The Groundlings School – Hollywood, CA – Level One: Basic – Day Five

The emphasis for day 5 of Basic was commitment. BUMP UP COMMITMENT. Our instructor put it as nicely but as assertive as he could and let us know that we as a class have been struggling on committing to anything: emotions, characters, scenes. As we’re approaching the halfway mark of the course, he felt we were not performance ready and that that is what the point of the class is: to be performance-ready. I’ve never felt such an urgency to step up my improv game until now; I like how it pushes me to reach my comedic potential, but it’s something I’m not quite used to.

Instead of posting a copy of my cryptic shorthand notes, I’m going to instead recap the noteworthy highlights of class. A new improv activity we were introduced to was “minutia scenes,” two-person scenes in which one or both characters suddenly react very emotionally about a minuscule detail. The objective is to have either a positive or negative emotional reaction toward the main focus and really making that main focus MATTER. Of course, you still have to find that balance between what’s fun and what’s just plain crazy, which I’m starting to realize more and more affect how funny you are to the audience. The use of backstories help to justify why this scene is happening. Another side note given to me was to not make it seem like I’m struggling to come up with what to say on the spot even though I am because it breaks character and doesn’t come off as real. As a class we also need to work on jumping right into scenes without hesitation and with space work as every scene is a peek into someone’s life. Another note was to let moments build as a character goes through a highly emotional state of mind. Also, don’t use the state of being grossed out as a reaction to your partner’s offer.

I really enjoyed our new new improv game called “Movie Trailer.” Five students at a time would go up on stage; 1 improviser off to the side and the other 4 improvisers center stage. After a movie genre suggestion is given, the 4 improvisers center stage have to position themselves as characters in said movie genre as they would stereotypically appear in a movie poster. The one improviser off to the side would avert his or her eyes until “the tableau” of improvisers were all arranged, and then he or she would turn around to take a look at the big picture to create a fake movie trailer narrative including the following elements:

  • Studio release date
  • Production house
  • Title
  • Plot
  • Title again
  • Tagline

The only major notes were to really size up tableau and reference how each person is positioned, don’t break character, and to be specific (not generic) in descriptions.

And of course, as we have been doing for most classes thus far, we did two-person scenes with instructor side-coaching. The main things to be worked on were the following:

  • Get right into space work.
  • Don’t lose the energy that was initiated.
  • Look out for “green” improvising, in which a relatively new improviser reacts with no verbally stated reason as to why.
  • As in all Basic classes, make space work MATTER. Don’t just do it to please the instructor. Have an emotional reaction as you interact with space work objects.

Next, we did an activity called “Four-Line Poems” to reinforce the whole commitment concept in improv. We went up on stage in groups of 4 people and each added a line to a poem to the meter and rhyme of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” but the objective was to deliver each line of the poem with as much energy, emotion and commitment in order to “sell it.” The main focuses were commitment (energy, selling it, performance) and fitting the cadence (you don’t have to rhyme: just fit the meter).

Lastly, we did an activity as a whole class on stage where one person would start off by describing an imaginary picture on the shirt of the person next to them. That person next to them would then have to come up with a fitting tagline that would accompany that imaginary picture as in a graphic tee. It was a short and fun exercise that really tested your wit and pop culture knowledge.

I allowed myself to have more fun and worry less in class today. Let’s keep this up. 🙂

– Angelie

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