New York’s premier improv troupe, THE IMPROVISATIONAL REPERTORY THEATRE ENSEMBLE boasts being well-trained actors as well as hilarity-makers. But is that important … I guess so … and so do they. We grabbed them in-between their second show this season, The DIABOLICAL DR. FIEND, currently running at The Producers Club. (visit http://www.irteinfo.com for info and tickets).
So … guys … quick thinking and natural talent are surely on an improvisational actor’s grocery list. How about theatrical training. How has established acting methods helped in Improv?
From Artistic Director, Nannette Deasy:
Theatre training is very important for anyone who steps on a stage. Improvisational acting is acting. You may not have a script, but it is still theatre. Talent and natural comic ability are wonderful – but you had better develop the skills to be heard, seen, and connect with your fellow actors and yourself. Otherwise, you can quickly get lost. A “traditional” acting method and scene study class will help any improvisational actor to develop better focus and listening skills. It will also provide him or her better access to one’s own emotional well to create characters grounded in some truth, no matter how broad or ridiculous they may be – not always an easy task when in the very artificial reality of being on a lit stage facing an audience of strangers.
From Curt Dixon
The first thing that comes to mind is physicality and portraying emotions. Learning how your character moves and how they express themselves is important so that your performance is believable. You have to learn how to show the audience that you are that person. And you also have to be able to pay attention and react to the world that you are in. Being in character and in the moment at all times is paramount to making any scene work.
From Heather Johnson
Hmm, hard question since I do not have theatrical training, unless you count high school. The method I like to follow is the “does this make ME laugh” method, I wonder if someone has coined that. Because before I even care about an audience, I selfishly just want to make myself laugh and tug on the line of comfort/appropriateness levels. It is kind of like when you’re walking down the street and you think of something and laugh hysterically to yourself and don’t care that you look like an idiot because you’re having a grand time. I’m pretty sure that’s most people in comedy though.
Wow, this was actually a very awkward question for me to answer. Yep, I’m going to stop now.
From Cheryl Pickett
Taking things moment to moment and listening to your scene partner.
From Connie Perry
Scene study work comes to my mind. Even though you are not working with written material, you develop the skills to pay attention and listen to your scene partner as you learn to be in the moment. That can translate well into improvisational scene work.
From Izzy Church
I’ve studied numerous acting methods and they all contribute to the work I do as an improviser. Meisner technique teaches acting students to listen and respond, while paying careful attention that they are working moment to moment and living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. The same rules apply when you’re improvising. You have to be in the moment, and respond to whatever your fellow improviser(s) are offering. Method Acting teaches sense memory, where you recall on the sensory impressions stored in your subconscious and apply them to the space or the scene, which is also useful for improvisation. These techniques, any many other methods are useful tools when you’re improvising. Most importantly, remember to have fun! Your body and brain are very intuitive and if you tense up, you’re sending a signal to your body and brain that what you’re doing is difficult or stressful. I suggest warming up first. I believe all acting schools teach the importance of movement work. We also warm up as improvisers and work to ground ourselves before we begin to play.
DOWNTOWN URBAN ARTS FESTIVAL
“The Vast Mystery of Who You Are: Part One”
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
The central character of Kim Yaged’s sharp new drama, The Vast Mystery of Who You Are: Part One, indulges in sex parties, she says, just to satisfy her primal urges. But it becomes apparent that something else is prowling inside her that is more complicated, though just as fierce.
Yaged, the prolific and provocative author of the award winning Hypocrites & Strippers, Mates and Never Said, tears open her characters through language. Named “You” (Marissa Carpio), her central character is relentlessly articulate, though it gradually becomes apparent that her mastery of contemporary buzzwords and politically correct catchphrases actually serves as a kind of armor. They shield her, but also separate her from people she professes to care for.
And she is not alone in her loneliness. Her intergender would-be lover “Dritte” (Bridget Ori) actually refuses to be touched. And this is the first play in memory that lists a separate Intimacy Director (Claire Warden).
As the play’s title suggests, sometimes the most “woke” among us are actually asleep to what’s going on inside their own heads and hearts.
As “You,” Carpio seemed a little tentative on opening night, but the confusion and frustration from her would-be male partner “First” (Gareth E. Lawson), her female buddy “Two” (Gulshan Mia), and) was palpable.
Director Rebecca Cunningham staged the show on a nearly empty stage, with three alternating playing areas designed by Omayra Garriga Casiano and lit by Karim Rivera Rosado.
When You is finally ready to seriously question her own presumptions, she finds her coldness has driven the others away. She makes a breakthrough in the final line of the 55-minute play, leaving the audience eager to learn what Part Two has in store.
The Vast Mystery of Who You Are: Part One was presented on April 13 as part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival.
Steve Silver, a playwright and actor whose star was rising at an amazing rate, passed away suddenly on March 16, 2018. His final work, WAITING FOR THE DON opens tonight, April 4, at the American Theatre of Actors.
Stage and film director, Laurie Rae Waugh will be helming this final work. An artist who was ‘there” and wrote about it. Ms. Waugh directed much of the gritty play- and screen-writer’s canon.
“I enjoyed not only the wonderful working relationship we had but more importantly, the friendship we developed over the past 8 years” said the prolific director, celebrated for her subtle depth-of-the-character style of direction.
Ms. Waugh earned accolades for her and Mr. Silver. She received the 2016 Jean Dalrymple Award for Best Director for Silver’s play(s), Mirrors; the same honor the previous year for A Spanish Harlem Story. She also won in 2010 for Jerry J. Pollock’s Code Name Daniel.
“Steve was not just a friend but became my theater brother,” Ms. Waugh said in an interview.
She and Silver had a long and joyous working relationship on Silver’s plays, Born in the USA and Waiting for THE DON, The Tiger of Greenwich Village, and The Prince of Hell’s Kitchen.
Ms. Waugh was part of Steve Silver’s magnum opus, The Watchtower, which began as a one-act; was rewritten as a full-length; and finally became a major motion picture winning numerous honors across the country. DON was in negotiation to become another film after its run at the landmark American Theatre of Actors in NYC.
“Thank you Steve for giving me the distinct honor and pleasure to have brought your plays to life. I would also like to thank James Jennings, my cast, family and friends for their support.”
Steve Silver remembered by the industry.
“We’ve lost a voice that gave us many enjoyable times in the theater.”
“He was a quiet man with a loud message!
He was a reserved man, who had a talent for telling stories.
He will be missed; I will miss the plays that he would have written.”
“Steve wrote the truth and he gave it to the people.
That alone put him above so many.”
“Steve wrote raw, gritty and compelling dramas about
life in New York City.
He will be sorely missed.”
Laurie Rae Waugh