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wrapping it all up


Cindy Tonkin - July 4, 2011

this is the last of the second city musical improv posts. in a week or so I’ll start up at iO, so i got a week of no improv posts.

A bucket of umbrellas at the Getty
Center, LA

warm up
she’s hot I’d fuck him/her a cool rhyming warm up song for those who love the risque: chant 3 x “he’s hot I’d fuck him” then “I’d fuck him all night”. Helps to clap to keep the rhythm too. We alternated him / her, just for balance, right?
then the first person chants a 1 liner, and the second person rhymes with them.

I’m crushing a bug, a rhyming and slightly physical warm up
first person does an action and describes it (i’m crushing a bug, i’m crushing a bug while twisting toe on the ground). group then repeats the 2 lines. next person can either rhyme with it and do a new action, or follow the same action and start a new action with a new rhyme. after you’ve done round the circle, you go backwards round the circle doing the 2 lines for each person with the action.

musical theatre what are you doing – where all the actions and emotions are exaggerated


hey fred schneider what are you doing


i am the owner of a candy store first person sets up “i am the owner of an x” (where x is anything, a factory, a store, etc, but everyone will have to rhyme with the last word, so dont’ make it an orange).
each person then says a line which rhymes with x, till it gets back to the first person who says “and that’s why I’m the owner of an X”.

notes on forms
commando – one suggestion per scene. jeff got us to connect them to the previous scene to get the ask for (in the last scene you saw a nasty woman, what’s the name of a nasty woman you know?). the person taking the ask for does not initiate the scene.
pad set – do new scenes from the pad of pre-taken ask fors (may take 2 or 3 eg. Denmark, tailor, sad).
commontage – like a command but you spin off from the scene without a new ask for
deconstruction-like musical – root scenes have to have a song, usually just 2 people, shorter scenes may or may not have songs. use focus edits or sweeps

swinging/revolving door similar to tag, but quicker and ensures return to the original scene if you have just a one-liner

when doing object work / miming objects, make sure there is a space in your hand for the object!
be aware of saying “you always do this”, it minimises / kills the emotional impact. either it’s the day you’re not going to take it anyore, or it’s the first time (which makes it more important).

succulents, the Getty Center, LA

be careful of character choices that make you look down (not available to the audience). find a way to be meek and look out.
teaching scenes are hard because the teacher cannot be affected by the pupil.

types of musical opening

opening numbers can be a chorus or a tag line (but everyone should sing)

environmental opening: eg oklahoma, beauty and the beast, south park; easiest to do, just sing about the town, no need to establish characters, just tell us where we are and what you love/hate / emote about where we are

attend the tale/prologue e.g. sweeney todd, bat boy; narrator, direct address, describe a character (who is on stage); tonal setting thing, not pimptastic

meta-theatrical: e.g. the muppet show, all of title of show, comedy tonight from funny thing happened on the way to the forum, another op’nin another show;  it’s a song about the show, about the actors, about getting ready to put on the show – meta to the plot. the key to meta is having a point of view (i love or hate the show, getting ready for the show)

harold-esque / thematic an organic opening with music; musically and tonally exploring the theme – e.g. the age of aquarius? (organic opening as a kinesthetic equivalent of a list song?)

i wish number – e.g. belle’s song in beauty and the beast (called i wish); what i want from into the woods; easier in an improvised show to separate the opening and the i wish number. i wish number is a solo, except maybe for the bridge. if you have multiple wishes then you end up with more of a montage-musical

revolution songs – e.g. one day from les mis, viva la revolucion from south park; set up 3 interest groups (the protagonist who wants to be a star, the agent who wants her to be a star, her mother who wants her to marry Norman). each group sings a musically different verse, with a final tag line the same (the underlying chord structure is the same). hard thing is to find a good tag line which will work for all of the groups – whoever sings the first verse does this.  once each verse is sung individually, then the 3 groups sing simultaneously their verse (which will create complex harmonies). Then key change, sing again. it’s rousing, exciting and so so simple. Would make a good short-ish form singing game (but don’t tell the audience the secret of the tag line).

narratively speaking not everything has to be wrapped up – gets too heady (i saw a musical improv show on friday night, they missed their ending because they felt the need to wrap up some minor plots).
the 405 freeway from
the Getty Center LA
in opening numbers, don’t build characters because everyone’s in the scene, there is no back line to remember it.
build the characters in scenes with 2 people, where the back line can remember and take pulls etc
if the musician makes a mistake or does something unexpected, don’t look at them (it alerts the audience that something is wrong, and it also makes the musician feel blamed!). never betray your discomfort on stage, it makes the audeince nervous; if someone takes your entrance, pretend nothing went wrong
important to recognise when it’s not your song.
the climax of a story is usually NOT a song, becuse it’s plot, and you don’t do plot in songs, you do emotions
it’s never about the plot. if the plot doesn’t work, forget it- better to abandon it than write yourself into the ground
if you die, stay dead
in group numbers we don’t have to hear from every character
it’s ok to let the antagonist win
variety numbers, dance, dance, dance, movement is enough without music. to create impressive on-stage dances, use the diamond technique (stand in a diamond; whoever is at the front sets up a simple followable dancing pattern. if they turn, then whoever is in front of the diamond is now the leader. make it repeatable, and hold it for a few bars – the audience will watch for minutes and not get bored – think about how simple the macarena is). for best effect signal your turns.
dancing is simple to do, hard to remember to do. call out “dance break” if you have to.
don’t solve the problem in the first scene, solving the problem ends the story; it’s not your job to fix the problem, it’s your job to help or hinder the protagonist’s journey to solve their problem, but don’t fix it!!
musicals to see: bat boy, south park the musical is a text book musical – has all the elements 

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