A little over a month ago, Will Hines, a well-known teacher from the UCB, and I started a new segment on our blogs where we decided we would each solicit questions from the improv community and share our answers with you. (By the way, check out Will’s great improv blog, too: http://improvnonsense.tumblr.com/)
We had such fun with the first segment that we decided to bring it back and do it again. I love getting all of your improv questions and passing on some of my experience to you. Keep the questions coming!
Q: What steps do you recommend for a troupe that does almost exclusively short-form/game-y improv, but is looking to add a bit of Harold or other long-form work into their repertoire? Is there a certain form that is a natural starting point?
Jimmy: When making the transition from short form to long form, it’s more import to focus on scene work, especially two-person scenes, than form. That is the foundation for most long-form: good, solid scene work. Don’t ever lose site of this. I see way too many improvisers when they are first starting out worrying about form before they have their scene work down. It is very frustrating to watch. NO form is a substitute for good scene work.
The other skill you’ll need to work on besides doing good scene work will be editing. This can be a bit tricky since you are going from more structured short-form games to a more unstructured long-form piece. My suggestion is to keep it super simple at first, and I think “Montage” would be a very safe place to start before going into the Harold. Montage can be played in various ways. Most ways I am familiar with feature a series of unrelated scenes that you edit from the back line or from the sides with a sweep edit. You have the option to bring characters back, but I would not concern yourself at the beginning with trying to get to fancy. If that happens organically, by all means take advantage of it.
Once you get comfortable with “Montage” and you feel you have your scene work down and your editing is up to speed, then I would move on to the complex forms.
Will: I’m spoiled since I learned improv at a long-form theatre that already had a pretty big audience (UCB Theatre in New York). So I’ve never done short-form, or had to build a long-form audience.
But another UCB teacher named Brandon Gardner has thoughts on this because his alma mater’s improv troupe is trying to get into more long-form. Here’s the article: http://collegeimprovadviser.tumblr.com/post/109552369613/transitioning
If you have a question you’d like to ask us, just let us know. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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