Making it up as I go along
Not FRIENDS. By that I mean, my improv group is a bunch of people who are not the cast of FRIENDS. I have been fortunate enough to take classes at UCB and meet some of the most wonderful, creative, ridiculous people ever. We formed our group and have recently started performing as Not FRIENDS. I learned something last night at a show that I think will have an impact on my acting going forward. I was waiting to go on and another group was improvising, but they never found their 'game,' a critical part of improv comedy. Just playing the scene wasn't enough for me to engage in it. Most things we see on stage or screen, frankly, we've seen it before. What we need to see in a fresh way is perspective. Game is an easy way to achieve this in improv. But how can I translate this into scripted opera? How do I sense that my character is making it up as she goes along...with words that are sometimes centuries old?
I've been mulling this over all day. I'm working my tail off on As One right now. My character, Hannah After, is teaching me a lot. She surprises me by just how much I relate to her. Maybe not her exact experiences, but I've been in her shoes... wondering how I fit in, trying to discover who I am regardless of the pressure of my loved ones with their best intentions to be something else, being harassed & threatened, trying to figure out how to flirt.... I feel her. But the musical lines are so tricky. It goes between strict Glass-ian percussive dictation to lyric expressionism to coloratura runs. I'm realizing that Hannah is making herself up as she goes along. We all are. I do my best to learn how things should be done- to make myself fit into a box... even if just for a moment of understanding where I am. After I've learned that, I start to express myself. And once I've figured out how to do that, I can release into the joy of just being alive. I can forget about all of my plans for a moment and just be. And then I figure out something new and the cycle starts again.
There's a catharsis in this music that I'm just now beginning to understand. There's a game to this opera... it's the push and pull that comes along with becoming one's true self. Self-discovery takes not only courage to plow forward, but takes wisdom to recognize when to digest what's happened and rest enough to find yourself in the moment.
Improv is teaching me the value of being in the moment. Sometimes the things we plan on don't make the impact that we expect. Last night, I had no clue as to how to find game in the scene I walked into. Instead, I listened to my team and we played together to find something new. I hope to bring that sense of play & discovery to every performance.