Saturday, 5 August 2017

Quick News

Soon enough...


There will be a Comedy Night in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Please come along!
If you wish to perform in the event, then get in touch: Basingstoke@nathanimprov.com

Saturday 2nd September, 7pm - 9pm. White Hart, London Road, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG25 3NW

It currently has a couple of acts booked, so more is needed. Specifically, sketch, clown and improv would be brilliant.

Nonetheless, come and watch or play. There will be an opportunity to play in the improv jam anyway.

In other news...


I have a book coming out, maybe, this September. It is a advice and curriculum book for university groups. It takes groups from novice to expert. It is designed as a fully loaded educational resource to the standard of professional teaching; it is what you'd find in educational institutions.

Get in touch if you want a copy! info@nathanimprov.com

This is the news... thanks!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Master and Veterans

It is nice to be inspired to write an article. It is equally as nice to note the hypocrisy of the articles. In this, the topic shall be what has been written against previously. There are terms in improv that are not productive; common agreed terms that are not useful are 'should' or 'supposed to', because they put pressure and impossible for improv has definites: Obviously nothing has to happen, it is improvised. Nonetheless, the terms that this discusses and have a long-lastingly dislike for are master and veteran. The following will discuss, in a less referenced level than usual, the reasons that link to the previously used words.

Words! In improvisation, the training provides a freedom; it gives opportunity to explore yourself and your language (specifically in context of this article). The words that get uttered are the greatest, even if they are not. Improvisers build on whatever is said and done. After improving from the basics, further courses could well expand this into wider awareness of tone, phrasing and physical speech (any communication that is physical). Essentially, as improvisers that are building more experience and trust in ourselves and each other, people then get to own their words. Therefore, the word improv means something exact. In the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015), the definition of improvise is clear, “Create and perform … spontaneously or without preparation.” However, it also states for improvisation (ibid.), “The action of improvising”. The more appropriate of these definitions that works for the people in the art form is the one for 'improvising'. Due to one needing to refer to the other, as defined by O.E.D it is required that improvisation is in action of something in order to improvise. Therefore, that 'something' can be any action, anything. The word improvisation is a noun, a thing, and the definition relates purely to the action. Therefore, it is fair to suggest that improv is not a thing, but a doing of a thing. Another commonly agreed part of defining improv is by observing that it is all in process. All of humanity, and others, are in process: Our lives are improvised and are a process of birth to death (if not birth to death, then a to b). Improv is not just doing scenes or group games, or any other limited perception. To see further than this we can look at Forced Entertainment, Improbable, Fluxx, Geese Theatre Company and no doubt more.

Improv is an action and not the form. A form is seen to be, “The visible shape or configuration of something.” (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015) Therefore, the form of improvisation can be scenic, dance, music, art, clown, fool, mask; however, then that is looking more into the subgenre of ‘scenic’, which is fact a subgenre of theatre. It is possible to improvise anything. Even scriptwriting is based in improvisation. A writer could have learnt and use as much structure as the person requires, but in the end the idea has to spontaneously come from somewhere. Once more, that seems a little too pedantic to continue this dissection with. Other verbs have form. For example, walk; when we walk we can walk in various shapes and configurations; it is possible to be in the form of a catwalk. This form has various conventions that can require the way you complete your verb, walking, can be restricted. Similarly, another verb is run; in this action we can run in the form of 100 metres or a cross country race. This is the exact same as improvising, as the forms we can use are numerous.
A master of an activity, skill or area of study has its acknowledged definitions and uses. The common understanding of a master is a person that has the most knowledge on the topic in the room. Therefore, every time one steps into a space, a survey would need to be taken to determine who the master is in that moment. The statement is hyperbolic; however it makes a sensible comment on the use of the term. In accordance to this, it is not wise to call oneself a master, because one cannot know that for sure. On the other hand, The Oxford English Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com) states the definition as “a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity.” This offers a looser use of the term; anyone could be a master in one given location. Nonetheless, for various areas of expertise a master may not well be very skilled. When does one know that they are skilled? It is subjective, as one person's mastered skillset is another's student development.

To use these ideas in more of a context, improv being a process and not a thing means that being skilled at doing so is not possible. Can one master life? Life is also a process. To claim that an improviser has mastered the art form would be stating that they stopped improvising, alike stopped living; no one can currently know if the dead died due to their mastership. Improv is built on risk and change, or purely the 'not knowing'. Phelim McDermott (McDermott, 2008) once said, and this is paraphrased, that if improvisers stop taking the risk and do what they generally do, then they should stop improvising. There is no point in performing the art form if you are no longer learning and discovering because it is visible to the audience. Therefore, not being able to use the term master for improv, as it is subjective anyway, could allow people to rephrase the word's use. An improviser who is skilled at what they do could say that they are a master of what they do. This makes more sense. However, if improvisers master themselves, then we generally call this using their defaults. Using one's defaults is not seen as a positive.

Likewise, to look at the term veteran, The Oxford Dictionary (Oxforddictionaries.com) states, “A person who has had long experience in a particular field” and it must be mentioned that the other definition is the major connotation that was known. To be “An ex-member of the armed forces” seemed like stating that improv is a battle field. Improv is not the art form where we serve our country. It is important to own this ridiculousness. On the otherhand, an improviser who has had a long experience onstage improvising could be anyone. Once more, this term holds a lot of subjectivity. How long is a long experience? There is no answer. Even moreso, someone new to the art form can have more and better insight into the art form than a 'veteran'. Purely out of not knowing the teachings, the person can see clearer as they have nothing to obscure their view. Fundamentally, to use the term on oneself seems like ego. People have them, for sure, but it is not useful.

Hierarchy in improv seems pointless. Anyone can make a comment that holds value, which happens; therefore being a master or veteran is overvalued. Inside the structure that improv generally has around the world, teachers need to offer their students confidence. Along with being a teacher, ego would enter as segment of their trusting atmosphere. Contrastingly, training can hinder and ruin the untainted person when they enter improv. It is possible to look around and see untrained improvisers doing the job. In Bristol there has been various untrained improvisers that have gotten onstage and had an easier or more relaxed time than people that trained and still struggle.

In conclusion, the terms are unproductive. Improvisation is a process and being a master of it would merely determine that person as having stopped improvising. One can only master one's own improvisation and then be a default and predictable, offering the same as usual; this is called devising, therefore. Similarly, being a veteran is subjective. An improviser who needs to be a veteran wants their ego to inflate. Improvisation requires us to be equal, as anyone can give insight anyway.

Bibliogrpahy

McDermott, P. (2008). Cooking Chaos.
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). improvisation - definition of improvisation in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/improvisation [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). improvise - definition of improvise in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/improvise [Accessed 13 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). master - definition of master in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/master [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). veteran - definition of veteran in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/veteran [Accessed 29 Jul. 2015].
Oxforddictionaries.com, (2015). form - definition of form in English from the Oxford dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/form [Accessed 20 Oct. 2015].

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

So Razowsky: Live Life in the Present

To continue the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. After some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of great results. Unlike the previous semi-season of articles, this completes this half of the series with aspects that are congruent with his thoughts. In this article the topic is about living life in the present.
Ambition drives people, but it controls people too. The drive is useful, but it is painful when you end up battling reality with desire. The persistent desire can blind the real, the present situation. As the moral of a Buddhist tale states fools get trapped by their desires. (Buddhanet.net, 2014)
What is happening is no doubt great. This offers a focus on the present moment. If it is possible to accept the opportunities that surround us, it is viable that the sense of happiness is present. Furthermore, reaching the space where living in gratitude happens it will stop misery from the 'future'. Live in the present, in the now, and be grateful for what is. Razowsky states, on his podcast (Razowsky, 2014), to replace ambition with gratefulness (Victor, 2012). Pick the Brain's editor in chief discusses how seeking more implies that the current is not good enough, there is unhappiness. Also looking to the future, to the ambition is deeming now as unsatisfactory. (Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement, 2007)
In a similar way, Razowsky, (ibid.) says how he felt he would be happy if, at any moment, the job ended. For example, for Razowsky, on 'Main stage' at Second City with Steve Carrell and other such well known names, if it had just stopped he would have been happy. This comes from the happiness in the fact that it happened in the first place; it is not about it having ended. As with all process-based approaches, it is a practice. Everyone fails at some point. Like the aforementioned mental adjustment to that special something stopping, failure is an opportunity to remind ourselves why do it in the first place.
A positive approach to life will be more useful than a cynical perspective. A car could die in the middle of a long journey. However, it got the person that far; what adventure, new experience, will it lead to and become useful or important for later? Steve Jobs states that after dropping out of college, the skills he decided to learn are now our norm in computing. Jobs took classes in calligraphy and without that our fonts would not be anything like they are now. (News.stanford.edu, (2014)
The origins of the phrase 'every cloud has a silver lining' comes from John Milton in 1634 (Martin, 2014) in the book Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle; the term silver lining is used to offer the better side, the silver side of the moment. In 1840 the proverbial form arrived, which ever since has been a reminder of the positive side of a situation. In improv, seeking the new perspective is taught. In Charna Halpern, Kim “Howard” Johnson and Del Close's book Truth in Comedy they write about perspective with an analogy: "'You've got chocolate in my peanut butter!' The other replies, 'You've got peanut butter on my chocolate!'" (Halpern, Close and Johnson, 1994, p.3) What this gives insight into is seeing anything fom a different view. Everybody has a different look on the same thing, in improv we take advantage of that by putting it onstage. Not only that but being positive and supportive is taught too, hence the reason why the practice of a positive life is more apt. Everything has a purpose, maybe not in the moment or perhaps not directly relating to another era in life, but, as with improv, it builds to a total result, with all aspects accounted for.
Being in the present enables better insight into the moment; internal reactions; people's behaviour; the state of actions in the surroundings. It is these qualities that can start the long process and practice in self-realisation. To realise the reason for an anger impulse will calm it down quickly. Nonetheless, we can be present with the emotion; knowingly live with it or willingly release it. Razowsky uses the phrase, “lose what no longer serves you”. (Razowsky, 2014) A negative emotional state does not do any use, so lose it. It is understandable to be locked into an emotion, but once it is realised it can be dropped. A challenge is to be angry when the reason behind it is fully understood. Along with not externalising issues, obviously, then the emotion will deplete itself. This is what Steve Wells and David Lake (2010) call the dark side. Wells and Lake suggest that people wish to want the problem to exist. (p.144) It seems true that people avoid acknowledging and cannot connect with themselves, which hinders all realisation potential. Razowsky (2014) lets people have there emotion as it is not to do with him, even if it is at him.
Many people get stuck with themselves and are unable to release their capacity to achieve. Everyone has many reasons they tell themselves. A favourite saying Razowsky has from what he says is 'if you says so.' If the individual stops telling themselves these statements, which they hold on to, they will be what they say they want. This is one way procrastination happens. Craig Ballantyne says that people tell themselves these lies that they cannot do this or that. (Ballantyne, 2012) It is a stopping factor; it will stop someone from changing that thing that they want to. Many factors come into the problem, like Ballantyne suggests, such as social re-inforcement and societal pressure. However, we can look at the circumstances of various statements that are made: For example, 'I cannot stop eating chocolate biscuits.' The response to this is 'If you say so.' All these statements derive from the place of avoiding a task, i.e. cannot or can't, and labelling ourselves in judgement, e.g. I am too clumsy. The facts behind these statements are historical and not present. People that wish to change can. Holding onto the past means you are not present with what is. The phrase, 'if you say so' can free people from their lie. Ballantyne (ibid.) states the biggest lie we tell ourselves is we can't do something: we can.
Likewise, Razowsky also says to lose the why and the how of doing a task. Lois Holzman (2014) explains that we are trained to seek the causality of all situations and moments. Holzman describes the cause-effect thinking that most, even in psychology, hold to be useful. This is furthered by the example of how a therapist could open the possibilities of non-causality response by suggesting that the reason for the effect is seeking the cause or the resolution to the effect. The example (ibid.) is the patient is depressed and stayed in bed; Holzman suggests that the therapist states the potential that the reason the depression arose is due to seeking the cause and resolving it with staying in bed. Clearly in the article, Holzman is querying the use of asking why. Another perspective can also be to query why to do this or how to do that will merely be a procrastination to the actualisation of the event. Jenny Maryasis (2002) wrote, “procrastination thrives on a cycle of blame shifting and avoidance.” When people ask why to do a task, they miss the opportunity to find out. Although in generalisation the question is to avoid or judge the activity. A constant shuffling around the next step in the path that is available will only lead to it staying still. Improvisation teaches us to move forwards. If an improvisers hides in judgement or is asking why improvise the scene or how to improvise the scene, that scene will not happen. An improviser lives in the present; they live with what is present; they treat everything as gold, including the people around them.
So the important lessons from what Razowsky has found and speaks about, and linking to improv, is to replace ambition with gratefulness. The happiness this brings shall improve the quality of life, like not holding onto negative emotions; release the anger by realising why that exists. Similarly, procrastination comes in forms of judgement such as asking why to do an activity or how to do it. When it ends, it ends; remember that it at least happened.
Bibliography

Ballantyne, C. (2012). The Biggest Lie You Tell Yourself. [online] Earlytorise.com. Available at: http://www.earlytorise.com/the-biggest-lie-you-tell-yourself/# [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].
Buddhanet.net, (2014). Buddhist Tales: The Fortunate Fish. [online] Available at: http://www.buddhanet.net/bt1_36.htm [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
News.stanford.edu, (2014). Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005). [online] Available at: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Halpern, C., Close, D. and Johnson, K. (1994). Truth in comedy. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Meriwether Pub.
Holzman, L. (2014). Why Ask Why?. [online] Psychologytoday.com. Available at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/conceptual-revolution/201410/why-ask-why [Accessed 4 Nov. 2014].
Lake, D. and Wells, S. (2010). Enjoy emotional freedom. Wollombi, N.S.W.: Exisle Publishing.
Martin, G. (2014). Every cloud has a silver lining. [online] Phrases.org.uk. Available at: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/every-cloud-has-a-silver-lining.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Maryasis, J. (2002). Procrastination: Habit or Disorder?. [online] Serendip.brynmawr.edu. Available at: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro02/web1/jmaryasis.html [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].
Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement, (2007). Are Ambition and Gratitude Mutually Exclusive? - Pick the Brain | Motivation and Self Improvement. [online] Available at: http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/are-ambition-and-gratitude-mutually-exclusive/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014). A.D.D. Comedy. [online] Addcomedy.com. Available at: http://www.addcomedy.com [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Victor, P. (2012). My Nephew is a Poodle: Geeking Out with...David Razowsky. [online] Pamvictor.blogspot.co.uk. Available at: http://pamvictor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/geeking-out-withdavid-razowsky.html [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].

Monday, 17 November 2014

So Razowsky: Economic Words

This continues the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. Having spent some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of wonderful results. However, unlike the previous articles, this one shall be aspects that tie tightly with his thoughts. On the podcast, “ADD Comedy with David Razowsky and Ian Foley,” (Razowsky, 2014) the topic of words comes up. In previous writings this has been discussed, although not precisely on the economy of words. Razowsky believes that words are powerful and has various thinkings about the area of discussion that shall be explored. Economic words are an enabler for people.
The exaggerated end, and a bit that appeared in conversation on the podcast, of being economic with words is the concept that people die after x amount of words. The idea is that anyone that talks aimlessly or pointlessly will be taking up their life quota of words. Razowsky speaks about how someone driving around chatting a lot may just suddenly die mid-sentence. The overall message that this can offer is summed up by Steve Job's (News.stanford.edu, 2014), “Your time is limited, so don't waste it... .” Words will stop at some point, maybe not the mystical cause of the definite end, but it shall all stop. Treating words like they matter is important; be concise with your words.
Every word matters. To begin with writers, Melissa Donovan states, “Finding the right word can breathe life into an otherwise lifeless sentence. When we choose words carefully, our writing is clearer and more meaningful.” (Donovan, 2014) Training ourselves to become clearer and more meaningful is a productive task. In comedy, someone once said to put the funny word on the end of the sentence. Obviously that would make sense, as the laugh in the middle will stop the sentence. Even with a statement that is deemed funny; the laugh needs a spark, an end term or conclusive moment to instigate it. Annie Binns (2008) describes it as “...applying the funny word, phrase or sentence at the last possible moment.” Seeking out the best wording is a practice and can be beneficial to general communication.
The term eloquent exists for a reason. From the late fourteenth century Old French eloquent and Latin eloquentem (Etymonline.com, 2014), which means to have the faculty of speech. The act to truly be heard, understood and cause purpose comes from having the capacity to speak. Therefore, being mindful of what is being said will ensure the words found are the best suited to the purpose of what is being communicated.
“Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.” (Biblesociety.org.uk, 2014)
Following on, the proverb given in the Good News Bible offers a further development on the mindful ideal. Words matter and can hurt. The consequence of what you say shall last in memories. Our memories do not help this either. As Kantor created plays about, memories are forever dying (Kantor, 1990). Northwestern medicine proves this:
“Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time.” (Paul, 2012)
As our brains betray us and transform our memories, as Ian Chant (2012) mentions, we will deepen the origin feeling about what someone has said or may have said. A good reason to communicate clearly.
Stopping a sentence mid-sentence can also embody the whole sentence. As long as the half sentence holds the complete meaning... Another thought Razowsky (2014) played a bit about was being able to stop mid-sentence and still be understood. Completing the communication of the sentence being spoken without finishing the sentence can be possible. It is clearly doubtful in writing; however it is a reduced array of tools used in this medium. Through using the listener against themselves, it is viable to make the person assume the rest of the sentence. In embodying the whole meaning in half the sentence the speaker is creating their point with the minimal effort. This does happen in reality, but it goes unnoticed due to being in friendships or with people that know each other well. Something unsaid could be communicated that can also happen in these circumstances. However, when speaking we desire clarity.
Say what is meant. Clearly it is important to be mindful of what is being said and be clear. Subtlety is prone to obvious interpretation. All language is, but when someone is only hinting at the meaning, the problems arise. As improvisers such use of subtleties will ensure the scene partner more work. Improvisation is not work, it is play. Therefore, the contradictions prevail the point that improvisation requests clear meanings. Say what you mean and the other improviser shall be in a better position to react and respond. Often improvisers 'waffle'. It is a tedious trait that is sometimes taught due to the need to get a lot of detail out at the top of the scene. Spolin's theories on using the 'who, 'what' and 'where' are a useful training tool that will capacitate the scene. A frequent error in teaching is that these are spoken. Physicality beats words. As Jeff Thompson (2011) breaks the old percentages of communication down to the reality; Thompson recapitulation states seven percent of certain situations are the words themselves. Fifty-five percent is body language, which means the details of an improvisers scene are best from non-verbal creation. It also does not bore the audience with 'waffle' at the top of a scene. Johnstone's theory of 'nothing, nothing, something' (Johnstone, 2009) asks the actors to do nothing until that something organically arises. Furthermore, the statement, “...I mean...” is another attribute that improvisers can be prone to develop. Similarly to the 'waffle' issue, this one has been available to read about and hear on podcasts and similar; however, only recently has it been able to witnessed locally. The need to use the phrase “...I mean...” means that the improviser is not endeavouring to be clear. Improvisers definitely wish to portray people onstage, but in everyday life it is not possible to hear it as much as onstage. The potential reason to why this has arrived is the judgement or expectation that is linked to playing in a more complicated manner. Certain methods may put performers into thinking and due to that, they talk without being mindful of what they are saying. Beat the issues by purely saying what you mean.
To be mindful of what we say is important onstage. Talking too much maybe leads to death. If we do have x numbers of words before that moment, then we better be careful; live and play like that is true and real and the words will always be clearer. In doing so we find that the words matter more and we don't just say something for the sake of saying something. Perhaps even getting to a point where we can stop mid-sentence and have a complete … So mean what you say.
Bibliography

Biblesociety.org.uk, (2014). Bible Society - GNB Proverbs 13. [online] Available at: http://www.biblesociety.org.uk/the-bible/search-the-bible/GNB/Prov/13/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Binns, A. (2008). The Secret of Writing Funny. [online] Write to Done. Available at: http://writetodone.com/how-to-write-funny/ [Accessed 17 Nov. 2014].
Chant, I. (2012). [online] Themarysue.com. Available at: http://www.themarysue.com/memory-distortion-in-brain/ [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Donovan, M. (2014). Writing Tips: Every Word Matters | Writing Forward. [online] Writingforward.com. Available at: http://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/writing-tips-every-word-matters [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Etymonline.com, (2014). Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=eloquent [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Johnstone, K. (2009). Impro.
Kantor, T. (1990). Wielopole/Wielopole. London: M. Boyars.
News.stanford.edu, (2014). Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005). [online] Available at: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Paul, M. (2012). Your Memory is like the Telephone Game: Northwestern University News. [online] Northwestern.edu. Available at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2012/09/your-memory-is-like-the-telephone-game.html [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014). A.D.D. Comedy. [online] Addcomedy.com. Available at: http://www.addcomedy.com [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Thompson, J. (2011). Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game?. [online] Psychologytoday.com. Available at: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beyond-words/201109/is-nonverbal-communication-numbers-game [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].

Monday, 7 April 2014

Not So Razowsky Series: Try

Continuing the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. I spent some immense moments with the man that has led to a lot of wonderful results. I perform based on his teachings, I teach through some of his thoughts and proclaim the tellings that he once told in conversations to many improvisers. Nonetheless, not all of what I heard from the wonderful man I agree with, and this is what the series shall be about. I get to write these with consent to the concept of the series too. The topic at hand is going to be how Razowsky removes the term try. Razowsky, and many others, believe that we do not try in improvisation, we just do. I preach just do, except I also like the term try.

The history of what happens when Razowsky hears the term try goes back to how he was taught too. In 'Second to None,' 2009, in an interview with Scott Adsit, the answer that is provided is how Second City has taught them how improvisers do not try when they get onstage. Instead of trying to do something, they just do it. In Razowksky's podcast, 'A.D.D. Comedy' (2014), it is a frequent occurrence that the guest is stopped on their phrasing and questioned about if they really try, or another word that is not thought possible by Razowksky. Most times the guest gives into the idea that no one ever tries, you either do or don't. The term try also has its history.

try (v.) c.1300, "examine judiciously, sit in judgment of," from Anglo-French trier (late 13c.), from Old French trier "to pick out, cull" (12c.), from Gallo-Romance *triare, of unknown origin. The ground sense is "separate out (the good) by examination." Meaning "to test" is first recorded mid-14c.; that of "attempt to do" is from early 14c. Sense of "to subject to some strain" (of patience, endurance, etc.) is recorded from 1530s. Trying "distressing" is first attested 1718. To try (something) on for size in the figurative sense is recorded from 1956. (Etymonline, 2014)

Trying has been around for quite some time. The ability to test something out, like the common educational lesson that happens for the young in their schooling careers of trial and error, is an important aspect of life. Everybody in their everyday lives has to attempt to do some task or a method. It is plausible for someone to try to get to work today, as they will only know if they do or don't when they have completed the task with some result. In the UK, we are hindered considerably by the weather to an ever increasing eventuality that poor conditions stops most people doing anything. In the past few years, the snow has closed bridges, stopped workers traveling, reduced the days of school in a given winter term and so on and so forth. In the UK, for unknown reasons, the preparation for such affairs is non-existent. Therefore, in the days of snow or more recent, floods, we cannot be certain. Hence the use and existence of the term try.

Try is not a word that depicts success or failure, it is not a term to associate with a black or white point of view. Try is a process and to attempt to do an activity requires an open mind about its prospects. The Centre for Clinical Intervention (2007) state, “One of the things we have noticed is that people use unhelpful thinking styles as an automatic habit...One of these thinking styles is called 'black & white thinking'.” (p. 1) Furthermore, the idea that without trying, you are left with this way of only having the one extreme or the other. Anxiety BC in 'Thinking Traps' (2013) also progress this by explaining the need to a more real and moderate response. In life we encounter a lot, and most of these are never just one thing; it is often the case that whatever is found is a mix and a merge of complexity. A human can feel a whole web of emotions that cannot be put down to one word. Likewise, a human can experience more than just the success of what they want or the failure.

People seek a simpler life. It is a complex world that we live in; from the growing contradiction, melding of the bourgeoisie and the ruling classes historically to the present day not much has changed (Harman, 2008). People are complicated; it can be overheard frequently that it is desired to have a simpler life, or that he or she doesn't understand me. So much that surround us is complicated, from the development of new words that have been popularised and then accredited into a dictionary, ruining the old game of Scrabble for many (or making it easier for others), to the unchanged and complex needs of the individuals in the human race. In the action to seek a simple existence, we try; this is an indefinite journey.

Trying, in comparison to success or failure, is like aiming for perfection. No one is perfect, it does not exist. One person may deem something perfect, but it is perspecitvely so only. In Hewitt and Flett et al (2003), the problem that this causes can be the psychological distress of regulating self-esteem. Aiming high and setting expectations at a 'challenge' rate (Petty, 2011) for that perfection is a positive and opening sensation that the target holds. It allows us to try to be the best we can. We cannot be perfect or imperfect, as the journey to it remains.

Try is improvisation like people are on a journey through life. The correlation has plenty of connections to what and where try comes into fruition. As people, we do or we don't do, when we do something and instigate the process of the task, we try it out. In any given moment of an attempt, we may be doing well or not. This is not the end of the task, the person that decides the end is the one who started it, based on that person doing or not doing. (An obstacle that is a person of more hierarchical value may attempt to hinder the trial of the unspecified endeavour, but only one person may complete it always.) Everyone improvises their life, life is a journey, so clearly improvisation is one too. Not many improvisers would disagree with that, I think. Mary Scruggs and Michael J. Gellman wrote a whole book on it, 'Process: an improviser's journey' (2008). So every time we enter the stage, we try out or attempt something new: We improvise. The short-term journey we go on together is a live experience of trial and error. With every error we make it great, allowing the process to be hugely positive.

Now it comes to the whether or not removing the word try is truly inline with the positive and open environment that the art form is. A removal of a term is not positive. Negating anyone the opportunity to say a word, like in the podcast aforementioned, is restrictive. So many beautiful languages have died out and become extinct; this is not to do with improv or people enforcing the opinion that the word has little purpose, but it does point out that we lose a lot when we rid ourselves of words. We do not rid ourselves of an offer an improv partner gives onstage. Many do have words they don't like, for example, in improv there is no should have or supposed to; there is in the rest of life. By restricting these, we open up the opportunity of, like Razowsky says, 'getting to' do. By not having to or supposed to, and getting to, we have a positive interaction whereby obligation does not hinder us. In comparison to the removal of trying where we either succeed or fail, with the removal of obligation and offering opportunity, we get a massive contrast.

All references adhere to the relevant copyright laws, whereby given reference to the original source complies with the laws, such as Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

References

Etymonline.com. (2014) Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Available at: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=try&allowed_in_frame=0 [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
Harman, C. (2008) A people's history of the world. London: Verso.
Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., Sherry, S. B., Habke, M., Parkin, M., Lam, R. W., Mcmurtry, B., Ediger, E., Fairlie, P. and Stein, M. B. (2003) The interpersonal expression of perfection: perfectionistic self-presentation and psychological distress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (6), p. 1303.
Petty, G. (2011) Have we got Equality and Diversity right?. [e-book] Institute for Learning. pp. 1 - 22. Available through: Have we got Equality and Diversity right? http://www.ifl.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/24552/Have-we-got-Equality-and-Diversity-right_-download.pdf [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014) A.D.D Comedy. [online] Available at: http://www.addcomedy.com [Accessed: 17 Feb 2014].
Scruggs, M. and Gellman, M. J. (2008) Process. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
Second to None: 10th Anniversary edition. (2009) [DVD] Chicago: HMS Media.
Thinking Traps (2013) [e-book] New Westminster, Canada: AnxietyBC. pp. 1-2. Available through: Anxiety BC http://www.anxietybc.com/sites/default/files/ThinkingTraps.pdf [Accessed: 24 Dec 2013].

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Free-Form Improv: escapade one

The longing for free-form improv. The often misused phrase was experienced today. Therefore, the article is in response to that and addressing my desires to the utmost. I started improvising in search of entering the stage with nothing and still succeeding. Free-form improv is that, to its closest relative. People use it to suggest their set is structureless, 'free of form,' but if you know anything about your set it has a structure. The structure of scene followed by scene etc. is a structure. Even if we look at what today was for me, to attempt to make it clear what it was, with the free-form long-form cross-art improvisation, we had a structure. We had people with known skill sets and others that have experienced them as well as their strengths in one room. Our structure was these combined skills taking place for a set time, and to my amazement it gave one production, one show. We knew that we were going to explore these skills to offer an hour, or just under, of art.

In the end, whatever you do, there is a structure: The structure of people. In today's jam, we found out quickly what people enjoy doing and what people can do. This means we know that one person is more likely to initiate one type of performance element, on-stage or off-stage, and therefore accustomed to that we build our comfort or what is thus our structure.

I would like to offer what I offered the group back. After some thought and typing, I came up with these notes. I quickly ackownledge that not being the director or just watching the jam meant that I have limited ability to give fully accurate notes. They are hardly notes, more positive re-inforcements and worries about elements spoken about at the end of the jam.

---
My thoughts on the jam today, obviously being in it means that my notes are not completely accurate, but these are from my perceptions and feelings on it.

The level of listening to each other physically, verbally and meta-communicatively was probably at a decent 90%. [Following each other, following the show - an article on the latter is coming soon.]

The insistent play ran the whole production. This omni-directional play enabled us to jam. Our play with rhythms of interactions with the music, with each other and with the production as a whole. The greatest element of all improvisation is play.

The flow was supported by the use of grouped activity, again the engagement with another in playfulness with using a mirrored perspective, point of view or action.

The main element that helped form a cohesive piece was the running riffs [in all senses, action, melody, 'bits']. These elements and 'bits' offered the whole jam re-incorporation. The use of re-incorporation or callbacks is the sweetest way to get a laugh or purely state our piece/restate our piece. "When we say (or do) something, it exists." Razowsky, when we say it again we make it important. We did this, and this formed our themes of the production. I have no idea why people didn't feel that, but the fact is it was acted upon. We gained cohesion through themes.

People offered bold choices in using their skills. People gave strong offers in supporting others, and even stronger offers in letting people be there alone. It is often difficult to not go in.

Also, people gave a level of building collaboratively to heighten and make more of what has just occurred. Using what is there is a fundamental element to improvising and people did do what they had been, more.

We used games and patterns to help with the fun, the heightening and the play.

The group dynamics presented a co-operative ensemble of various talents in each person that allowed each person to endeavour to meet other people's skills. This clearly assists with the aim to produce live art in free-form long-form cross-art improvisation.

Recap:

- Shared Skillsets

- Strong Play

- Re-incorporation

- Clarity of themes (for me it was clear)

- Grouped activity, a sense of ensemble and togetherness through mirroring

- Bold choices, in entering with skills, not entering and supporting

- Not letting shit drop, not losing threads

We need to:

- Allow improvisation to continue to happen - not get scared or complacent

- More listening: volume, interrupting, ignoring

- Trust the endeavour is enough

- Acknowledge each time can and will be vastly different
 
I hope this makes sense and offers insight into my desir with improvisation. This is unedited and done in response to today's activities.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Not So Razowsky Series: Clothing

In this series of articles, the topic is based or inspired from words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. The time I managed to spend with the compelling and compassionate Razowsky led to a lot of wonderful results. I now find the inspiration provided has led to teaching the methods of improvisation to others, performing in the style and noted a certain heightening of some characteristics I had before to a more full extent. Nonetheless, not all of what I heard from the wonderful man I agree with, and this is what the series shall be about. I get to write these with consent to the concept of the series too. The topic at hand is going to be clothing. Razowsky, and many others, believe that we should have a uniform of shirts and trousers, or similar, that we wear each time we are onstage. I cannot fully agree with this.

Razowsky certainly has a formal uniform he uses each time he goes onstage. There is a set shirt, trousers and shoes that is donned to enter the sacred stage. The story that Razowsky uses to mention how a change affected a show one time (Razowsky, 2012), Carrie Clifford and David Razowsky perform their two person production of Razowsky and Clifford when one time new trousers of a different colour caused aggravation. By putting on something different, the feel behind the show was different or made the night uncomfortable, Clifford hated the change and made that apparent. The brown trousers or perhaps even shoes, instead of inspiring, had a negative impact. It would be unlikely that it affected the show, as Razowsky has not had a bad performance in twenty-five years (Victor, 2012). This is due to Razowsky going through his individual philosophy and process in the art form.

Teams or groups of improvisers are composed of a merging of individuals. The groups need to be able to have everyone represented. Augusto Boal (1995) states in Rainbow of Desires that everyone presents who they are in public and “With the actor is born the theatre. The actor is theatre. We are all actors: we are theatre!” (ibid., p. 19). We, being the theatre, a performance for the world to view, can engage in our own perceptions of ourselves to exuberate when in public or company. We all are very different when we are alone at home than when we are in public, with friends or in work. Each environment asks something of us and we offer what that is. Onstage we are asked to offer what the audience came for, our voice. This means just being ourselves and we are presented. How we conduct our self includes clothes. I do not put thought into what I wear each day, but in line with Boal, I am dressing to show who I am, no matter what I wear. In context to the considerations of Los Angeles and other stages in America, people wear shorts (Armstrong, 2013). The main issue people speak about with this is that it looks lazy and inconsiderate. If that guy or gal needs to wear shorts and a t-shirt, then all be it. They, being them, will be best represented by those clothes. Whether the items of clothing are plain or quite vivid and busy with patterns, the insight into who we are watching will be clear.

The audience can focus on the performer even with a graphic on their clothes. In Green Man Festival 2013, there was a stand-up act wearing a peculiar t-shirt. He captivated the onlookers drawing them in by his game. His zombie set where the audience makes groans of a zombie nature instead of laughing enhanced the act. Many responded to what he said really well, the game truly adding to the experience. However, that t-shirt was a struggle to work out, but eventually the puzzle was solved as it was a zombie body image under the image of torn clothes. Nonetheless, it did not take away from actually laughing, well making zombie sounds as requested at funny points. This is remarkable for me, I don't laugh at live stand-up normally. However, it is not remarkable that anyone can do more than one thing at once. We can also see that these clothes were his 'uniform' that represented who he was and his set.

Many professions have many different uniforms. From wearing jeans and a t-shirt or t-shirt, jumper and trousers to a full scale suit. Every role of work requires us to look like the company needs us, the job practically requires us and the clientelle desire us. In an acting job, the costume is set, so we know what we need to look like. In improv, we do not want to set anything, in order to be accepted as whatever we need to be. The audience will suspend their disbelief if we do a good job. They will do so whatever we wear, like a good captivating storyteller retelling that tale we have heard many times. “Most well-known storytellers have a “signature” style or look,” (King, 2013) that signifies that person. We ignore the costume that is their uniform and engross ourselves in the story, as the important part of what they do is not what they wear; that is just a 'trademark' (ibid.). In any case, in relating this to improv, we offer our own 'trademark' or signifying representation of ourselves. In addition to this, if improvisers need a formal uniform, there is no difference between a checkered shirt and a t-shirt anyway. They both look as informal as each other. Razowsky says to improvise in a uniform, but there is little value in overstating what you are not, to then go forth in attempting to state you, your comedic voice, in the improvisation.

In improv we use our comedic voice, this is what the audience comes for. Dylan Emery from the UK, in the improv symposium years ago (Emery and McShane et al, 2010), spoke how improvisers market shows through the people in the groups and not the concept. We, the improviser in a team, merge voices, opinions and points of views in the style we choose and all this forms the show. Therefore, the uniform needs to be the person or people. The audience wants to see the man or woman being instantly represented onstage. Anything else and the dishonest and disconnected presentation shall disengage the audience with the performance. We want the audience to be inspired and engaged, just as much as the performers are seeking that engagement and inspiration.

Susan Messing (Messing, 2013), and thoughts on movement improv, states how the sensory input we have shall affect us, and the results of that shall push an open and aware improviser to new places. Alike the environment of the theatre, stage or pub function room, so do clothes. Clearly don't dress as a doctor and play a Bulgarian plainsong chanter, but wear you and play from there outwards. Therefore alike anything, the influence that the clothes give shall create something spectacular. If that means being less sweaty in a warm place under warm lights due to wearing shorts that will push the open and aware improviser to a certain place, then all be it. I don't live in a warm place, so I rarely wear shorts anyway.


My practice includes my clothing that I could be wearing any day and with some extra thought in what the production needs of me and using the more presentable items of clothing. It is not a shirt, trousers and shoes, but it is more than walking in off the street – unless that is what I am doing, i.e., not my show: a jam; not in my city or such. Sometimes I direct or get involved in costumed improv where we are inaccurately selling the concept. I am a hypocrite on the occasion.

References

Armstrong, N. 2013. Improv Etiquette 101: You Don’t Have to Wear a 3 Piece Suit!. [online] Available at: http://www.nationalimprovnetwork.com/improv-etiquette-101-you-dont-have-to-wear-a-3-piece-suit/ [Accessed: 17 Dec 2013].

Boal, A. 1995. The Rainbow of Desire: the boal method of theatre and therapy, Routhledge: London

Emery, D., Mcshane, M., Livingstone, T. and Schutte, K. 2010. Presented at Improv Symposium, Edinburgh, 24/08/2010.

King, C. 2013. Storytelling Power - What Do Storytellers Wear When Performing?. [online] Available at: http://www.creativekeys.net/storytellingpower/article1006.html [Accessed: 17 Dec 2013].

Messing, S. 2013. Specificity and Joy presented at The Nursery Theatre, London, 20/07/2013 – 21/07/2013.

Razowsky, D. 2012. You presented at Summer Intensive (iO West), Los Angeles, 06/08/2012 – 11/08/2012.

Victor, P. 2012. My Nephew is a Poodle: Geeking Out with...David Razowsky. [online] Available at: http://pamvictor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/geeking-out-withdavid-razowsky.html [Accessed: 14 Dec 2013].