Tag Archives: entertainment

The Work of Play

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For this installment of our ‘interviewing members of the group”, we sit down with Dave to discuss his history with improv, what keeps him motivated, and advice he has for improvisers who feel like they’re in a slump.

1. Hello Dave! How are you doing?
I’m great! How YOU doin’? (wink)

2. You’re currently in a pretty good place improv-wise. Have there been any times in your life when you felt you were struggling to make any progress?

Oh absolutely. I think I feel myself going through lulls and plateaus every so often. I think as artists, we’ll always find ourselves in these situations. We are generating so much creative output, we need to remember to recharge and have some input, and as Uhlir says, “Fill our heads with stuff.” I actually feel like I’m in a current lull at the moment, so I find myself evaluating what I’m doing or not doing.

3. What keeps you motivated and working?
Seeing shows is incredibly motivating. It can be the best show ever, or just a complete disaster. They both have their own way of motivating me and driving me to work harder.  The friends I work and perform with are also amazingly motivating who keep things fresh and feeling new. Excitement is contagious, and once an idea or a sense of play enters the room, it’s the best thing in the world, and everything else gets blocked out. Focusing intensely on a project with people you love being around doesn’t feel like work – it’s like fun playtime.
I honestly can’t picture my life without theatre. This is something that I absolutely love and when I’ve tried to picture it not being there, I honestly get really sad – and that, in turn, motivates me to work harder so that I don’t ever lose it.
4. Any advice for improvisers who feel like they are struggling or are currently in a slump?
We are our own worst critics, and though that can be a good thing, we also need to learn how to give ourselves a break. I think it’s great to analyze rehearsals and shows to figure out what’s going on, but after a while, you just need to just put it down and walk away.
When I’m in a slump, I like doing non-theatre related things – tinkering with and riding my bike; writing, reading; working out, playing music…I’m a huge movie buff, so either throwing one on or going to see one. I find simply stepping away for even a day or two can be a nice reset. Also, just getting away from all the distractions of life and over-stimulation of being a creative person is important. I love taking some “Dave Time” and just holing away for a few hours, or just being silly with friends. Also, it’s important to surround yourself with strong, supportive, and understanding family and friends that will help you get through the trying times.
5. Anything else you want to add?
 I feel that this is a life-long journey and lifestyle. You should do this because you love the work, the people you’re working with and admire, and absolutely can’t see yourself without it. This can be a viciously draining and mentally painful life to have… to be an artist. We’re constantly rejected and told we’re not good enough, or not what they’re looking for… But at the same time, it is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing in the world. We should treat it, and our fellow artists, as such.

The ABC’s of Naming

Hello-my-name-isToday, we sat down with Switch Committee’s Ryan Nallen to discuss a new philosophy he’s created to help his improvisation.  It’s interesting to say the least. It’s something he’s personally been doing.  Jeez, let’s just get to it already.

1. Hello?

Hello…

2. What’s something you’ve been focusing on lately?

Names. I’ve been actively forcing myself to name my scene partners. 

3. What brought that topic to your attention?

I’ve never been good at names. Even after doing 31 straight days of comedy, I find myself scrambling for a name when I’m in scenes. I recently did a show where a call-back went askew because I never named my scene partner. We handled it by playing it off as a game (multiple people coming on stage responding to the random name I gave in the call-back), but this could have been avoided had I just given my partner a name right from the beginning. It was a note that our coach gave us at the end of the show and I have been kicking myself in the ass thinking about it ever since. It was one of those moments where I knew I did something wrong as soon as it happened. 

4. What strategies have you found most effective for working on giving and using names?

I’ve been trying something on my own that helps me to make sure I have a name for my scene partner right at the top of the scene. I call it the ‘ABC’s of Naming’. What I do is come into a scene already thinking of a letter in the alphabet. For example, let’s start with A. If I walk into a scene I immediately know that my partner’s name is going to start with an A so I can say something like ‘Alan’ or ‘Andrea’ right off the bat. I always have two options going into the scene. A name for a male and a name for a female. 

5. What if there are multiple people in the scene?

The same mindset follows. So, let’s say we have a 4 person scene including myself. Already going in I’m thinking one scene partner’s name is Adam or Allison, the other is Brandon or Bianca, and the third is Carl or Claire.  I’m going in knowing exactly which letters of the alphabet to pull from rather than thinking about it too much. 

6. Do you always start with ABC at the top of a show? 

No. I carry it over scene after scene and show after show. So let’s say I did a show tonight, my scene partner’s names might start with A, B and C. The next show or scene (unless it’s a specific call-back to a previous scene), my partner’s names will begin with D, E, F and so on and so forth. You go right up until you get to Z and then you start over. You just have to remember what letter you left off at for the next show. The more I’m doing it the easier it’s becoming. Repetition. 

7. Real quick, X,Y,Z…GO!

Xavier, Yolanda, and Zach. 

8. How has an improved tool-set for character names affected your scene-work?

It’s forcing me to name my partners, which is essential for the piece  If you’re going to call back a scene or character, one of the easiest ways to do it is by saying that character’s name. Otherwise, you have to point at your partner to come out again, which can take you out of it and might come across forced. The amazing thing I’ve learned about this is that I’m not in my head trying to think of a name for my partner because I already know that it’s going to start with a particular letter going into the scene. This way, I can focus on what’s going on (the relationship) between my scene partner and I without anything else in my mind. I like to think of it as an obstacle course. Naming people is just one of those obstacles that I’m able to jump over quicker now. 

9. Anything else you’d like to share?

Obviously this approach isn’t for everyone. Some might read this and say, “that’s ridiculous, just name your partner” or might be extremely critical of this approach. That’s fine. Different strokes for different folks. It’s just something that I’ve been trying out and it has been helping me tremendously. It’s something new that I’m actively pushing myself to do in every show. My goal is to get through one continuous cycle (A-Z) and reevaluate it. If you’re someone, like me, who has a hard time naming people then give this a try and see how it works out for you. 

10. Goodbye?

Goodbye…

Taboo Topics

Here the guys (Switch Committee) talk about some of the suggestions we (improvisers) get from the audience from time to time. Some times they are vulgar and down right WTF! We discuss different approaches to handling these situations and talk about times where suggestions like these have come up.