Level 3 with Jason Shotts, a proper introduction to a level!

This class was pretty amazing, we covered so much ground, I wrote more notes for this one class for any other class I’ve done here in Chicago so far.

We started off with a warm up exercise to help us remember each other’s names. As Jason put it, “saying people’s names makes a room 40% less weird”
In a circle, someone would say “Yes” and point at someone else, who would do the same.
This developed into saying our own name and pointing.
Into saying the person’s name we were pointing at.
Into pointing and looking at someone, while saying someone else’s name.

What is “easy” vs what is “hard”
One of the things level 3 is about is making things easy by teaching us to get out of our own way.

Jason’s Nuggets
Be at the top of the stage, be forwards.

Drop the Improv voice. This level is about being more of ourselves, using our own voices a bit.
Remember, every line is about us.
Present people to the audience first.
So, in this class we are finding out who we are, not a character on stage.
Think about somebody in your life you can be relaxed around. Be that relaxed in class, be that real, no pretence.

The second person to speak makes the first line important.

It is not our job to look for conflict, it is our job to look for meaning.

Our scene partner has to have meaning. We must care about them as much as for ourselves. They must be meaningful to us ourselves.
Body language – my job is my partner, not my audience. My attention and my intention is towards my partner. Chest face to them rather than the audience.

From the very first line, be asking the questions that find meaning:
A line is delivered, the second person thinks
“who is this person to me?”
“what is this person really saying to me?”
“how does it make me feel?”
All within the context that I must care for this person.

Our job is to be hungry to know what is going on, taste our food, savour the information and seek more.

Commitment is smacking the chest to say what is going on. When asked a question by the teacher, know the answer in a chest slapping way. Shrugging the answer out is a novice’s attitude to improv. Smack your chest, bring it home. The veteran knows the answer to the question asked.
Let your partner know they are important to you from the get go.

When TJ is playing with a student, he looks them in the eye and says hey – he is letting them know they are important to him “We are in this together”.

The first line is a boat. Let the second line be the jump into the boat.
Suck it up, savour it, roll it around in the mouth. Find meaning in it. The meaning comes from our gut, it tells us, listen to it, listen to the detail.

Feel and know the meaning.
– show it to the audience through emotion.
We externalise the emotion to show the audience themselves through us.

Statements over questions – statements help our scene partner react.

Take every line and its meaning. Make it affect you. Make it have more meaning. It’s about them.
This is about breaking down the shell, allowing the vulnerable, being affected by things.

Think of your scene partner as more important than you. On stage we are a steaming pile of dog shit, but our partners are geniuses and we want to listen and feel them.

The truth trumps everything. Our truth. Allow what your partner says to hit you in the chest.

Put yourself in a place where you are conflicted. Do stuff you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to try something, try it, if you don’t want to go first, go first.

Start a scene in neutral. The more loaded the first line, the more my scene partner will have to work.

Don’t play the archetype of any character. Play the version of the character that is you. This will surprise the audience much more than some cliche. Say what you would say. Be the heightened version of yourself.

When you hear a line, think to yourself, “what you just said means so much to me”. The cut to the chase, say it outright, say the meaning. Don’t pussyfoot around things, say it, that is the start of the scene, that is where the scene develops from.

Enjoy that moment of meaning.

The first line can be monumental if you let it be.

As soon as an improv scene starts, there is tension for the audience – they worry for you. Give them details. This releases tension (which is why they laugh when they hear these simple details). So, give them details, give them names, locations etc. These details and the specificity make the world real for you too. It becomes more solid, safer, less tense, easier to play.

Put the truth – the real meaning of the relationship – to your scene partner. Be honest, What does your gut tell you is happening?
Face your scene partner, the audience is not there. Your thoughts of the meaning is where the scene starts.

Jason had us shut our eyes in a scene – Picture yourself in a universe, think about what you’d really feel.
“I want you to be the you when you are out with really close friends and you’ve a couple of pints in you”

Anger is the easiest emotion to play because it is defensive. But it doesn’t allow you to be affected. When you are affected, you are able to build something.
When we get on stage, we get to dare that we care about someone.

Every time I see you get affected by me, that has to also affect me. If you are hurt by me, I must feel your hurt, because I care.

If the suggestion gives you stress, drop it.
Feel yourself taken care of by spacework. Feel stable at the beginning of the scene.

The first thing to do when you get the suggestion, check in with your scene partner.

Think about how can we sound like people as if no one is listening.
Relationship = how do we relate to each other as people – who are we to each other?

Smile, everything is fine – smile, if you need to, force it!

Just say it. Whatever you think it is in your gut, say it. Nail it down, let everyone know.
Feel the reality of the scene. How does the scene make me feel.
Don’t use pronouns in describing scenes, lay it out specifically.

In these scenes, you are fighting to lose, fighting to be the most vulnerable. Don’t soothe or negotiate, accept and feel.
Fight to lose – “what is wrong with me?”

Make the active choice. Don’t negotiate, feel it like a slap in the chest – and then show it!

Let it hit you!

There is more power in hurt than in anger.
So, be hurt, not angry. Show it. Show hope.
Remember, show it, don’t tell it.

95% of communication is non verbal. The audience will believe you actions over your words, so whatever your words, your actions are what grips the audience.

Start on stage in neutral – not switched off; engine running, in neutral, ready to go.
Everything’s fine! So, smile, don’t create problems – everything’s fine.

We are human beings who know how to relate to other human beings. Show what you know.

What is on your mind right now? Don’t go looking for stuff, you don’t need to invent anything clever, that real stuff right in front of you is more interesting. Be truly yourself – as if you were talking to a close friend in an intimate fashion.

Don’t bullshit us about stuff you don’t know about, it is much better to talk about stuff you do know about.

We are all losers, so don’t be defensive. The best way to defend and protect your friend is to jump into his or her boat with both feet. No matter what they say, you are there with them.
Don’t be dicks to each other, try to be the bigger loser.

Can I get into my partner’s boat? Try to relate. Don’t try to find solutions, don’t negotiate, accept. If your partner says something, they are right.

Say “We” statements – they are stronger, more powerful.
“Is there something wrong with me?”
is not as strong as
“Is there something wrong with us?”

Things have to have meaning. The biggest meaning possible. What can it mean – what they said, how they said it, what they were doing as they said it? That bigger thing, that thing that you understand, that is what you react to.

Fred died. Who is Fred? The hamster? That is small meaning. The husband? bigger meaning. The son who was waiting for a new liver?

Find the meaning, and then show me how important it is to you!
Do this at a 10. Do it as if we cannot hear – so show it.

This is about making your scene partner count. Don’t create problems.

A Harold is in 3 parts.

The first part is Banter, which gives the information to react to, the second part is the Reaction to the banter that requires the justification, The third part, the end, is the Justification of the reaction.

If you say something, it is important. Soothing is denying that reality (as is negotiating), finding a solution means that it no longer stays important.
Your job is to help it stay important.

Be the same as your scene partner. This is jumping into their boat. The rookie move is to be different, the experienced improviser will jump in with both feet. Do it, build together.


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