By John G. Kalinowski 1/20/2018

Before I start teaching a new round of classes, I like to go back to notes I've taken from instructors and books throughout the years. Here are some notes from a workshop I took from Joe Bill from Chicago in 2006. 

Scenes Occur with:




Action and Emotion are the strongest places for scenes. Talk is where most scenes are.

Scenes should be balanced with different energies. They should also be balanced regarding where they come from in the action/emotion/talk spectrum.

There are three things one can focus on in a scene:

1.  Yourself

2.  Your partner(s)

3.  Your Environment

If ever you run out of things or get stuck on one of them, go to another. Searching for balance, if a scene is mostly about oneself, the next should be about partner or environment.

Scenes should be dynamic. The only pure emotions are love and fear and everything else is a mixture.  It’s fuck or flight. There are two ways to get there: Curiosity and suspicion.  

Stage problem: the natural instinct in love scenes or arguments is to go toward each other. On stage, however, no one will ever actually fight. No one will ever actually fuck. There may be a stage kiss, but it will never be enough. Stage combat is eh, okay. Just allow the distance between the two of you to work for you both.

Give yourself selfish gifts. Name the things you want and why you want them. Give yourself a stake in the matter and tell why something is important to you. That will always give you something to return to.   

Edit Options: the “Bolt”. In a two person scene, one drops character and quickly bolts out. This theatrical gesture means the character is still there even though the person is not. Also, an improvisor can theatrically place a chair on stage. This chair must be used somehow in the next scene.

Really listen to the other character.

Improvisers spend much of their time moving objects, but rarely do the objects move us.

Figure out an object and what it is. Let it process through the mind, heart, gut/groin and figure out what it means.  

Difference between short and long form is the audience tension:

Short form: the audience tension is will they execute the game they have explained, and will they do it in an interesting way.

Long form: the audience tension is whether or not they believe you.

In long form, everything should take three times longer than you think it should take.  

Feel free to throw in your Chekov, Brecht, self-indulgent acting shit and do that stuff too. If a scene breaks out that is it so serious that it makes people not want to be alive, then that is fine.

Firework Shows
By Sebastian Inks 10/21/17

I want you to picture fireworks in your head. Think about what they look like. What color. Think about what you associate with fireworks. For me, fireworks are big, in the air, loud, attention-grabbing, confident and always putting on a show. The colors are bright and the noise echoes through a night sky with every explosion being another SCREW YOU NEIGHBORS! Each firework works with the next to create a symphony of color and light. Every firework serves as a very specific piece in the overall show being created. I would say there's three types of firework the first being "The Focal Point." The Focal Firework sets the scene for the other fireworks to decorate around. The Focal Firework is the largest of them all and always sets the mood. However seeing one firework in the sky can only be interesting for so long. The Second Firework is "The Glance Firework." The Glance comes second and it's either slightly left or right or behind the Focal. The Glance’s job is to complement the focal point and make it look as good as possible. Whatever the Focal Firework is doing the Glance is trying to make look better. The Third Firework is the "Peripheral Firework." You know it's there but you never need to look at it for more than a second. The peripheral weaves in and out, waiting on the sides trying to find moments that will really make the other fireworks stand out. Whether it’s the addition of movement in squiggly lines or the extra sound of high pitch tone the peripheral doesn’t want attention. It only tries to help. The show is great and the crowd loves it, women are throwing their tops and men are throwing their panties. Everyone is wild and hyped because of what they just saw. Then it fades away never to be done again.

Here's the thing about fireworks. The show is great because of the careful prep. the aim, the packing, mixing the ingredients so that they explode at the right height and time. It's all of the mistakes along the way. It's starting over. It's trying something new to push the craft. It's everything we don't see. The Mechanics of a firework are what make the show. Without solid mechanics, the show wouldn't get off the ground.

If you missed it that was an analogy for improv. Boom.

When the Lights Come Up
By Sebastian Inks 7/13/17

We've been interested in starting a blog for quite some time now but have always been unsure how to start. That's the thing about improv: we never know how it's going to start. No matter how much practice the team goes through we will never know how the show goes go until we do it. So with that in mind we will never know how this blog goes unless we do it. 

What happens before the lights go up? Everyone is different, but personally it's the most terrifying and rewarding experience. The music blaring, heart beating, sweat beading, team bonding, voice echoing, chatter fading, chairs scraping, wooden floor creaking, darkness surrounding, creative energy doing everything it can to start escaping until a voice from the speakers says "Welcome to the stage Mad Cowford". The lights go up and then there's a moment... everything stops for a split second.  I'm looking at you and you look back at me. You and I try to feel each other out in a 2 second tango. Then the music stops, the sweat rolls and the show begins. That's what happens for me. As performers the cast knows they will get a suggestion. That's all, the rest of the show is unknown to us. The truth is we don't even know what the suggestion will be but we've promised you a show. We come out and there is nothing but air until you provide a suggestion. It's like jumping out of a plane and waiting for someone else to pull the cord. You are the ones that start the creative engine. That's the fun in it.  Every time the stage lights turn on we start to fall. Plummeting until you pull the cord at which point the team unravels into a parachute and the steady flight to the end of the show begins. That's enough of the metaphors. If you have seen our show you know it's high energy, physical, and smart, but most importantly it's funny. If you haven't seen one then I invite you to come and see for yourself. I invite you specifically...because the show is for you, it's about you, it's made by your thoughts. The audience is both a welcome friend and an equally dangerous foe. Your laughter carries us and your silence crushes. Come take a risk and see. I have one question for you. What will you create?