Oh man, if you’re a student and you haven’t seen Hot For Teacher yet, please make reservations for next week immediately.
Last night’s cast: Ari Voukydis, Chelsea Clarke, Kevin Hines, Ben Rameaka, Ryan Karels and Silvija Ozols.
In homage to Becky Drysdale and Christina Gausas (both headed west to Los Angeles), Ari has been paying tribute to the ladies or will be doing so in the month of April by using the Let’s Have a Ball form.
The performers take three suggestions up top, last night being a word, a compliment and something you overheard on the train. Then, they pair up and do two person scenes. After each pair has gone, all six performers jump on stage and do a set with characters already established or nuggets they heard along the way. There are also an insane amount of connections and callbacks.
Things worth pointing out from last night include Ben’s sincerity in playing one hell of a middle school kid—Tweety as Kevin aptly named him. The yes and-ing in this set was on point as it should be I suppose. These are the people who teach us the commandments of improv, only makes sense that they practice them.
In class, Will always talks about how much enjoyment an audience gets from just saying yes to a statement or offer your scene partner has made, it’s so true and it happened so much in this set…with all the performers.
One that immediately jumps to mind involves Ben and Kevin. Brief synopsis of the back story, they stumble into a basement where there stepfather has apparently murdered a man and shoved him in a barrel. Kevin is a tough older brother on the verge of turning 16—he’s got a rebellious streak, Ben is a young asthmatic wimp who can’t fend for himself—very loveable. Long short, Dad died in a coal mine, this new douche guy came along, mother’s rich so likely not leaving anytime soon but just a REAL sleaze.
After being struck with fear because his caterpillar nightlite dies, Ben attempts to get in bed with his mum but the step dad isn’t having it, so he sleeps in a towel closet, on a towel which still smells like his Dad. Kevin’s character is at first bummed Ben didn’t come to his room since he’s taken on that father role to him.
Ta-da! JUSTIFICATION: Ben explains that he didn’t want to get into Kevin’s bed because Kevin’s character had told a story about their gay uncles who loved lacrosse, complimenting each others swim trunks and sleeping in the same bed. Kevin just accepted it, "Yes, that’s the exact story I told you, you’re right don’t you dare come into my bed if you get scared at night," the response got such a HUGE laugh. Why? Because Ben just took a minute of stage time to enrich their shared history and it would have been a big let down to see Kevin come out and just say, NO, you can get in my bed ANYTIME! Even though he SAID no (verbally) to Ben actually getting in bed, the improviser said yes, in accepting Ben’s offer that Kevin’s character thought two men in a bed was a gay thing. I thought that was pretty fucking cool.
Endow yourself/scene partners. Chelsea and Ryan started the show and were basically high school students doodling in a classroom somewhere. For the first maybe, three minutes of the scene, Chelsea and Ryan played a game where Chelsea looked up to and wanted to be Ryan cause he was so good at doodling and being a cool kid. Sure, that could have sustained but the direction they took it in was much more fun. Ryan endowed Chelsea with the gift of being advanced at sexual encounters and other ‘relationship’ stuff, in essence, her character was also cool but for all the wrong reasons. The game then transitioned into each of them finding ways to flatter the other while playing down their own finer points, from their they just heightened to the max.
Watching Chelsea is always a treat because she does this so well, BUT so does Ryan, so seeing the two of them last night was just like a game move machine. Two mechanics hard at work. We heightened to a place of teenagers having sex with teachers, but not really caring. Also, it never got weird. They played their characters and just committed to choices they made which I think is important when you’re invested in the scene and have progressed so far. If Cheslea (a woman) playing this sort of bad boy guy fucking everything character, winced at the idea of having to sleep with teachers/students/rip ladies bras off till they bleed so her character could amass four draws worth to go home at night and sniff them…if she ever winced or half-way committed to that notion, it would have ruined the scene. Because they did the legwork in the beginning of the scene they earned the right to blow the lid off. Make bold choices and play them truthfully.
Finally, connections. Don’t shoe horn them, it feels forced. Last night when they connected scenes and characters, it seemed effortless. That said, I can’t present any examples except for Kevin’s character dashing about town. Oh wait, here’s something. If we talk a lot about a character that we don’t get to see in a first or second beat (or maybe we reference them, as doing nothing but talking about someone not in a scene would be bad), it’s rewarding to see that person later in the show. When Chelsea came out to be the awful murderous step dad, I think we were all pleased. Food for thought.
Sorry i’ve been absent, work has unfortunately consumed my life a lot lately. I’ve still got Grandma’s Ashes’ Final Harold notes to get through (tear) but YAY for their new weekend show: Grandma’s Ashes Gets Dark which starts this Saturday, April 7th at 10:30pm. Reservations still available by clicking the link.