Showing posts with label stage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stage. Show all posts

Sunday 11 December 2022

Improv Jam in Kent!

 Great news!


There will be an improv jam in Margate, Kent (UK) in 2023. I am hoping to manage a monthly improv jam bring in guest performers from around Kent (or further).

Come see the sea, and do or watch improv. We will be venturing the stairs of Sundowners for their stage! It is a great space (but not wheelchair accessible, sorry!).  


We will have opportunities for lots of improv - sometimes, even longform sets with one another. However, we will start our evenings with games and frolicking. Much splendour will be had with scenes and more.  

Dates are TBC, as of December 2022.

Friday 26 June 2020

The Camera: Film Acting and Improv (Online Class)


With improv going online, what do improvisers need to know? They are no longer creating theatre, but films. These will be a style or genre of films in themselves. Exactly what it entails is up to the creator(s). Nonetheless, learning from films to improve our improv online is valuable. In this series of classes, I begin with a focus on the camera. I shall mention other areas (some of which will have their own focused class).

Book and click!

What the audience sees has always been important in our improv, and now it is even more! I will guide participants through the various thoughts on using the camera to deliver the content desired. We discuss the current availability to achieve these goals, but we will use a lot of practical trialling. This class (and the series) will enrich your improv online through increasing your understanding of the form of media and performance. There is a wealth of useful and usable knowledge that has been integrated into the class that can deepen your expression and artistry for the effect you are looking for.

These classes can be taken as one-off lessons about the area of film acting and improv; however, attending all of them will only increase your abilities. It is recommended to take this class before others, but this is not required.

Nathan Keates (Nathan Improv) is a trainer, improvisation teacher and a performing arts teacher; that is only a distinction on subject. He trained in film acting in 2005 - 2008. Nowadays, Keates is a theatre-maker, improviser and clown. He is so addicted to improv, impro, improvisation that he researches it too. The current project is on autism and improv comedy. Nathan began teaching improvisation in 2006 and quickly got teaching in another country, the States. In 2007, he found a love for applied improvisation for autistic people as it sprung to reality there and then. He was teaching autistic people, and people with other diagnoses too, in America. The progression has remained seeking the new and the wonderful in his practice and his teaching.
Be kind, be honest and be taking my class!

Click and book now!

Many thanks.
#findthefunnytogether
www.NathanImprov.com

PLEASE NOTE: this is an online class and will use breakout rooms; there will be technical issues to overcome, but we will manage all issues together and swiftly.

If you cannot afford the class, as long as I have Gold Standard bookings I can let you participate without cost. Please get in touch: info@nathanimprov.com.

Saturday 23 March 2019

5 ways to be a better actor or performer

In this blog, I will discuss the uses of five ways to be a better actor or performer. These come from my experiences and desires for and within improv. I warn you, there is a mini blog in this on clown... just so you know, as most other points are brief and concisely given. However, I like clown quite a lot. To be an actor or performer comes with assumptions and the main one is that improv uses them. This is to be pointed out, as a lot of people that get into it are not actors or performers, they are computer software engineers and veterinarians (etc.). Performing comes after and with a lot more value added into one's life too. So, here is how to become a better actor.

1. Take classes, any classes helps but acting classes works for this blog
Through taking further training outside of improv, you can gain skills in physical representation of the character, vocal training to produce increased control, sound quality and accuracy to the needs of them. The training can provide experiences in the differing rhythms, cadences and timing of a character. Whether this is RADA providing you with professional skills that will enrich your creative journey, or LIPA with their psychological and physical processes of acting. There are many well-established and famed school for actors to professionally develop. In this case, all that improvisers may desire is the exploration and not a full three year course. What aspect of acting training will best suit your current needs? Perhaps a bit of Meisner, a bit of Meisner, ...or maybe you wish to listen to Mamet’s acting approach. In any case, it is wise to find your route through the treacherous path.
I will advocate various paths in this blog, and the first (and largest section of the blog) is clown. Do clown. Not circus clown, but theatre clown… Whether it is a Lecoq-based class or a Mario Gonzales class, try it out. There are many styles to all art forms and clown is included. It could be that you wish to do the six masks of yourself with Sue Morrison, which has your personal mythology define your clown. By doing this you adopt the Native American and European style based on Richard Pochinko’s work. However, it could be that you instead wish to try renowned french teacher Phillipe Gaulier and his approach of childish pleasure and play to respectfully avoid the (Mr.) Flop. There are various types of clown teachers too. It is possibly a good idea to find out how the teacher works, if such information is available. The stereotype of a clown teacher is that they are brutal. However, this is not always the case. Dependent on their approach to being the clown (that is you) and how they go about teaching will result in vastly different results in the performer’s take-home discoveries. Whether that is ‘aren’t we all really stupid in the world’ or ‘connecting to one’s naivety helps personal growth’, we can celebrate all impacts that it has for individuals.
I teach clown. I teach it for its own sake and for improvisers. It works well for self-discoveries that support the basis of how people develop within their work. It translates into important stylistic methods in improv. This includes those that focus on Game of the Scene to those that enjoy thriving in short-form games. Clown centres around playfulness through listening, so the value strives from inputting this into your performances. It is good for life too, as we get to acknowledge when we are stupid and connect with others. When I first performed with Denni Dennis’ Company Clowns in Cardiff, it was an experiment - that was the performance - and was entitled, ‘Connections’. Clown is based on making those connections with each other and especially the audience.
A closely linked lesson to get involved in is tumbling. I recall Keith Johnstone stating to go take a tumbling class in 2009 to the whole room. Physicality can bring so much to the production that you improvise. The skill that is attained can bring a professional air to the work that you do. To bring an ability to be so vastly physical can open the windows of prospects to the comedic theatre that you create in your ensemble. Imagine being able to improvise something so beautiful (and funny) like it is directly from Gecko Theatre’s The Wedding. Having only personally taken a little bit of this, I still await the day when I can do a triple backwards somersault in some devastatingly exciting spontaneous car chase, as the vehicle caterpaults over a cliff and into the depths of the deep, clashing sea. One day.
Even non-acting classes help. Deepen your knowledge-breadth and it will bring more insight into the philosophical underpinning of the work: more understanding. I am not overly keen on clever d*cks prancing around spouting all they know; however, specific knowledge at points in a production that seems to have a use to the whole theatre show in-creation can be awe-inspiring. Any adult-ed class will enrich what you do, even if not directly the information gained.

2. Western vs. Eastern acting
A valid point about acting is that there are many approaches, and, furthermore, these are entrenched in the culture that surrounds it. Therefore, the western style of acting, albeit developing over the years, still has more of a psychological system than the eastern. Admittedly, this is a generalisation and it does not fit every practitioner and teacher. A good example is Tadeusz Kantor who treated theatre like visual art (to an extent). The meaning behind the theatre was tremendous and dealt with psychology of humans: our memory is forever dying. We only remember the last time we remembered that memory. Gloriously true from my experience. In any case, we can opt to discover what the opposing ‘broadly-speaking’ system can offer. If we were to act and perform from embodying a physical form first, then the results could present the inner workings of the character from an external-inwards approach. This is in comparison to the inner-outwards approach that configures how the character functions and brings about their physical form of being thereafter.
Eastern acting tradition comes from the combined duality of mind/body. This tradition stems from the thought that all performance comes from spirituality. It is about non-attachment and being ego-less (Forsythe, 1996). This approach has more focus on acting through movements, such as the Noh kata (movement patterns; Thorpe, 2014). Therefore, the system that an actor can work within is vastly different to the one’s that (perhaps) we are used to already.
By all means, this does link to the first suggestion of taking an acting class, but, more than that, explore where you come from as an actor. In the next few years, it is plausible to explore the eastern philosophy in your acting life (in which, I do mean your improv).

3. Study people; be interested in how people are
I have found that most actors have a common fascination: people. Actors like to watch others. On the tube, these types of people will be observing how people are within their bubble of existence, or even those doing the same thing and they briefly lock eyes with you (it has happened). So, study people. Personally, it is more of a natural tendency than a skill that I chose to engage in, as I probably could not act out how family and friends behave. However, I have brought observed behaviours and subconsciously embodied traits of many people I have met onstage. I do accidentally use other’s characteristics in my daily life, anyway. Through increasing your interest in other people, you can engage in these qualities in many ways for the spontaneous creation in the productions you improvise.
It could be suggested that more importantly you should study yourself. Be interested in how you are. This skill is very useful in improv. All the reasons to explore how other people present themselves are reasons that you should notice how you are too. What do you do? How are you in certain and various situations. By paying attention to whatever aspect that you so desire, you will conclude (to a level of accuracy) performable aspects of yourself. Furthermore, by being able to do so in the moment, you can begin using the skill onstage. The latter is probably more greatly useful than the first.

4. Be entrenched in the character
You are an actor. You are onstage. You (hopefully) have an audience, unless you chose not to for that huge artistic reason. This means that they see what you are doing, saying, being and, as a theatre production, it holds meaning to the overall piece you perform. What you bring to a scene, firstly, is a character. For that character to exist, you must be within it completely. There is no longer the actor acting, but the character being. This implies an acting approach, to some extent. However, even if those not willing wished to explore this, it translates: commit one hundred percent, be fully invested in the character.
I explored trance-based improv a couple of times over the last few years and this links to that practice. This is without masks, just performers being in trance. This sounds the same as being entrenched in the character. I will write a blog about this topic, separately. It is more to do with flow and trance, with a little potential for NLP and hypnotic states (areas for me to look into for practice-as-research sometime).
Nonetheless, the idea of a character without the actor present means that the audience can be with the character too. You can think of films that had famous actors in and you only noticed at the end or part way through; this is because they were swept away and you went with them. Be encompassed by what the character is - go on the journey with them and see where they take you.

5. Explore mentalities and physicalities
Fundamentally, these prior four suggestions are all about exploration of mentalities and physicalities. You can achieve a lot by leaning into the discoveries and letting go of what the usual practice is. What more can you do? Try a distinctly new mentality of your practice and within your practice of improv. The characters can come from a novel mental state. Explore who they are and what that means for the scene. Likewise, by adopting some of the previous advice, you will be performing from a mentality that could bring about something cataclysmically different. Similarly, the exploration of physicality can lead to stylistic choices that could be of great intrigue. Who improvises Beckett? What is that physicality to your scene? How about Berkoff? I taught improvised Berkoff once. It asks so much more of your improvisers - even more in a rehearsal room, as to teach a short class requires reducing it to more usual improv gimmicks and games.  

In conclusion, try stuff. Not the normal tenets of improv. That has existed for quite some time and we can explore further. Comedy happens in Beckett, in Berkoff, but theatre practitioners (more generally) create different theatre to one and another. We can do so in improv too. Skill-up, explore and you can bring about improv that is definitely performed better than most.

Those names in parentheses:

Forsythe, J. (1996). Spirituality in Actor Training. Theatre Research in Canada, 17(1). Available at: https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/TRIC/article/view/7160/8219.

Thorpe, A. (2014). How can Westerners study Japanese Noh? An interview with Richard Emmert, Director of the Noh Training Project and Theatre Nohgaku. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 5(3), 321-333. doi:10.1080/19443927.2014.940113.

Sunday 13 January 2019

Guest blog: Why Improv?


Having discovered improv comedy a year ago and having fallen under its spell, I find myself trying to explain what compels me to return again and again to what feels like its magic.

Having dived deep into another weekend course this one called “Efficiency in Scenework” with Nathan Keates. I find myself already missing its end, even though I’m only half way through.

So the word magic seems apt.  This is the best way I can explain what occurs in improv. But don’t get me wrong it’s not that all that happens is magic, it’s just that sometimes magic happens.

And what is this magic I hear you ask? Well I don’t know what it is, but except it brings a feeling of joy. A place where you are in a world of imagination, on the cusp of discovery and where you sometimes find gold.

Perhaps we should call it fools gold, because once you discover it, it has gone again and that can never be repeated in the same way, but it then it does return in another, later place, often in one you are least expecting. And at that moment its like you’ve been kissed with delight and often a response of laughter. One more note about improv is that the magic it can be found in watching others find their own gold and also it is often found in collaboration with others.

One area I have had a similar experience is working with clay, in which out of something formless something emerges and often almost without intention and impersonally. It's as if we are responding to the clay in some symbiotic dance between creator and potential where on some occasions there is some magical conclusion, and also sometimes not.

So there is something more generally to be said about being in touch with this creative edge and being in the moment and it being impersonal.

Improv is one place I can find this, but creativity in any form can be the edge we need. To be present, playful and enquiring allows us to drop the fa├žade that we are in charge of this manifesting present, we are a part of the play but not in charge of the script, as it is continually unfolding before us. At this edge perhaps we feel most in touch with the creative spirit within us and creativity around us, and it feels right and we feel good and we want more.

So why improv?  
I think it’s about the creative magic, of how you lose yourself in the present, and sometimes out of it comes a real present. For which I say thank you please come again. And I do.

By Chris 

Monday 22 October 2018

5 ways to instantly have an engaging improv show without performing ‘better’

How many times have you read that you are not good enough as an improviser? There are countless top tips that will make you the best of the best at performing improv comedy. However, do they work and make you better? It is unlikely that a few words will change why you perform. It is not how you perform that needs addressing (most of the time), as you've sat through all those workshops; you've probably gone to tons of international teachers too.
Their value comes when teaching that other way that you haven't done yet… or digging deeper into that field of improv, which you currently desire greatly. Subsequently, this post is not about those still developing into their interest in a specific realm of improv comedy. Although, you are enough too: This is true even when developing, as you're enough to do what form you know (in the way you know it). In any case, there is more to your improv than you.
The top tips of today are about what can be done without addressing your acumen at acting funnily, or performing in general.

  1. Use theatrical lighting

The comedic theatre, or dramatic for some, that you present is a kind of theatre that people watch. Therefore, to make it engaging and the best tip of these, use lighting effectively. A simple white wash state across the stage is not a dynamic and interesting image to look at. The technician of the theatre is talented and can be spontaneous. If you let them play with you and create the atmosphere of the scene through striking visuals, then your production will immediately become brilliant.
If you wish to work out why this is true, find that reoccurring blog bit that asks you to state whether the group photo is a ska band promotional photo or an improv group. Nonetheless, the real topic is not on promotional photos (even though the use of them are advocated too). Have a look at what photos are thrilling to see of general scripted theatre and compare then to captured improvised theatre. The expectation is that improvised theatre misses what those glorious lamps create for the audience. It is a generalisation that does not fit every improv comedy production that has ever been made, but the point being made is what is being endorsed.   

  1. Have musicians

It is obvious that if adding great imagery to your work is useful, then putting in sound too would be wise. Using multiple musicians for a strong, textured, sound adds quality to the production by bringing about an atmosphere. The American history or modern improv comedy used pianists to add to their sets, which worked well. In the modern world, some use electronic music. Either way, the additional sound supports the improvised scenes. For example, a horror film without the music and sounds behind the action would not be scary at all. Onstage, a strong silence is stronger when there has been sound. The musician can set so much about the scene, including scenic details as well as the ambiance.
The contradiction to this is that it must fit the production being offered. This only means using the right musicians. The other issue is that musicians aren't always available and costly. There was one production that used a odd instrument as the sole music to the production and the guy ran off with most of the profit of the run… and didn't really do a lot. Unfortunate, but the point to take is to use the right instruments and reputable musicians. In that production, it was a random find that was gambled on. Create the work, don't let it create you: as the fools’ world suggests.

  1. Use appropriate staging and sets

When you enter a theatre, what do you see? The auditorium might be gorgeous and stimulating the brain. However, if you're not in an old or fancily designed space, then you will need to alter what else your audience sees. They look at the stage. What does that tell them that is relevant to your production? You could have a full-scale set, if that's the design of the show, or something more simple… and the word keeps appearing… an atmosphere. There is no reason to not add something for your audience to get intrigued by to start with. They came to see your production, you might as well congratulate them on doing so by giving them a night to remember.

  1. Have an audience that came for what you are presenting (less ambiguity)

Do you know what production you're performing? Will the audience, which may love that production, be aware what it is? It seems simple to say, but how frequently do improv comedy companies set the audience in the right frame for their events? The answer, even for someone who is well aware of such, is not often and rarely. This is also on the thought to create your work, the ‘why perform’.
Many people rely on that marketable gimmick that alludes to what they are performing to sell their tickets. It works, obviously. A sustainable production on the back of a well understood genre, famed cultural classic or person will enable the new spectator to improv to instantly feel acquainted. However, there are a lot of them that exist, and they are not all the same. How do production companies frame their version of Hamlet? Audiences mostly know what the play is, but if you are setting it in 1930s with WW2 - I am certain (not only due to recently hearing about something similar) that they want to know. The purist Shakespeare fans will not want to come to be disappointed. This is the same for improv purists with what you may be doing with your productions.
Therefore, sell your production and not just the gimmick. Furthermore, do this so as to get your audience that you deserve and who would love to see your production. Know what you are selling and tell people what it is and not a vague overview of what a Harold is. Of course, everyone has done it and probably will slip into doing so still; however, let’s try to be clear.

  1. Stop clenching the buttocks about achieving the form

Once you have sold the production, you must perform it… however, there is little to nothing worse that a bunch improvisers trying to do their production. The form is just the ‘house you shit in’ (as per Messing; the year I first heard her say this is forgotten, otherwise I would state it here). Hence, the need to not be overly concerned with it. Leave the process of building and guiding your production to your director, or coach (the person in the audience, hopefully) watching you. On numerous occasions, there have been shows that did not meet the performer’s desires - this gets in your way: it is a greater problem when you are performing and the director and/or producer and have so much hope and aspiration for the production.
So, remember that you are onstage to improvise: improvise first and let the form exist based on rehearsal and not mental capacity to recall what you ‘should’ be doing. No one wants to see you ‘should on yourself’ (Razowsky; I am sure I first heard this from him before meeting in person).

The obvious problem with all of these tips is that you may not have the facilities or resources to do them. On the other hand, you can manage something. A small stage can still be lit well. A empty room above a pub can have an audience knowing what they have come to see. Fundamentally, it has to fit your event. If these don't work due to your audience type, your production, then the reality is that all the above are being used the way your production requires. Engage in your art and theatre with your audience, in the way you design it. Lastly, remember that not all of your improv can be improvised.