Solo Performance with Michael Lehrer, 25 August

This is yet another of the classes I am taking at iO, at the end of which we will have a class show of our work.

Mike is a man who likes his pedal bikes, and taught much of the class from a chrome handled, low riding, chopper style bike that he’d brought into the classroom. When we see it this week, he has told us it will have been repainted by a graffiti artist friend of his, a piece of art to look forward to seeing.

Mike discussed a few things with us, and had us do various exercises to start to generate ideas that we might want to develop into material. As the material we will eventually be developing will be for a sketch style of show rather than stand up, we will be looking at things slightly differently from how I would usually develop material for myself. In fact, we will be drawing on many of the things from other classes here, including monologue writing, and all the improvisation character work and scene formation skills that I am learning.

A phrase that is useful for all improv work “Don’t think, trust your gut”.

He got us to ask ourselves the question, “How is this a fresh perspective? Why would people want to listen to this?”.

We will be working on scene efficiency, editing, working with others, working stuff out through the medium of smiling.

Some of the pieces will be uber short, 45 second stuff too. Our aim is to keep surprising people with our choices and to keep having fun. As with other improv work, of high importance is still Physicality, Vocal playing, Emotion. Feeling one’s way through this, the thought process is “If I say this line, what else would I say?”

Warm up game: Alien, Tiger, Cow, 1, 2, etc
This is a directed action game. Each of the words has an associated movement and sound, Alien is fingers wiggling on head, Tiger is a growl with a stratching down of the right hand, Cow is a moo while raising a closing fist (milking), 1 is a double finger snap, 2 is a clap. Mike called out what we had to do, ever faster and we had, as a group, to do the sounds and actions. Then he started to give us new words that we had to develop, as a group, into sounds and actions, and he added them into the mix. Remarkably tricky!

Group monologues
He had us do a set of group monologues, each stepping forward to tell the audience something based off something inspired by the previous speaker. We did this as he encouraged us to step in faster and faster, to try and create a group idea of ideas.

I said a line about how I cycle in swimming trunks in the rain as skin is waterproof. It was suggested that I look at the idea of writing an “Al’s practical guide to life”, maybe including how I pin my socks together in the wash and other strange and wonderful ways I might look at hacking my world through my own prism of logic.

What is my context, if I think one thing, what else might I think? What is inappropriate, what is on a similar vein? This stuff doesn’t belong her but it is still real, how to demonstrate this to the audience. How do I heighten the crazy on through the scene?

What do I hate in my life that I can’t be bothered to change? With that premise, what might I do, what are my reasons, where might I go with it.

Mike had us write a short piece in class, based on some of the stuff already covered.

The Practicalities of Swimming Trunks

I don’t understand why people can’t be more practical. When do you wear swimming trunks? I tend to wear them when it rains, after all my skin is waterproof. I would wear swimming trunks the whole time if I could, they are remarkably versatile, and it’s not just because I like to get naked. Although, everything that is good about swimming trunks is even better naked.

The naked rambler has just been arrested again, and I feel like going to the prison where he is being held captiveand protesting naked outside it, because it is a complete waste of police time to prosecute people for wandering around in the clothes that God gave them. And that is the bizarrest, the people most into God are the ones who get most horrified at the prospect of looking on his work.

Surely the true children of God are those who act as if we are living in the Garden of Eden. Those who are going round trashing the earth because they believe there will be a more glorious afterlife are missing the point, this is the garden of eden, and trashing it is effectively throwing ourselves out of it. They have only themselves to blame though, if God came down and looked at them, he’d say “why are you wearing clothes”. I am not religious myself, so I will continue to wear swimming trunks as a symbol of my blasphemy.

I do get the feeling that God doesn’t really care though, I mean, acts of God seem to be handed down somewhat arbitrarily, to both the good and the bad. And it seems odd that the answer is that the bad are not struck down because they are protected by the devil, because what they are saying is that God won’t look after you if you are good, even if you pray to him, but the devil will look after you even if you don’t believe in him.

That really does sound like a sweet deal, that’s like going to the supermarket and not having to pay but, if you do pay, then the supermarket may decide to send heavies after you, just to test your loyalty to their reward cards.

I hadn’t realised he’d wanted a more monologue style, maybe in the style of a character other than ourselves. The next piece I’ll do (as homework) will be like that.

Talking is obviously more casual than what I wrote above, we want to take the casualness and passion of talking into the written words – a written style that sounds spoken. This is like an improv piece. We are telling the story as the character. Who is this person talking to? This knowledge will inform the monologue. Have fun, maybe try out several different characters telling the story or being told the story, such as the ramblers mother, policeman who arrested him or a historical figure.

Remember Rachael Mason’s character breakdown. Think who, what, where, specifics.

We want to say as much as possible in as few words as possible. Simplify the message. So for my piece above maybe I could be the naked guy, maybe even the naked rambler. I want to be heightening it further through he piece too. And what can I take out without losing anything? Ask “does this bit help, does it heighten, do I need it?” ~ slaughter your babies…

The character’s point of view should be consistent, home in on it, play the shit out of it. Remember, we can say a great deal through what we don’t say. And remember, don’t call out the game, play it. Heightening, maybe go too far.

The easiest writing is writing what you are passionate about. This should therefore be a standard thing we do. As such this fed straight into our homework for this week.

We are to write a piece about something we are passionate about. We are to write it as ourselves.
Also, we are to bring in an idea we’d like to explore further.


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