Level 4 at iO West (Intensive) (The Torture!) – Part 1

August 8, 2015

Aurora selfie of her popped blood vessel
(Legitimately popped a blood vessel in my eye this week. Ouch!)

Aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye aye.

I came in feeling so confident from week 3… And for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get it together in week four.

There was just something that didn’t click in my head when it came to the exercises we did. I don’t know what happened. Basically, the thing I struggled with a bunch was that we kept being asked to use our own opinions on things in the scene.

I thought it was just gonna be something we tried once, but it seemed like we just kept having to do it all week long.

I think the point of doing that was to have characters that always had a strong point of view and to “find the shortest distance from yourself to the scene” (’cause I think the idea they were trying to get across was that “what we bring to improv is what makes us good improvisers – the thing that makes us special is who we are and our point of view”).

So, I kind of understand that. And yet, it seems like the synapses never really formed. Like I kind of get the idea, but I did a terrible job of putting it into practice – and of enjoying putting it into practice.

For instance, one suggestion I had to start a scene on was milk. And I started at a Starbucks stoked that they have coconut milk now because it makes it so much easier to be vegan. To me, that was not an interesting way to start that scene. How many scenes have you seen at a Starbucks? Also, how many scenes have you seen about vegans?

I will say the scene went to a slightly different place than I thought. Instead of making fun of the vegans for thinking they were better than everyone, our vegans wanted to be as cool as everyone else. They were obsessed with fads and who documented their different ones on social media. Anyway, I dunno. It was fine. It worked. But the milk suggestion came out of an opening where people were making a milking gesture. So, if I wasn’t tied to stuff I really knew and really thought, I would’ve probably started milking a cow in a barn.

One of the reasons they were trying to do “shortest distance from ourselves to the scene” was because we’d hear, “If you don’t know anything about [insert thing here – space travel, farming, whatever we’ve never done], then why make it harder on yourself?” BUT Up to that point, we’ve always be taught, “choose to be an expert about everything. Make stuff up if you’re an engineer and don’t know about engineering!”

Also, I’ve been taught that the best part of improv is that you can be anything. So be a princess. Be a warlock. Be the president. Be the things you can’t be normally. (Granted, I was taught that at the Groundlings, but I kind of think it holds…)

Also, at iO, we specifically did an exercise (in week 4!) where we were given a suggestion and a completely unrelated activity. (Like, I had to talk about running and fitness while diffusing a bomb.) And we weren’t allowed to say anything about the activity. It was just something to do in the scene.

So, then why can’t I have a farmer scene that’s about something completely different from farming?

(Also, randomly, one of the best improv scenes of my life has taken place in a barn.)

Anyway, I’m sounding combative here. And I realize I have so much to learn. I’m so super down always to try anything on stage. It’s not like I’m against exercises trying to help us bring ourselves to improv…

I just felt like my hands were tied all week, and it was just tough for me (BUT some people loved it – more on that soon). It’s more about me being mad at myself for not getting it. I’m not calling out a teacher or the school or anything. I’m mad at me. In fact there was one fateful day…

…which we’ll get to next time.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?