I went to Chicago for the intensive at The Annoyance Theatre.  Here are my mostly uncensored notes.  One of the things I love about improv is that people are there from all walks of life.  Spent thirty hours with 12 wonderful fellow improvisers ( the thirteenth one was me guys).

Day 1 Susan Messing 9am to 12pm I just got back from Chicago.  I went there to do a one week improv intensive at The Annoyance Theatre.  The intensive consisted of a 3 hour class in the morning and then in the afternoon.  The teachers were: Susan Messing, Mark Sutton, Rich Sohn, Rebecca Sohn, Jason Grimm and Mick Napier.   People from different walks of life coalesced to learn how to be better improviser.  I met a magician and news guy, many talented actors and so many wonderful people.  

It’s the night before I go back to my daily life.  I’d like to share my notes from my week at this workshop.  Here they are:

Day 1 Susan Messing 9am to 12pm 

  • props are a clue to who your character is

  • don’t drop until you discover what’s up

  • in comedy it’s a joy to lose

  • rule is a suggestion that might get you off faster

  • specificity kills ambiguity

  • protect freak by enjoy hell e.g. suffer

  • 3 ways to (protect freak?) 1) not ok suffer 2) geniuses (celebrate) 3) Join them

  • Day 1 Jason Grimm 1:30 to 4:30 pm 

    Musical Improv; things to do at home: read rhyming dictionary; listen to instrumental and sing melody over top 

    i asked about how to learn how to do accompaniment for improv I wrote in my notes – look at jazz standards chord progressions

    Day 2 Rich Sohn morning then Rebecca Sohn afternoon

    Finding characters by: a) leading with a body part – apparently I liked this one b) acting like an animal c) adjectives

    Movement – exaggerated walks; vocal movement; make a noise that’s connected to how body feels before speaking or eye contact

    eye contact bringing it to the world (not sure what that means)

    keeping your power

    arc – difference btwn nerd/geek/dork – how? specificity

    what’s a geek like on worst day?

    Day 2 extra session with Mick Napier from 6:30 to 7:30

    personal notes for me: tendency to go negative when nervous; try to be positive in scene; speak in complete sentences.  Stay in scene by saying less

    general notes: don’t find wrongness in scene; confront status; initiate right away without any pauses; try characters other than yourself; content: leading with the head or body part; emotional association; detailed sentences; example of an aggressively nice person; start with ‘and that’s when…’ so that its in the middle of the scene; if you get lost in the middle harken back to something you first did

    Day 3 – Mark Sutton 

    present energery

    don’t have to let cat out of bag; produce info because you want it to be about info which leads to problem because you have to deal with all the info

    if too much info out there you are just maintaining and not discovering 

    difference between responding through truth of your character

    how are these 2 people affecting each other

    take care of knowing who you are in an improv scene

    what have I created for myself; say in a declaration only line of dialogue you can say

    if i am not sure the audience is also not sure

    variety in tone

  • not a clue what I wrote here…looks like merely? 1) words 2) feel 3)

  • but it ‘should’ be physical 15 seconds after (? no clue what I meant)

  • Focus on what we had at 15 seconds instead of inventing after

  • you can do whatever you want so the first choice is significant

  • if your hand is in pocket at top of scene there must be a reason or somehow important detail to scene

  • be ok with not talking; make time

  • its ok not to know what’s going on as long as you are committed to relationship whatever that may be

  • i’m pretty sure this next thing was just a funny line and not an actual note but it just says: unreliable asshole  — take it or leave it — what in the world??

  • bail for no reason is bad; bail for a reason is good

  • space of power fine line btwn justification and contextualizing

  • plain location – what’s unusual about location

  • accept the door (wtf does this mean again?); explain the door; yes and the door

    what’s happening right now and how does it make me feel

    projection – reacting based on assumptions

    here and now – how do i feel?

    take care of the moment as it comes

    make a move that supports how I’m feeling and what I am saying

    is it possible to leave?

    anything in the scene is an opportunity to go through a window (why were talking so much about windows and doors?)

    information is secondary to emotion ex. play loss to anything 

    is this a vehicle to playing compelling scenes?

    – structure to improvise within helps some people

    don’t get hung up on the form

    talk less, listen more

    Day 4: Susan Messing

    the audience either sympathizes, empathizes or is educated by what is being said

    committing to sharing

    not funny to make some else feel stupid in an scene…bitches (lol)

    Day 4 or 5? Jason Grimm

    musical improv; celebrity song; character asides; group numbers; overlapping opinions; 2 lines into a song emotionally charged; gibberish opera; 

    Day 5? Mick Napier stopped by to say a bunch of stuff but the thing I wrote down was him quoting Amy Sedaris ‘Bring a book to that scene’ – this is my new favorite quote

    And those are all of my notes.

    I also saw shows.  They were: The Armando Diaz Show, Second City Mainstage show called Panic on Cloud 9, Improvised Shakespeare and Messing with a TJ Jagadowski.  I tried to get out to see some musical improv but I was so tired.  We got to do a our own show on Friday at 6:30 on the mainstage of the Annoyance Theatre and there was an actual audience and everything.  It felt so friggin’ good to improvise again.  I hope I continue to do it.  I’m not exactly sure how or when but I hope I can get myself out there to jams since I spent all my money on this trip. 🙂

About Alex Lean

I am just another dreamer trying to wake up
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