There is an earlier blog post that covers our Saturday workshops in more detail, so these are very random additional notes.
Yet again Genre workshops never fail to amaze me. People totally new to impro end up improvising entire stories very rapidly when doing a genre. It’s like a decent genre supplies some ready made lego blocks to play with in impro, and gets a group mind and understanding activated.
So here are the random notes, based on asking the workshop crowd what they would want to see in each genre, what the obvious thing to put in was, and what seemed to work well in the scenes (as always, turn up the volume on what’s going well when directing!)
The Folly of Mankind
Taking something that exists now – a social situation, class, politics, technology, human nature, evolution and extrapolating it out over time and exagerating it
Advanced technology (they had some fun making up lots of new technology and gizmos)
Buttons Levers Lights
Universe not dissimilar to ours
Live long and prosper
I know a lot of that stuff sounds really obvious, but that’s the point. If an audience ask for Sci Fi and they don’t end up with things like Space, Aliens, Time Travel etc they will be disappointed. Putting on the additional bit that good Sci-Fi tends to reflect something in our own society seemed to go down well too. A couple of them pointed out that Sci-Fi is sometimes not seen as a genre at all, which I agree. Starship Troopers is actually a War Film that happens to be set in space, Star Wars (the original) is more like a Western in places (Han Solo is even dressed almost exactly like a cowboy), Star Trek quite often goes political, Alien is a Horror etc etc.
Little known fact about me by the way is that I totally believe in aliens, and think that they are widespread across the Universe. There’s even increasing evidence and theory for alien microbes existing on Mars, the atmosphere of Venue, and some moons around Jupiter and Saturn. They are all writing blogs as we speak about their alien impro workshops.
I got in trouble do doing this! Ooops! For some reason we could tuck into any other genre but Shakespeare seemed to be more sacred. I’m not an expert on Shakespeare so I just do my interpretation of it.
Girls dressed as Boys
Taking down the upper classes
I’ve got a theory that the use of rhythm and verse in Shakespeare actually helps to write it, as it can actually stop you thinking too much eventually and stuff pours out of you. I also love the way Shakespeare was so current, it used to really target the people at the top of society right there and then and investigate them and take them down. Nobody seems to do that so bravely now, apart from maybe Charlie Brooker in Black Mirror.
French New Wave
This was a fascinating one, as most of the class had no idea what it was including me so we kept playing and playing with it and eventually seemed to create a style of its own. It also served to highlight the hugely different styles within impro. Impro is a catch all term but actually there can be so many different things going on within it – clowning, dance, naturalism, panto, buffoon, melodrama. Sometimes I feel the gaps between impro groups/theories/workshops is just a lack of understanding that all people are trying to do is produce a different style, and naming the style can help people work together.
Emotional Genre – predominantly exploring patterns within various relationships
Limited and simple locations – giving focus to relationships
Tension between generations and class
Discussions of logic, philosophy
Cocky Young Man archetype
Older wiser man archetype
This is notoriously difficult as a genre but they nailed it. Many thanks to Matt Andrews for some awesome ideas on this one. One thing that popped up was that it was entirely game of the scene based. When a game stopped working another one had to be set up. Games had to be mercilessly escalated and escalated.
Set in one stately home
People walking in and out
Raise the stakes
Spot the game, play it
Gradually more frantic
Timing timing timing
Matt mentioned that Kelsey Grammer wanted to write a Farce, it was notoriously difficult so they put it off, but eventually he convinced TV bosses and the result was Frasier.
I make it look really simple/2-D above but seeing it on stage it became apparent that the actors had to be really ‘on it’ and pick up on everything. Also the importance of timing.
1930s Gangster Films
Mobsters vs Mobsters
Italian Mother serving lasagne
Trying to get out the mob
Another classic case of being obvious. One scene ended up with the characters finding a balance and resolution, which would often be great in impro but this time the audience seemed disappointed. We asked them what they wanted and it turned out that with this genre they wanted blood. We repeated the ending with a big shoot out instead where everyone died, and the audience cheered.
Two low status people having a high status battle with each other, one bossing around the other
Face the audience
Commedia Dell Arte
React to the audience
This was a great example of how different genres are. At firs the scene was getting a reaction from the audience as the actors were still acting within the limits of naturalism. Once they fully embraced the ridiculousness of slapstick they were funny, and we were all in hysterics. Similar to Farce I didn’t realise how much this demanded of the actors – they had to fully commit to every move, reaction and play it big.
Buddy Cop Movie
Good Cop/Bad Cop
Little in common
Hint to the home life of Good Cop
They have a history together
One is a maverick
Following the rules vs No Rules
Everything you believe it, I don’t
Bonding together working on a case they have to
Teenagers in a relationship going on a prom
Normal everyday life in American town
A thing/monster comes and threatens it
What is it??
If the thing/monster is a metaphor for a problem born out of their relationship, or reflecting a problem in the town or society in general, then this quite often cross into ‘Sci Fi’. When it’s just a random thing, it’s a B-Movie.
There were some more we did like Horror, Western, Mafia Film and more but I’ve lost the notes for them dammit.
So there go, random genre notes.
Lots of love,
Improv classes London and soon to be around the UK.