What am I learning? What have I learned so far?
First, to be grateful for what we have in Chicago. In fact, the ability to see an improv show (some times 4 shows in one night) every single day of the week is incredible- it ain’t all great, but it’s there none the less. Also, that many slots need to be filled and that’s the other side of the coin of all those shows… someone has to make/perform them. There’s that incredible opportunity to create new shows and experiment with new ideas and concepts.
Being steeped in the works and words of Del Close, I relish the chance to learn more about Keith Johnstone and TheaterSports. It’s fascinating, really. Here’s my take thus far; Johnstone believes in a friendly, nurturing, paternal God who helps things along, who makes sure things fall into place and no one fails too hard. That’s why there are narrators, hosts, MCs, rules, judges, etc.
While, Close, true to his pagan roots, believes in a more chaotic summoning ritual. The tribe summons, and succeed or fail, they have attempted it together. The Harold opening, the improvised Movie, even the Deconstruction are all group works where no one person is supposed to lead or stand out. We are all the narrator, the host, the mc….
The Trouble with Harold
The basic trouble with doing the Harold outside of Chicago is the learning process.. while Chicago had the luxury of a learning process, newer groups do not. We, for the most part, know what works and what does not because of an unique and rarified environment. A community that wants to perform the Harold, and knows of it by reading or even watching some online or from a visit to Chicago, is at a disadvantage. Imagine trying to learn ballet or kung-fu just from reading a few books or watching someone else doing the forms.
As Admiral Kirk said about humor to the young Lt. Saavik, “We learn by doing.”
I’ve been lucky enough to have joined Chicago improv at just the right time; 1995. iO had just moved into 3541 N. Clark and suddenly there were Harold (and other longform experiments) shows every weekend. That expanded and grew until now there are several shows every night of the week. And there’s the Playground, CIC, Upstairs Gallery, Bughouse, and more, all doing weird, crazy stuff besides the regular Harold work.
Being a good observational nerd, I cannot help but notice the parallel historical developments in various cities. I travel, we talk and I hear about their difficulties and I can see where and how Chicago dealt with a similar problem.
Being obsessed with history it is a fascinating scenario.
Can Shortform and Longform Coexist? ***WARNING: GENERALITIES***
Of course they can. In fact, they should help each other to grow and thrive. In fact, they CAN help each other grow and thrive. In most cities, shortform was there first. Then along comes longform, with its olive oil voice and quirky charm*. Because shortform was there first, those more experienced players tend to be older and more set in their ways, and in a reflection of that, longform tends to be craved by the younger, newer group of improvisers. The prudent, more productive (hell, even the more profitable) path is to embrace longform and devise a way for it to be incorporated into the existing system.
*- what movie, and who is being paraphrased?
There should be more improv shows than there are classes.
The best advertisement for your classes is a good show.
Regularity in show programming (every Thursday! or some thing regular) lets audiences know where and when to find you, but it’s consistency in show quality that keeps them coming back.
Actively cultivate an audience that has nothing to do with improv; cherish and nurture people who love comedy and love improv. You cannot long survive playing to other players.
Facebook is a great tool, but don’t rely on it alone.
I’m not homesick per se, but I do miss my friends and my shows and the comfortable life I have created for myself. So I guess that is homesick. Nevermind.
I look forward to returning home so I get back to work! I want to do some more shows… experiment with some forms and ideas that have popped into my brain over the past 20 days. I was in the middle of rehearsals for Close Quarters, Saturday Super Show just started up, Winter Funderland started with me, and now I have even more stuff I want to try. And, even more stuff I just want to watch!
The time difference plays into my poor sleeping habits. As I write this on Sunday, 11pm, Chicago is waking up on Sunday morning (5am). I’ll sleep a bit, wake up on Monday around 7am and check FB and my email (Chicago Sunday afternoon.) I’m keeping my phone on airplane mode as much as possible; which is good… I’m not constantly checking it for messages, but the habit remains even though its just a fancy watch right now.
It’s raining most of this upcoming week but that gives me the chance to visit Sydney Tower and maybe, the Sydney IMAX (the largest IMAX in the world!!)
I am astoundingly behind in the writing projects I had planned for this trip.