Shared Style and Group Mind
Improviser Stephen Laurence Roe here, currently reporting from my bedroom.
Currently the actions that are happening and the things I’m learning have accelerated faster than my ability to keep track of them or write them down. Sorry if I haven’t replied to your email in three weeks/months. And yes you will have a spot at The Miller, I’m still struggling time to work it out and it’s not the end of March yet so nothing to worry about.
I’m so damn busy, yah yah yah, look at me, yah yah yah, I’m so important yah. I’m like an impro yuppie.
Just had two great workshops this week, the Saturday followed by the Thursday. In fact every workshop these days seems to have some great people and I’m learning some amazing new stuff. There seems to be so many great people I wish there were more shows and great things for them to spill into, but actually they are quite capable of spilling into stuff themselves.
If you are one of those people (you are) please please please go to auditions, get out there, put your own stuff on, stretch yourself. Unless you just like workshops for workshops sake, which is also cool and in a way even more beautiful.
So here’s some stuff I learnt recently:
Scenes Scenes Scenes Workshop, Saturday 5th March, The Bedford, Balham
Scenes Scenes Scenes workshops work by basically getting people to improvise as many scenes as possible in a day with the minimum amount of chat from me. There is stuff you can learn in impro but it’s also essential to practice loads and get stuck in.
The scenes scenes scenes I did before though I felt a bit lost, and had no idea how to feedback at places.
It was only afterwards that I realised that it was because I didn’t really know what we were aiming for, what style we were trying to do.
So this time I started the workshop by asking people what style and things they would like to improvise. Note that this wasn’t planning, more just getting an idea on style. I had a feeling that before people weren’t completely going for it because one person’s conception of impro is clowning, while the other is naturalism etc.
Sometimes these different ways of acting would be ‘corrected’, which gives the message of ‘wrong’, but I actually think you could do anything on stage, ANYTHING, and to some drama teacher somewhere it’s a type of style. So actually in impro there is no right or wrong at all, just a question of style. If the actors share a style then the group mind activates, if not they are already battling a load of confusion or at least have to just accept the style right from the beginning.
Playing to these styles had a very positive effect, similar to genres recently. It also allowed us to really attack the impro and push ourselves.
There were some very contrasting pieces with completely different acting styles, and what was joyous was that some didn’t ‘work’ straight away but we kept going and going and tinkering until we click and found the secrets of such comedic styles as Cartoon, Blackadder and League of Gentleman. It used to be said not to accept a type of comedy as a suggestion, but we did and we made it work. Whoop yeah.
Things we did:
Sci Fi (Pyramids of Evil and spaceship/engine negotiation)
League of Gentleman
Pingu the Penguin (It still makes sense to the penguins)
Blackadder (you can’t overdo it!)
And last but not least….Dr.Seuss. Which was amazing. On the first attempt we were hesitating with rhyming, so I lead my massive rhyming workshop (which I haven’t done in about three years). I forgot how much I love rhyming! The rhyme releases stuff you wouldn’t have to come up with, and the non-rhyming lines are about justifying and reincorporating. Loads of people say not to rhyme when improvising songs etc, I don’t agree with them, I love it.
Group Mind, Thursday 10th March, St. Mary’s Hall, Balham
Out of no where did some totally out there games. Some inspired by Remy Bertrand’s recent Friendly Fire show. Games included Machines, Machines transforming and the whole group being the same creature at the same time. It produce a tribal feeling, with chanting and drumming. It scared some members of the group, thrilled others, and others just found it funny. At the end everyone was exhausted.
The core of this is giving up yourself to be totally at one with a group. For some people loosing themselves in a group was scary, others fun, others exciting. It entirely depends on that person, their relationship with groups previously, and their trust with the current group. For performance being intuitively, almost telepathically, connected to the group is a good thing. For real life it’s not always a good thing, so I made that distinction. I think there are lots of examples of the group mind effect being used for bad in ‘real life’, so I don’t necessarily think that giving your ego over entirely to a group in real life is such a good plan.
In fact this leads me to what I think about impro and whether it’s helpful for real life. My brief answer is – sometimes. I mainly think impro is a performance thing, and also a bit of fun to do in the evenings, no a massive life philosophy or anything. But somethings are kinda helpful in other bits of life. So there you go.
Agent Steve out.