August 14th, 2006

by the lake

San Franciso travelogue

So I got to San Francisco Sat night, and took the BART to union station. Andy was late, but he showed up with a box of chocolates (I hinted at a choc and rose welcome :-P). We're staying at his sister's friend's house (richmond area), and moving to the downtown hostel today.

Woke up way too early on Sun, at 7 am. Then we had too much dim sum, watched Entourage, went walking to Haight street, stumbled onto a park which took us on a hike up and up until we could see San Francisco spread down before us. It was the Buena Vista park. Very pretty. On our way up, we stopped by and I made Andy do a sketch of a tree. Then he made me do a haiku to a tree. It took me too long to come up with something so Andy said, just write 5 haikus. You're taking too long to try and be awesome.
Here's 2 of them:

I like the sound that
trees make when dancing in the
quiet afternoon

If I was a tree
I'll bear my fruits in winter
I am impatient

Afterwards we had the most awesome Indian food. Really yummy lamb tandoori. Then we rushed of to BATS, which is located in such a pretty place, by the ocean, near fields of luscious grass. Where we watched Meastro by Johnstone. Improv details in a saperate post.

We met up with James at BATS and Andy wanted to hang out with the Sunday players afterwards, but none of them seem to be going out. So we hanged out with James and his animation/art friends at a Thai food place. Then James gave us a ride home.

Improv Notes: Keith Johnstone's Maestro

Disclaimer: This is my point of view, unless specifically stated otherwise. And if you know me, you know how my point of view can be sometimes :-P
(I'll put an editted version on the improv forum)

We went to see the Sunday Players do Maestro, which was co-directed by Keith and Casey (?). Andy says that the Sunday Players are rookie players at BATS, they're not in the BATS company.

Some things that were different about their Maestro:
- Their big score board (that also breaks down in pieces) has numbers and names. And they had 16 players play.
- They have a sofa (a trick sofa), and a bed (!) that they roll into the stage whenever the directors request it.
- Players wear a vest with their big numbers on it.
- They took a 10 minute break.
- They had 2 lightning rounds and the lightning round was really a lightning round. Super fast. Some scenes were ending in 5 or 10 mins.
- They have a saperate score keeper, an MC (who does the is this a 1, a 2?..) and 2 directors.

My take
- The Sunday players were weak compared to Austin's regular Maestro players. They asked a lot of questions, didn't take risks, etc. But more from Keith below.
- There were 2 Japanese people who played. And the Japanese woman won, she was especially hillarious. They seemed to not speak English very well, the man spoke better. But at one point, they had to do a scene where they were San Franciscans who just discovered that their neighbour was a republican. And the woman totally seemed lost and at one point a director said: "Unleast a liberal tirade against your republican neighbour!"
The two Japanese looked at each other, then just committed and spread their arms wide and gave a big happy silly looking grin.
Anyways, the woman really made me laugh out loud throughout the show. It's awesome I think because they really have to improvise and commit to something, even though they don't understand it.
- Maestro can be very gaggy and overactingy, I told this to Andy and he said: only when it's bad.

Keith Johnstone's notes on Meastro:
- He seems to like keeping scenes positive. When eliminating people, he told them to eliminate in groups because it gives them shelter. Also, in SF they push the eliminated folks to the left and keep their names there. He says to remove them, so they don't feel like losers. Andy noted later that in Austin, the names are pushed off the board roughly, and so he should remove them with more respect.
- Be simple in MC-ing. If you tell people to score a 1 if a scene made that vomit, or to score a 5 if a scene makes the angels sing, you're telling them not to score 1 or 5s. He says to just say: If you don't like a scene, give it a 1, if you like a scene, give it a 5.
He seems to like simple directions, not even mentioning that they take suggestions, because the audience will figure it out.
- He noted that there was several overdirecting. But it is hard to get the balance between overdirecting and underdirecting.
- Question game: He wanted the players to try to lose because that's what the audience wants. If you can't lose, fake to lose. Lose! Be more good natured.
- "Mime is intellectual". He wanted actual newspaper props and a messy stage.
- Be real. If you say something, justify it. Have a reason to say it instead of just being funny.
- And he told the Sunday players: I'm glad we had 2 lightning rounds. Because it showed your talents. You are very witty. But don't do well in extended scenes. (Ouch)
He told them that it was a tough meastro, both to direct and play. He wanted them to take more risks.
- He wanted their Canadian bill to be framed (which we do in Austin), it is used mainly to control the audience's applause. He told them to ask if anyone thinks that x shouldn't be Maestro, 1 or 2 asses might applaud, and then to ask, if you think that x should be Maestro? So that the applause will be more rousing.
- He said something about people are afraid to complete an action, or don't know what to do when they complete an action. He says have a second scene, but you can also give purpose to the action. So if you're scrubbing the floor, find a crack in it.

Phew, that should be enough improv notes.