So this is the part where I geek out about how well this experiment of mine is going.
I jumped on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon so I could use the public shaming aspect as a motivator. Several of my improviser friends are writing actual novels, and did the customary public announcement:
“I’m writing for NaNoWriMo. Ask me about it constantly so I feel obligated to keep writing.”
So I did the same.
I’m ahead on blog posts, and I have several more that only need a few touch-ups before they’re ready to post. The scripts were being neglected, as I’d finished the easier of my two planned arcs, and wasn’t feeling up to the task of the second. I need to add more characters, and I was really struggling to come up with characters with any sort of depth.
The Hideout runs a show called The Free Fringe where groups submit really ridiculous format ideas, then get a thirty minute time slot to try them out in front of an audience. Sometimes it’s amazing and turns into a new troupe. Sometimes it crashes and burns. This is why the show is free.
Last night’s Fringe was a NaNoWriMo special where a group of writers came in, talked about their work a little, read a scene, then a group of improvisers from the Austin Secrets cast would pick up the story and play a few scenes to help work out what comes next. I tossed my scripts into the mix, just to see what would happen. Given that I couldn’t really read a scene, and it would be very hard to explain the comic quickly, I didn’t expect much.
I should really stop underestimating my improviser friends.
I gave them a very open scenario, and they jumped in enthusiastically. Two happened to perfectly fill the roles of two characters I’d partially written, and two more gave me really excellent new characters to build on.
I walked out of the show with four pretty solid characters in my head, then I stayed up late brainstorming with the Boy, filling out those characters, building their world, and plotting their arcs. I feel like I have a few years worth of material here, if I stick to my one-a-week schedule.
I’m actually itching to start drawing, so I’ll probably hit the 30-script mark early and get a jump start on my buffer.
My comic is coming back! Yay!
I spent a good deal of the last three days sweating over the latest improv audition. It’s one of the few Hideout main stage shows that I actually felt strongly enough about to bother to try out for, since the competition for these shows is getting ridiculous.
The audition required a resume, so I’ve been reminiscing about my colorful (if rather rough-and-tumble) days in student theater groups, re-reading old scripts, and boring The Boy to tears with tales of creative casting and production disasters.
I walked into my junior year of high school at a new school with no theater experience more sophisticated than embarrassing elementary school choir musicals. Granted, I played the starring role in the fifth grade production of “Holly and the Ivy League” (don’t ask – you’ll be glad you didn’t), but that wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to bring up as I walked into my first audition for our student-run drama club, in front of the wildly intimidating group of seniors running the show.
I was quite sure what, if anything, they saw in my audition (I’m pretty sure I was the only girl who attempted the accent called for), but they gave me a bit part – two, actually – in the big play that was staged on parents weekend. There I was, wobbling around the stage, playing a drunk actress and a Russian duchess in ridiculous costumes and sporting an accent that went from barely passable to just plain awful as rehearsals progressed. On opening night, my parents managed to score seats in the front row – only a few feet away from the spot where I stumbled out onto the stage in glorified lingerie and did a little drunken song and dance thing at the end of the first act.
That show was a smashing success, as was the next semester’s play. I got to play three bit parts in that one. Then I was selected to be one of the club officers my senior year, which meant I’d have the opportunity to direct. Bit-parter to director in less than a year. Hooray for tiny amateur theater.
I took the job very seriously. Really, too seriously at first. One of my best friends and I decided we wanted to do a musical, but couldn’t make that happen in the first semester, so we grabbed a random script from our library and did a nice, simple play as a sort of directorial dry-run.
It was, to put it mildly, a learning experience.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Improvised Charles Dickens? What could possibly go wrong?
I am somewhat relieved to say that rehearsals have not actually devolved into Dickensian Speech for Sport …yet.
I’ve had the privilege of lighting this show, and it has been one ridiculous and amazing Victorian-era tale after another. We’ve had a happy family of morticians, a secret society of lamplighters, and one ill-advised voyage to Australia. There are top hats and tragic deaths, fancy accents and small children who speak above their age and station, all served up with the usual spontaneity and mischief that come with improvised narrative.
We will round the halfway point of the run this weekend, and I can’t wait to see what the second month will bring.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Apologies to everyone who is not familiar with the Hideout Theatre teachers and Battlestar Galactica.
Our Level 6 class shows are at 7:00 for the next three Sundays, if you happen to be in town.
So. Um. That show that I lit over the summer? It won something.
Specifically, it won a Best of Austin Critic’s Pick.
The outside recognition is really gratifying, because it was such a wild ride from the inside that I have to wonder if it was really that good, or if the overwhelming sense of relief that we pulled it off at all has skewed my perception of the quality of the show.
The premise was kind of high-concept: The (improvised) show is supposed to be a rehearsal for a play (not a real one – the title is pulled from a hat full of audience suggestions), and the theater is in the round so the cast is all mixed in with the audience, and everyone contributes, and it’s supposed to be all about honesty and intimacy and… then eventually people get naked. Maybe. Probably. If/when events in the show call for it.
What could possibly go wrong?
Honestly, there were about a thousand things that could have gone terribly wrong with this show. The nudity alone had to walk a fine taste line. Then the theater was rearranged, the audience participation was amped up, the storytelling method was open-ended and obscure, and – oh, right – everything was still unscripted.
But ultimately it worked. It totally worked. The director’s vision was sincere, and the cast was brilliant enough to make it happen. They all worked really hard to build a foundation of trust that allowed them to take all the random crap that was thrown at them and sculpt a series of really earnest stories. The audience was supportive and engaged, and became so enthralled that every show sold out – the last one a full two weeks beforehand.
For a few weeks this summer, I was privileged to participate in something really uniquely successful, because everyone involved – audience and performers alike – completely bought in.
And someone else thought it was great.
Really, not bad for my first tech gig.