Monday, February 07, 2005

And the lightbulbs all go off at once

Today's Improvisional class at Second City was absolutely incredible. Now, I've been pleased with pretty much all of my classes up until now, but what we covered today just caused my brain to start firing on all cylinders. And not just for Improvisational acting. What I walked out of there with could start a whole new intensity in my writing. I shall explain.

To start with, we covered an exercise on anticipation. We all were on our stomachs on the floor in a circle, shoulder width apart with our hands crossed over each other's on the floor. The pattern would look something like this:

MY HAND   LEFT PERSONS HAND   RIGHT PERSONS HAND   MY HAND

And so on around the circle.

We would then begin tapping our hands on the floor in sequence going to the left, but then somebody would tap twice, which caused the tap to change direction and head right. Now, when a pattern begins, it is very easy to get caught up in the rhythm and have your hand prepared to tap...so if the person before you tapped twice, you may already start moving your hand before you realized that it was not really your turn. This is anticipation, which can be deadly in improv. So, it was made into an elimination game, and I discovered that I am very much fallible to the rhythm...I was eliminated second in the circle. That is certainly something I have to work on - don't think of what's to come - think in the moment.

Second, and more important to my shiny little brain was a very detailed exercise on conflict. To set up the exercise, Herbie had us all grab a piece of paper and write out 10 steps that occur before inhaling cigarette smoke. Yes, even the non-smokers had work this out. My list went as such.

  1. Reach into jacket

  2. Grab pack of smokes

  3. Open pack

  4. Remove foil

  5. Remove cigarette

  6. Put cigarette in mouth

  7. Reach into pocket

  8. Grab lighter

  9. Flick lighter on

  10. Put flame to cigarette

  11. Inhale smoke


Not much of a story right? Well, time to make a story from it. Now we introduce conflict into the sequence. We then had to write a conflict that occurred between each point. Here is how mine ended up.

    Much to chagrin, it is -40 outside. Need for cigarette more important than need for warmth. Head outside.
  1. Reach into jacket
    Zipper is stuck. Fight with zipper...it won't budge. Break zipper

  2. Grab pack of smokes
    Finger is numb from the cold and from fighting with zipper. Warm hands under armpits then tenderly grab pack.

  3. Open pack
    New pack still wrapped in cellophane. Remove cellophane

  4. Remove foil
    Foil is stuck to pack. Angrily rip it out

  5. Remove cigarette
    Cigarette seems to be broken from ripping foil out. Curse. Seek unbroken cigarette in pack.

  6. Put smoke in mouth
    Cigarette cannot penetrate bellaclava's mouth guard. Fight to remove bellaclava

  7. Reach into pocet
    Chose wrong day to wear tight jeans. Squeeze hand into pocket with a wince and search around.

  8. Grab lighter
    Somehow cut hand on lighter. Curse again. Remove hand from pocket (with lighter) and use jacket to clot blood.

  9. Flick lighter on
    Due to the immence cold, lighter is being ignorant. Curse multiple times. Fight with it for five minutes and finally get dull flame to spark to life.

  10. Put flame to cigarette
    Sneeze suddenly putting flame out at inopportune time. Curse violently. Fight for another 5 minutes until another flame appears.

  11. Inhale smoke
    Sadly, by this time lungs have frozen solid. Choke horribly and collapse into heap.


OK...it's no setup to War & Peace or anything, but you can see from this simple exercise how I can take any simple mundane event and create a detailed story from it. This will work well both on stage and in my writing work. As for that part of it, coincidently I have just signed up for a Creative Writing course and am now stoked more than ever to see what I can come up with. Hopefully I can share more with you soon!


4 comments:

Rufus said...

Shouldn't all the light bulbs be going ON?

Good stuff!

Arethusa said...

Sooounds! I'll be interested in hearing how it helps in the Creative Writing class.

Arethusa said...

Err..I meant to type "Sounds good!" Blogger needs an edit button for comments. :->

The Acting Artist said...

Umm...yeah, in this day and age I guess. My phrase came from the Flash-Bulb photography term...."they all went off at once".

Or maybe I like living in the dark! Hmm...did you think of that?

{grin}