Week Two: The First Beat

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The First Beat:  Oh the pain–the rusty pain of doing scene work again–after so long. (A couple of months) Exhausting, really. The re-learning curve is steep. And the exploration of self is always a challenge.  As a group when the team is all in this mode the energy is tepid.  But after a few warm-ups, we had a bit more energy going.  Starting with pass the clap always presses my reset button from a long day of tedium.

After week one and the high energy of the opening, the scene work in the first beat was a little subdued.  Old insecurities and bad habits plagued me.  I felt I would never listen, I would suck myself in to a side show of weirdness and random odd and confusing ideas far removed from what my fellow players were doing.  But I did feel supported nonetheless.  I started listening a little and saying “yes” to utterances I would previously ignore.

Anyhow, Enough whining.  Even bad improv is good for the world and, for me, the interior universe.  As a spawn of aliens who has difficulty connecting with anyone–or any entity–quickly, connection has, to my amazement, worked its way into my skill lexicon.  Yes, my form of bonding is glacial, strange, and still encompasses Meercat-shy tendencies, often folding around in a boomerang of self pity.  Improv assists with bringing out of nature and into the womb of the theater.  Every week, whether i feel good about it or not; it is DONE.  Another incremental, and sometimes painful learning experience that if easy would fail to be such a big deal.  The 1st week was easy, this week 2 challenged and enthralled me as I ground through the fertile ground following the opener into the first beat.

So we have our ideas from the opener that initiated–but hardly ended–from a simple suggestion.  Scenes.  Not just random scenes, but coming from the chunks we caught from the opener.  If I start a scene, my chunk melds and fuses with my partner’s and creates a transcendant-other that the scene becomes. Although we do not use the suggestion in the first beat, we use its inspiration to develop character and their every day musings and relationships.  We commit and heighten the character.  Who are they? They are what they do on a diurnal basis.

Steve mentions building tent poles and slipping them in where they belong;  Taking them from flimsy lesser-grade nunchaku to vehicles of shelter and structure.  Who are the characters, what are their quirks, what are their relationships like? How do they function, or dysfunction, throughout their day.  The mantra is:  THIS HAPPENS EVERYDAY.  In the wings, we can support through scene painting or the occasional walk on.  The characters will show who they are through banal situation, rather than telling is explicitly.

First Beat Examples:  Chunks from Opener

  • Wendy is angry with her sister Sue for undermining her ability to make crepes.  Mom taught Sue the secret family recipe making Wendy jealous and sabotaging the crepes by contaminating them with Skittles and Count Chocula, which is, of course a huge hit.
  • Carey is forming a band and wants to be the mysterious reptilian word smith virtuoso a la Jim Morrison, but lacks the poise and panache necessary for the role, and he’s generally cheerful.  A close friend Stanford, who is constantly depressed, tries to help Carey get his disturbed poet mojo going, only to discover his own gift.  And he can sing.
  • Faye and Jen talk at work about the project they were assigned.  In typical fashion Jen takes over everything and Faye’s brilliant suggestions are twisted into grotesque versions of a deliverable resembling nightmares that Faye seems to have had already.

1st beat tips:

  • No Tag outs, but Canadian crosses and scene painting is OK if it supports establishing the characters and / or situation.
  • Don’t invoke the suggestion, of course, use the chunks generated from the opening.
  • Remember to DISCOVER, rather than plan or create.
  • Try to use physicality to establish the distinctiveness of the characters.
  • More confrontational than presentation.

This always feel a little awkward after an energetic opener and slows down to develop characters and situations from the lively chunks.  The chunks are raw and need searing, or braising in character. It feels uncomfortable, a pit of doubt in the diaphragm.  I am hoping next week gets better.  My self worth is reeling from what?  Just the learning process and self discovery.  The journey of discontent reaps the rewards of insight.  I  hope.