirds.

Our team got the word “Prius.”  I stepped up immediately to do a monologue.  It was going to be way too easy.  I knew it as soon as I heard the word.

I told them the word Prius reminded me of my ex.  I live in Silverlake and every other car is a Prius.  Everywhere we went there they were Priuses.  The weird thing is that I never noticed it until he brought it up.  So I had to listen to constant annoying comments about Priuses and hipsters and he making fun of hipsters on Priuses.  But of course I was in love so it didn’t bother me that much until now that I have to be reminded of him every time I see a Prius in my neighborhood.  But I’m okay really.  It’s been a year a half and I’m totally over it.  The worst thing about the break up was thinking my ex was this great dude that I put on a pedestal and then finding out that he was the total opposite.  A loser and a misogynist.  I always thought I was a good judge of character and now I just don’t know.  I don’t trust myself anymore.  But I’m okay.  Really.  Totally okay.  I’ve decided never to put myself in that situation ever again.  I am perfectly happy with my doggy and I am totally fine with a closed lady cave. 

While I was talking I looked out at the audience and saw sad expressions.  The more I talked, the sadder they got.  It threw me.  What I was saying was funny to me, but now that I think about it, it’s pretty sad if you don’t know me.  I talked way too much because I got confused and was expecting the teacher to end my monologue.  He said at the beginning of the class that he was going to be at the booth editing the scenes by going to black.  Not the monologues.  Luckily it fell within the two minute mark.

Most of the scenes people did were about Priuses:  a father who works at Greenpeace tries to force a Hummer on his daughter because they are a Hummer family (I pretended to be a Save the Polar Bears protestor in the background); a lesbian on her first date only dates women who drive Priuses.  The last one was about a guy trying to talk to his father about being heartbroken and the father calling the ex a whore and all kinds of names.  I didn’t do a scene.

When we talked about the scenes, the teacher told us that we did exactly what we were not supposed to do, basically stick to the one word suggestion.  He said sometimes you have to do that if you get nothing from the monologue or the scenes themselves, but in this case, I gave them a lot to work with and almost no one took advantage of it.  Not everyone gets going from A to C.  I found it interesting that the students who are the oldest do the best monologues.  So is it true young people have nothing to say?  I don’t think so.  I think young people are too self-conscious and afraid to be honest.  I’m not.  It’s basically all I’ve got.

For the next two thirds of the show I decided I wasn’t going to do a monologue and just participate in the scenes.  Our second word suggestion was Post-It Notes and another old fart did a monologue about how when you work in an office you accumulate a lot of free supplies, especially pens.  I stood back scene by scene not really getting inspired by anything they were doing it.  I was trying to go from A to C, but they kept on doing scenes about office supplies, going from A to A to A.  I finally got an idea and stepped forward.  When my scene partner stepped up, I jumped on him and yelled “SURPRISE!!! Happy 21st Birthday little bro!”  handed him an imaginary shot then his present then a shot, etc.  He was overwhelmed and I kept on pressing that he open his present.  He did and was speechless.  I finally said, “It’s highlighters. And Post-It Notes. Even those that say “Sign Here.”  He looked disappointed and I acted like my feelings were hurt. I asked him why he wasn’t excited and he said he didn’t imagine his 21st birthday bash to be just us doing shots at home.  He expected to go to a bar.  I told him I had limited finances and he said then why did you give me what looks like $200 worth of office supplies.  I told him it was to help him realize his dream of having his own office supply store like Lexor. (Here I called back a scene about the manager of Lexor, a supply store that gets its inventory from stolen stuff people misplace all the time, like lighters and pens.)  I continued to try to get him excited about becoming an office supply mogul and going to Shark Tank and getting Mark Cuban to invest.

Our scene inspired a monologue about a 21st birthday bash drunken blackout and that inspired a scene about a son who tells his dad he wants to be an equestrian.  It was set in a barn while the dad brushed a horse.  The father was not very receptive and kept on trying to discourage the son by telling him how hard it was.  I then decided to act like a horse and pranced by them and then pinched the son.  The dad said, “You can never be as good as your sister, look at her.”  We then lost it because we all knew I was supposed to be a horse that bit him on the arm.  My intention was to throw them a gift because the scene was going nowhere.  As it turns out, it wasn’t really because you can never predict what someone is going to interpret it as.  You have to be very specific with what you do from the back line when you do a walk in.  Again, that was me trying to write it my way.

I was feeling very nervous about having to perform in front of an audience for the first time in my life.  I even contemplated bailing.  Of course I did.  But I know I won’t.  I can’t.  I need to do this.  I’m on a journey.  I don’t know what it is.  I’ll tell you when I find out.

Lesson #7:  Fear can fool you into thinking you don’t want something you really want.

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