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The native son returns... [May. 15th, 2009|12:05 am]
First PGraph tour is booked!

Thursday, July 9th. Boston (Boston Improv Theater)
Friday, July 10th. Providence (Perishable Theater)
Saturday, July 11th. NYC (The PIT)
Tuesday July 14th. Philadelphia. (The Philadelphia Improv Theater)
Thursday, July 16th. Baltimore (The Hamilton Arts Collective)
Friday, July 17th. Delaware (A Library!)
Saturday July 18th. Carrboro, NC (DSi)

With workshops in Boston/Providence, NYC, Phillie. More workshops being added!

Spread the word to your east coast brethren!
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(no subject) [May. 10th, 2009|10:02 pm]
This weekend I was a Vaudeville performer, a starship crew member, and an Elizabethan actor.

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(no subject) [May. 8th, 2009|12:18 am]
Badr & Janik show was really fun tonight.

That Janik's damn talented. I am thankful I get to share a stage with him so frequently.
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(no subject) [May. 1st, 2009|03:51 pm]
I just signed a lease for The Hideout Theatre.
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Inviting the devil [Apr. 26th, 2009|02:25 pm]
[Tags|, ]
[music |Mike Doughty - Nectarine]

I've been thinking a lot about details in storytelling lately. "Be specific" is a common mantra in both writing and improvisational theatre. Instead of saying "I saw a movie today", saying "I saw Evil Dead II today" is generally thought of to be a better choice, due to its specificity.

For a long time, I appreciated this idea, but couldn't really articulate its usefulness in improv. I just knew it was better to be specific because it felt better. It felt more complete. As a performer, I think being specific forces your brain to generate details and ideas that you otherwise wouldn't have considered. It helps you feel more "grounded" in your character (oh, how improvisers love that term) but what use is it really to the audience? How does it serve the overall piece?

While listening to music in my car yesterday, I was reminded of something that I think I learned in a creative writing class. Specificity is much more than a "best practice" or a parlor trick. Specific details engage your audience. They entice the inherent story-telling part of our brains.

This is one of the lyrics that reminded me of that. It's from Mike Doughty's "Thank You Lord For Sending Me The F Train".

your polaroid is on the wall
stuck in the crack between the door and door-frame
trapped in the middle of some laugh
some drunken joke some friend of yours was telling

That lyric is a great example. All he's saying is "there's a photo of you on the wall." but the details pop in my mind as I listen to it and I can feel my brain scrambling to assemble a larger image of this scene. The old-looking apartment with thick molding. The faded (my brain insists it's faded) polaroid crammed into a spot not typically used for photos. The party/gathering that happened late into the night when the photo was taken. If Doughty had just said "there's a photo of you on the wall", my mind would have treated it with the same laziness that went into the construction of the sentence. Providing no specific details makes my mind just a passenger along for the ride. Adding just one or two details, possibly picked in this context simply for how the words sounded together, makes my mind absorb the imagery and construct a world around it. I am completely sucked in and more invested for any turn the story might take.

There are countless examples of this on my iPod. Specificity teases at a bigger story and our brains want to make sense of it and construct a world where the details fit. It very much ties into Johnstone's Circle of Expectations concept. Give an audience a completely blank stage and anything is possible and they are passive watchers, in a way. Walk onto the stage and establish that it's cold and dank and their brains race off (into the future, into the past), trying to figure out what sort of world this place exists in.

I am going to play with this concept more in the next few months and see what happened. (Assuming I can remember to do it when I walk onto the stage. I have a possibly-bad habit of forgetting everything that's happened before the moment the lights come up.)
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Look at Season, Michael! [Mar. 30th, 2009|02:22 pm]
This has been brewing in my head for a while, and I was too lazy to write it, and figured that it would interest no one. But then I realized, where better to publish something that no one cares about than a blog?

If you haven't watched Arrested Development in its entirety, click away.

I like Arrested Development a lot. I think the first season is brilliant for its timing, its pace and ridiculous characters. Season 2 was less impressive to me, but it was still really enjoyable. Both seasons hold up nicely over time.

I'm pretty sure that I've come to the conclusion that the third season is just plain bad. Or maybe the first half of the third season is decent, but once the producers knew they were getting canceled, they went kind of crazy and sacrificed the integrity and creativity of the show. The show ends with a series of plot points that highlight the producers' off-camera business relationship with FOX, and inside jokes and references to previous seasons' jokes and gags. I realized the last time I watched the season that it feels very much to me like the desperate end to some improv shows. Quickly throwing call-backs and references at the audience to get a knee-jerk laugh reaction, trying to find the one that gets the laugh big enough to end the show.

Arrested Development did this sort of self-indulgent self-referencing so much towards the end, that I was distracted. When I watched it for the first time, I remember laughing. After a few years, it doesn't hold up to repeated viewings at all. I'm trying to remember specific examples, but there were a lot of jokes/gags they did specifically because they mirrored jokes that were in the first season (I'll add a list if I can make the effort to watch Season 3 again.) But in the new context, they weren't funny at all. It was as if the writers were saying "Hey, remember when you laughed at this thing before? Well here it is again with a different character. Please laugh." But in the new context it wasn't funny at all.

They also went crazy with celebrity cameos. Celebrities like...William Hung. They tried to justify it with some sort of hipster-ironic "Look, we're getting stupid celebrities on TV. Isn't it so stupid when shows do that?" But the fact remains...they were doing exactly what they were parodying. And just a few years later, I watch the show and have to process who this person is and why they're on the show. They basically dated themselves horribly for the sake of a really weak gag. Now, to their credit, their use of Burger King in half of an episode, all while talking about selling out and featuring a sponsor's product in a TV show, was a much more creative and amusing take on a similar idea. That landed much better for some reason.

Their increasingly bitter shots at FOX for canceling them just became far too self-aware and pulled me out of the show every time. Like when Michael was talking about being acquired by the Home Builders Organization. "HBO? No, they won't touch us." Jokes like that made me chuckle a little, but ultimately just felt like mean gallows humor. I guess my main problem with the season is that it felt like it became *about* being canceled, rather than just having that as a secondary plot.

This doesn't give me much hope for the possible Arrested Development movie.
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(no subject) [Mar. 14th, 2009|08:36 pm]
Eat, TV. Eat, TV. Eat, Target, TV, Eat, TV.

Home with family.

Kacey's surviving.

I have a headache and could use a drink. Or maybe coffee. Or both!

TJ & Dave, then Uchi on Monday!

T Model Ford on Tuesday!

Val Day and Decemberists-squatting on Wednesday!

Good week ahead!
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(no subject) [Mar. 3rd, 2009|06:29 pm]
I can't believe I never noticed it before, but the editing/ADR is really sloppy and noticeable in Arrested Development. I guess it's a bi-product of using a single camera setup with a cast that was good at improvising (or poor at sticking to the script.) It's kind of distracting.

I can think of maybe two people who will read this who remotely care.
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(no subject) [Feb. 23rd, 2009|12:03 pm]
I don't know if allergen levels were high yesterday, but I felt terrible. By 9pm or so, the left side of my face was throbbing. Felt like a sinus problem, or a very localized migraine. Not pleasant. Anytime I have that pain, it's always in the same half of my head. Maybe it's an alien implant.
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So it's come to this? [Feb. 18th, 2009|10:18 am]
Last night Kacey and I were watching TV and a car commercial was playing. Hyundai, I think. The whole pitch of the commercial was reassuring people about the bad economic times. At the end, the hook was that if you "lose your source of income in the first year of owning the new car, we'll take it back." My mouth was agape. Before I could say anything, Kacey said "Wow. It's come to that already?"

Apparently it has. Smile everyone. We're fucked!
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