Two weeks ago MIssImp had the great fortune to spend time in workshops and show with the legendary Susan Messing, What fun. Lots of people have things to say about her, and the improv we did with her. This is the second of a couple of posts about our thoughts.
Re-blogged from sunnysideupadi.wordpress.com
I had heard of Ms Messing indeed, who had been in films such as ‘While You Were Sleeping’ and ‘The Break-Up’ and has done extremely, talented and quirky Improv.
This fabulous, charming, and brutally yet quirkily, outspoken; not at all orthodox (which, by the way, is her personal USP) lady reminded me why I fell in love with Improv in the first place, and that I should keep doing it for myself, rather than trying to prove myself to other people…
The past few weeks/months, I’d felt a lull in my improv, I never got the high because I felt my confidence in it was flat, and I was like the monitor on a life support machine, going ‘beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep’. My improv high was dead. I attended jams, missed 3 in a month recently, due to yes being busy, but also truth be told, not feeling good enough about my improv.
For the first time in a Gorilla Burger, I wanted to be the relish, the coleslaw on the side, or salad leaves on the side, wilted, rather than the juicy fleshy meat waiting to be bitten, with Improv juices running all down my chin, my arms and my boobs. In fact, my nipples were rather dry, for Improv jamming.
So when I attended the [Susan Messing] workshop this week, I got barbequed, grilled, in the hottest way possible. Screw the salad leaves, I was the animal wanting to be put in the burger and eaten!
Read the rest of Adi’s really long and brilliant post here.
What a week! I’m no improv nerd, I don’t know the names and faces of the US improv scene. I’ve got a passing familiarity with the history and some of the major influences, but beyond that I don’t really care. I’ve got plenty of other stuff to geek out about in my life! What I like is adding something new to what I know and feel about improv. I have zero interest in just copying what someone else is doing and I don’t care how successful they are at it. That’s not the point – improv to me is not a formulaic exercise, it’s a continual learning experience of human synthesis. I don’t like being told what to do – it makes me walk away.
So Susan Messing was a blast of fresh air (much like the thunderstorms that accompanied her arrival). Monday and Tuesday were twin three-hour evening workshops on the themes of Joy and Specificity. A lot of it was listening to Susan expound on her feelings about improv and how she continually reinvests in the sheer joy that it gives her. She finds that joy by committing herself to the details and using them to generate and inform characters. It’s a fun approach and it certainly pays off. The organic way of beginning a scene, of discovery that leads to further and frequently more bizarre revelations certainly appeals to me. It’s great to hear someone else describe how you feel about something – hearing it from another’s lips makes it more real and concrete. Susan has numerous mantras that run through the workshops about being immersed in the reality of the scene, sticking to what you’ve established and milking the joy out of it.
I found it useful and I laughed an awful lot. It is always useful for someone else to confirm your experiences and feelings. We’ve had teachers before who have said much the same things about improv, but I’ve rarely encountered anyone who is so passionate about it and who believes so deeply in the art. That impressed me. We also spent a chunk of time with the Fisticuffs team, learning some new ways of playing and reinforcing the group. We talked quite a lot about our hopes for MissImp and what we could achieve together – it feels pretty good and hopeful for the future. Personally I shall take away the feeling of adding to a scene by participating in the world rather than trying to make an entrance funny or valuable as an end in itself, the value and fun of adding detail (something I already enjoy) and remembering and using it later, and of just how much I enjoy playing with my teammates.
We had a show on Wednesday, allowing Fisticuffs to play together and see if we’d picked anything up. It was a great deal of fun, though I felt we were affected by the usual problem of jamming our heads full of information and trying not to trip over it. So unusually it was our group scenes that were the best and funniest rather than our two player scenes. Cool! We were followed by the glorious Project 2 with Chris Mead and Katy Schutte. That’s a sublimely entertaining science fiction longform show, exquisitely crafted out of accident, ingenious choice and raw geekery. Fucking brilliant. The final act was Susan’s UK edition of her long-running show Messing With A Friend, in this case our lad Lloydie. It’s lovely to see other people perform and produce a show unlike any other (hell, ain’t that the whole damn point of improv?) and I think we nailed that as a show – three completely different sets by individuals and groups working together beautifully. Now we should have world peace.