Last night Jason Chin, the master of forms, direct disciple of Del Close, and knowledgeable teacher, substituted for our usual 4b teacher at iO, Craig Uhlir. I love Craig’s teaching style and I also love doing impressions of Craig (full disclosure), but it was amazing to have Jason teaching my class again after I had him in level 4. I like the Harold, which level 4 focuses on to the exclusion of everything else, but I LOVE other varieties of long-form, like… THE ARMANDO and my new favorite: THE MOVIE. Yes, I did have to shout that.
During class, Jason taught us 3 new long-forms. I was giddy like Smeagol with his ring. A direct disciple of Del Close, it’s always fascinating to hear Jason speak about the early days of the iO, and last night did not disappoint ^_^
The first form we studied was The Livingroom. It’s quite similar to how Matt Besser does his improv4humans show. After all, that original UCB group came out of iO and were some of the people who helped to originate The Livingroom in Charna Halpern’s apartment.
To start off, we gathered on one side of the stage, laid down our chairs in an “L” shape and had a natural conversation in front of the audience. Then, whenever we felt inspired, someone would get up and initiate a scene, walking and talking as s/he headed over to the other side of the stage. After a montage of 3 or 4 scenes, everyone would return to the original conversation from the point where we left off . According to Jason, back in the day, they would practice at Charna’s place and ring a gong at the end of the montage portions. I like that idea.
Close Quarters is a form rather like the fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix. I didn’t much enjoy that fourth season and I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of this form, but it may be that like coffee, fine wine, and live octopus, it’s an acquired taste. Apparently, Noah Gregoropoulos invented this form and wanted it to be a haaaaaaaaaaaaard challenge. Close Quarters is a bit of a mindfuck because it features CALL FORWARDS instead of the typical callbacks, which every comedian knows and loves. I’ll wait until I try it a few more times before I judge it too harshly.
Close Quarters is set up such that Scene 1, 2, and 3 all take place at the SAME TIME in close proximity. So, if scene 1 is from 3:00pm to 3:03pm, scene 2 is also from 3:00pm to 3:03pm, and scene 3 is also from 3:00pm to 3:03pm.
Two players step out and begin SCENE 1. Players on the sideline provide noise overlap and a key line or two from scene 2 and 3, adding them to the ambient background noise of scene 1. For SCENE 2, sideline players provide noise + key lines from scene 1 and 3 to form the background noise of the scene, and for SCENE 3, sideline players provide noise + key lines from scene 1 and 2. Each scene starts with two players and then features a walk-on. After that walk-on walks off, the scene is concluded and edited.
After SCENE 3…wait for it… SCENE 1 REPEATS, starting from the middle or close to the end, and replicating the original as similar as possible. Now the noises are all making sense, eh? THEN this form explodes all over the place like the man who ate too much in that Monty Python sketch with the after-dinner mints. This is where all the options in the multiverse both blossom like a beautiful lotus flower and let loose destructive chaos like Pandora’s Box.
Now that we’ve come to the conclusion of our replication of SCENE 1 we can choose to do something similar to the the short-form game “follow the leaver” and follow the walk-on to his or her next destination – that starts a SCENE 4, which starts a little before 3:03pm. OR, we could extend SCENE 1and see what happens to our original characters after 3:03pm, OR we could start a whole brand new SCENE 4. THEN, we can return to SCENE 2 and have the same options as when we returned to SCENE 1.
So, a basic flow chart for this form might look something like this:
3:00pm – 3:03pm:
SCENE 1 (2sound + 3sound) >>> SCENE 2 (1sound + 3sound) >>> SCENE 3 ( 1sound + 2sound) >>> SCENE 1a (2sound + 3sound)
3:02pm – 3:06pm:
SCENE 1a (2sound + 3sound +XYZsound) >>> SCENE 4 (XYZsound) >> SCENE 2a (1sound + 3sound+ XYZsound) >> KEEP GOING
I think I may redo this chart later. I would love the chance to practice this form.
Basically, this form is a little like Quidditch. It could last for 3 days if you wanted it to.
This was Del Close’s baby. I absolutely LOVE this form. Basically, the audience is the camera and from the sidelines players call out directions, like the director of a film would. So, in this form, players must position themselves naturally, oftentimes ending up with their back to the audience and their teammates must yell things like, “REVERSE SHOT!” or “CLOSE UP ON HIS SWEATY BROW!” in order to reposition the action on stage. Cuts within scenes and to external scenes are fair play: “CUT TO THE 4 NEO-CLASSICAL GRAFFITI ARTISTS POLICE OFFICE!” or “SPLIT SCREEN OF THE TWO TEENAGERS MAKING OUT IN THEIR PARENT’S BEDROOM CLOSET!”
I love love love love The Movie. Then again, I’m a writer. So, I think it makes sense that I love something with these sort of plot focusing narration elements to it.
SHOWS: The Reckoning + The Scene
After class, a couple of classmates gathered and we went to see a show downstairs in the iO’s cabaret theater!
The first team up was The Reckoning. They played at a slow and deliberate place, taking the time to explore their relationship, which resulted in some very funny payoff moments. One of the guys was playing a Hollywood moviemaker imprisoned in a Budapest jail for masturbating with animals present in a church.And the other fellow was playing the police officer watching over him, feeding him, and washing his hands in an odd double sink. I think my favorite moment was when they jumped time and characters to do a sort of tag out. I wish they’d done that more since they were good at it!
I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVED this group! There were three of them performing last night and not only were these boys cute, they were HILARIOUS. I guess I’m officially a fangirl. Their form style is so cool – any one of them can step out of the scene at any moment and act as a director, instructing the other players and Dave Asher, the musical accompaniment at the piano, how to play a scene and the music. I was laughing stupid hard at certain points of the performance. I want to play with them! Should I just have my mom call their moms?