Archive for the ‘Shows’ Category

Group Mind

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

If you are an improviser you have probably heard the term “Group Mind”.  What most people mean when they say “Group Mind” is that the group not only acts as one entity, but the result on stage is also greater than the sum of the parts.  When you are experiencing group mind you will find yourself jumping on ideas that you would have never thought of, but seem to be perfect.  Everything flows.  We try to develop group mind in all of our house teams and groups to have our players to be a part of something bigger than the individual.

I believe group mind comes from the individuals all believing in something bigger than themselves.  Something that the group all has in common and have faith in and believe, so much so that they may even lose themselves as an individual for a bit.  For people who belong to a church or done Habitat for Humanity know what I am talking about.  Broncos fans know what I am talking about.  Anyone who had been in a march, parade, mob or a riot knows.  We all have to have the same focus and goal and move as one.  Once we all have the big picture it is up to us as individuals to embody that philosophy.

For improvisers that philosophy is part of the very nature of improv:

Support and build on each other’s ideas, trust yourself, others and that the story will unfold the way it needs to, take the next step, pay attention, be ‘in the moment’, don’t know what will happen next - just know it will be perfect, the smallest things matter, own it, make bold choices, make mistakes, laugh, smile, support and play.

These are some of our beliefs and philosophy as improvisers.  All of these beliefs and more help us create something out of nothing on stage.  These are also the rules we need to embody to help create group mind.  When we start taking these practices off the stage and into our group, our rehearsals and our social time together that is when we start to develop group mind.

When I think of Improvisation I think of the word ALACRITY.  This means: liveliness or briskness, a cheerful readiness, promptness of response, or willingness; alertness, gameness, goodwill.  This is what I think of when I think of an improvisational attitude.  To me an improviser is someone who is ready, enthusiastic and quick to join.  When you have a bunch of people with this mind set on and off stage, you are that much closer to achieving group mind.

Improvisation should not just how we perceive the world on stage, it should be how we engage each other off stage too.  Taking the lessons of improvisation into our core and putting them into play in our social interaction, our rehearsals, our warm-ups, and hopefully our life.  This is how we start to create group mind with our group and a more improvisation life in general.

Improvisation is our philosophy, spirit, or beliefs on and off stage.  We need to be improvisational in every aspect of our lives at The Bovine.  When questions come up we need to ask “WWID” (What Would Improvisers Do?) and we need to bring it not only to the stage but to rehearsals, warm-up, the box office, the light booth, in our social interactions and in classes. When we all embody the spirit of improvisation we sow the seeds of group mind in our class, group, show, theater and world.

Improv Your Life!

 

Eric

As always, due to the huge amount of spam we receive,  if you please make sure you include the word “improv” in any comments you leave, we will make sure that they get added to the post.  Thanks!

Auditions in July!

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

We have auditions coming up on July 16, 2011.  To make it easier for players we are separating auditions into a Monday/Tuesday House Team audition and a Thursday House Team audition.  This way if you are on a Tuesday house team and you want to play on a Thursday house team, you just need to audition at the Thursday house team auditions.  If you are not available for Thursday or Monday/Tuesday nights, you pick the audition best suited for you.

This July, I will be adding members to both of the troupes I coach, The SansScript Players and MooCrew.  I often get asked what I look for when I am casting for my house teams.  When I add players to one of my groups, I look at them as people and players.  They need to be improvisers on stage and off.  This sets a tone for the group, show and the theater.

First I look at them as people; do they improvise in their interactions with me and others at the theater.  For example are they enthusiastic, fun, easygoing, “yes and”, interesting, adaptable, eager people?  Are they improvisers in their personal life and mind-set?  Do they see the world as a fun place filled with possibilities or are they a miserable person who kills ideas, operates out of spite and malice?  They most likely will bring this attitude with them to the show and the theater.

Then I look at them on stage; are they experienced enough to embody the rules of improvisation on stage too?  Are they having fun, are they entertainers (not just satisfied by simply playing on stage, they are only fulfilled by entertaining the audience), are they building and supporting everyone on stage, do they create energy, excitement and fun?

Both are needed for me to cast someone.  If someone is a self-serving, ego driven person in their personal life, but a great improviser; they may be great on stage, but cause so much damage to the group, show and theater off stage that it creates a difficult environment for everyone.  This attitude makes the group feel icky, then it creates discord in the show and eventually it can infect the entire community.

If someone is a natural improviser, but has not performed on stage enough to trust them when performing, this can affect the group too.  It can disrupt the team’s performance and then this brings down the show and has a negative effect on the theater as a whole.  I will cast people who are just about ready; people who are growing and moving forward on stage.  But the people who just don’t have enough hours on stage to be comfortable in their own skin, I will pass on this time but look for them later.

So, when I am casting for my groups I try to bring people into my groups who are 51% the embodiment of improvisation in their lives and 49% embodied improvisers on stage.  My job as a coach is to develop and push folks to do better on stage.  I can work with somebody who positive and struggling on stage.

If someone is an improviser on stage, but not off stage, I try not to cast this person.

If you are auditioning for us this July, break a leg!

Please remember, if you are adding a comment to our site please include the word “improv” in your comment.  I use this as a filter for the thousands of spam comments we get.

Thanks!

Happy Improv!

Eric

Improve Improv

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

An Open Letter to the Coaches Council:

I am very excited about the New Year and what we are doing this year with the Coaches Council.  I want to get us all on the same page for the new year.  In the last couple of years Denver has seen an explosion of different venues for improv.  It is wonderful.  As the number of improv spaces increases we need to make sure that the quality of our shows increases at the same time.  Our job on the Coaches Council this year is to Improve Improv.

We need to improve the experience for the audience.
We do this by making sure that the audience is getting what it came in to see.  On ‘Hoot’ nights and ‘Throwdown’ nights, they are coming in to see their friends and family perform improv in a fun, professional environment.  They need to see their team get supported and set up for success.  The house teams need to be warming up the crowd, setting the professional timbre and getting them excited about the evening to come.  For “Improv Royale” the show needs to be a funny, slick, professional, and an amazing high wire act.  Organized and professional with no nets and no failure. “Improv Royale” is and needs to remain the best night of long form improv in the region.

I think that we do this by not only giving them lots of playing time, but by having our teams use a form to play around and through.  A form gives the audience a point of reference to hold on to and understand. Form is what sets improv theater apart from improv comedy.  We are not stand ups doing improvised jokes.  We are players doing improvised theater.  A beginning, middle and end is something that every theatrical production has and is the bare minimum of which a form affords us.  It is what separates house teams from a collection of people trying to make funny.  It lends credence, function, professionalism and a level of theatricality to our sets.

Improve the experience for the players:
We have graduated over 500 improvisers and counting, we want to nurture new talent and people coming up, move players who are on fire to Thursday night where they can play more, and encourage plateauing players to brush up and develop skills.  Our Coaches Council is our vehicle for all of this.

  • New players coming up; we have auditions every 3 months to get new players and players moving to the area who are serious about long form improv a place to play, exhibit and develop their skills.  We need to set a standard for them to emulate and strive to achieve.
  • Reward great play; players should all try to get better on stage and some will skyrocket and shoot off the stage.  It is our job to ensure that the players who are rocking get moved to Thursday nights where they can play 3 times a month with the best players in Denver.  Getting players who are having fun and entertaining audiences more stage and letting hot players move to nights where they can shine with players of a similar caliber is the best reward we can provide.
  • Objective feedback and challenging plateauing players; Many players have no idea how they are doing on stage.  They think they are great and all we see is them thinking on stage, or they think they suck and they are doing great, or they are just having fun and they are lighting up the stage.  Our job is to give honest, objective feedback to all players, but especially the ones who need more classes and to let go.  We need to try to coach these folks to “success”.  If our coaching fails we need to get advice from other coaches and if that fails we need to match the player to a team that reflects their level of play. Sometimes being the best player on a struggling team can build the confidence that coaching can not.  Sometimes players just need more time in the classroom.  It is our job to improve everyone’s experience, the players, and the teams, and the audiences through honest, objective review and feedback.

Improv the Level of Coaching
Over the last 10 years one of my focuses has been on creating a culture of mentoring and coaching.  You are part of that culture now.  We need to improve our skills as coaches, we need to bring in more coaches and generate a culture of helping players (without getting to a place where players give each other notes).  I want us to read, take classes and give each other coaching tips, so that we can provide our players a fun, supportive place where they can get better at their craft.  Our job is to bring in great coaches, develop great coaches and become great coaches.  We need to be inclusive and encouraging while still being honest and giving constructive criticism that builds great players.

We need to get past getting everyone to “do the form”.  We need to get the players to transcend form.  We need to give individual feedback that will grow people as players.  We need to put the teams needs above our own.  We need to put the needs of the player above the needs of our teams.  We need to put the needs of the audience and the show above that of the players.

We need to Improve Improv.  The time is now.  We are in the right time and place and need the intention of creating a place where everyone wants to play, because the level of player is off the charts, the teams are smart, funny and talented.  We will take improv to the next level this year.  We need to make this a place where no one wants to miss a show because it will be great and it will be gone.  The thing to remember and you had to be there, every show, every night.  That is our charge.

Let’s Improve Improv!

Eric Farone
Artistic Director
Bovine Metropolis

Running Amuck?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I hear from some players things like “You can’t put rules on improvisers, it’s an oxymoron! How can the mind perform freely when it’s constricted before even getting on stage?”  These folks are usually complaining about the rules stopping them from swearing, going to a dark place (i.e. child molestation, etc.), or going the bathroom on stage.  They feel like these boundaries are keeping them from letting their brain run wild.

I am here to tell you that there is a difference between “running wild” and “running amuck.”  It’s the difference between freedom and anarchy. Anarchy is a state of lawlessness (no rules). Freedom is the right of enjoying all the privileges of membership or citizenship.  Improv is a group effort.  You must have constraints and improv already has many.  You play in a form,  perform scenes, you must listen, work with others, build on what they say.  There are physical limitations in theatre; you perform on a stage, in front of an audience, you must conform to the rules of the theater, your group, the art and to some extent the audience.

Yes, the “tourette’s”  mind is unconstricted, but it is not improvising.  If you want to just say what you want, without regard for the art, the theater, other players on stage with you, or the audience, then you are unconstrained, but you are not improvising. You are a player serving your own purposes, however you are not working with regard to the improv art form.

Improv requires a certain amount of focus (I would say a dual focus, but that’s a different blog).  It’s the difference between a “flow” and an “explosion.” In flow, one takes what has come before and builds on it and moves forward. An explosion destroys.

For example, in the improv game “Free Association” you must take the word said right before your word and say anything that that word makes you think to say. There are many constraints in this game (as in all improv games); you must wait your turn, connect to the word said before yours, then and only then, you can say what the word inspires you to say.  It is not a bunch of people in a circle screaming what they want, when they want, without regard for each other.

There are global rules for improv and theater.  Give and take, connect and build, listen and add, just to name a few. Rules are what creates the freedom to play. We have agreed as improvisers to try to make a group that is wonderful.  Something that transcends the individual and reaches for group mind and group discovery.  We need rules in order to prevent anarchy so that we can all strive for freedom on stage.

When an actor shuns the rules, what they are in effect saying is their personal choice is more important than the group and the art form.  That they matter more than anyone else.  Friends and colleagues may have even told them they are funny or talented and they have begun to believe that their choices are the only ones that matters.  If they believe that, then they don’t get what improv is all about.  It is not about a group of unfettered individuals being as funny as possible for their own self-serving needs.

The art of improv is about a group coming together to transcend themselves and create something bigger than the sum of its parts. Accomplished without a leader, in the moment, for an audience who hopes to see that moment of transcendence.

So yes, there are rules. If you don’t like the rules then, by all means, go and be what you would call “free” and “unconstrained.”, but don’t do it on stage.  Talk and interrupt people at dinner, go and swear at children and accost old people in the park.   You don’t have to be constrained by a stage or be in front of an audience to be ‘in flagrante delicto’.  Live without constraints without caring how it effects others.  Run amuck if that is what you want to do, but don’t call it ‘Improv.’

Take a Ride

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Man, I am having so much fun in “Tropical Train Ride”.  It looks like it is becoming a Bovinian favorite too.  I see a lot of students and performers in the crowd every week.  It is FUN!

What a joy to come out and do a scene with Matthew Taylor.  This guy and I have been playing together on and off since 1993.  I still don’t know what he’ll bring to a scene, but I know it will be fun and he will catch what I am bringing too.

And Sarah Kirwin.  Go see Sarah Kirwin.  Are you kidding me? She has got her own style of improv and it is beautiful.  She is in TTR, but she is in several other troupes including MooCrew who play at BMX the next 2 Thursdays.

The KnitWits and Lisa Hickenbottom were our special guests.  The KnitWits are a young group, but FUN!  Those folks brought it.  I love playing with people with whom I have never played with before.  And this group has a bunch of up and comers.  Lisa Hickenbottom used to be a staple around the the theater.  She stopped playing about a year or 2 ago.  I was expecting some rust on her, boy was that wrong!  She brought these characters and so much to the stage.  She was a joy to play with and to watch.

I had surgery on Monday so I could heal as much as possible before the show.  That is how much I love this show.  And even though I was a bit slower and most of my scenes were in a chair, I still had a bunch of scenes where Eric was gone and the character was running the show.  I think this helps to  stave off any chance of infection, it confuses the infection.  Is that Eric, no it’s some guy that hates his wife, nope now it’s an old vaudevillian.

This Saturday we will be joined by “Third Curd”, which is Mark Shonsey and Chris Woolf.  We will also be joined by home town favorites Brian McManus and Amanda Kennedy.

Improv! Love It!

Tropical Train Ride 2

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

WOW!  I had a blast AGAIN!!  Playing with players at the level of Mike Malyar, Spencer Reedy and the incomparable Sarah Kirwin has got me fired up!

For the first act we did a 30 minute scene (in two locations).  We started in a dentist office and then went down to a parking garage.  It was slow.  It was hilarious.  So much fun to play.

I may be having too much fun.  I never used to break on stage and in this show I am getting broken (for very brief stints) on a nightly basis.  This time it was Mike who destroyed me.  Here is the set up: The dentist office had bought chairs from Ikea that couldn’t recline.  I came in to get a tooth drilled.  After a bit of physical comedy I decide to leave and go to my car.  The dentists follow me.  Once they see my car Mike takes a huge pause and says “Hey these seats recline.  We could fill the tooth in your car.  I could drill from the back seat.”  Not funny as I write it, but it destroyed me and the audience.

I can’t wait for this week with FORK and Adrain Holguin from Impulse, and Amanda Kennedy.  Should be fun.  I am going to work on not breaking.

Tropical Train Ride

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

I know it is my show, but I had so much fun on Saturday night.  It was great to play with MooCrew.  Matthew Taylor and Sarah Kirwin are always great to play with, but it was special on Saturday.

Sarah Kirwin is at the top of her game and maybe the improv community in Denver right now.  She did a bit on stage that was so committed and so off the wall and so funny that it stopped the show for a good minute or two with non-stop laughter.  It was dizzying.

I can’t wait for this Saturday to do On The Spot for 1/2 an hour then Tropical Train Ride for 1/2 an hour.

Hope you can make it!

Improv Fest

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

The Denver Improv Festival (DIF) is here at the Bovine this year.  It is going well.  I see a lot of people in classes and at shows.

The DIF this year feels like a local festival.  It’s friendly.  It’s almost folksy. It has no pretension.

If you have ever wanted to see some great improv or wanted to try an improv class the DIF is your ticket.

Improvise!

Emails after the Improvathon

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008


There were a flurry of emails after the 24 hour improvathon.   I grabbed them and posted them in order of receipt.  I have removed everyone’s names, but I was so moved by the emails I wanted to post them:

 

Eric and Bovine Crew…
I’m waiting for my flight back to

Madison this morning and just wanted to drop a line to thank you for your fantastic hospitality and flexibility in allowing me to perform as part of your Family Tree Fundraiser Improvathon.
Performing in a new setting - with unfamiliar people - who have been performing for 12 hours straight was…  awesome!
From “AIDS Turtle” to “Tazer my a**hole”, I really enjoyed the chance to perform with such gracious, talented and creative improvisers…
If any of you happen to be in

Madison, WI - please look us up.  We’d love to return the favor.

 

That was the best bonding experience I’ve ever had in all my years of performing.

 

It all feels like a dream..and Brian was there, and Michael and Kathleen and Nanna, and Steve and Dave and Keith…..I am in awe of you all.

 

It certainly does feel like a dream.  Yesterday (Sunday) seemed viewed through a filter.  A filter of support, connection, love and laughter.  A lot of laughter.  Looking forward to seeing everyone Thursday and Saturday.I feel like a kid who just returned from a week of summer-camp and is going through fun withdrawals.

 

My brain feels a little different like mooshy but in a good way.  A couple thoughts/responses to people yesterday rolled out in a strange easy way, not just effortless but completely un-managed.  I like brunch too, but it was too late by the time I got it.  hollandaise.  egggggggs.   I love you guys.

 

I had so much fun with you guys. At times I was pretty delirious laughing my ass off, and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time…And I have fun a LOT.Thank you guys for being you, and welcoming me so warmly into this amazing group.

Sunday was hazy and felt like the day after finding the girl of your dreams and she didn’t exactly reject you but left room for interpretation of her door slam at the end of a tear filled argument about Diet Coke versus Coke One. I can’t even begin to know all the ways I was touched by the time we were playing. Man, it was pure and had a theme of unified anarchy. Many times I sat in awe of what took place on stage  and wondered how what just happened, happened. Smoove.
Throughout yesterday I caught myself laughing without any apparent reason. My wife would ask what the deal was and I would try to explain the Russian family or “why we had all been called here tonight”. I loved it all and am so grateful to all for your time and openness. So many incredible things happened. I feel like something happened to all of us that has no explanation but that we all know.
Special props to our fallen sister. She went out at the top of her form and took one harshly. It was unintentional but I think that a message is buried within: had she been in a group hug at the moment of contact, the injurious blow’s power would have been spread out over us all. A lesson for our futures. (Hope you’re okay!)
Love to all.

 

Thanks!  Sorry I missed the rest of the ‘athon thanks to my Marsha Brady incident.  I went home and kept icing it, and I didn’t wake up horribly disfigured. Today it feels numb, like I got a shot of novacaine.
Up until that point, I was having fun!  I think I might have been wearing a wizard’s hat when it happened. Perhaps I angered God.

 

Hey everyone!  I haven’t joined in on the whole 24 hour commentary so far, but I did have a fabulous time.  I felt so sleep deprived, and I am pretty sure that I’ve forgotten about 80% of what happened on stage.  But that 20% is totally worth it!  I’m finally feeling like I’m back to normal, which is great.  Turns out I’m someone that requires a

LOT of sleep…

24 Hour Improvathon - Hour 15

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Hour 15, 10 AM

The house is small.  6 people.  Last night at midnight it was almost a full house, but now there are just a few stalwarts.  More people will be coming throughout the day.

10 AM and 6 people in the audience and the improv is wonderful.  An improvised Shakespeare with songs and dance, love and intrigue, and it’s GOOD!  WordPlay is playing with SansScript and it is even and measured.

I am laughing and even clapping between scenes.  And I am not doing it because I am a big cheerleader.  I am doing it because it is fun and good and it makes me happy.

These folks, some of them for 15 hours straight, are putting out quality work right now for 6 people.  They are playing and bringing gifts, connecting and committing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re tired.  The size of the house doesn’t matter.  Play when you play, or get off the stage. That’s the lesson taught to me this hour.