Monologue-based Format: Here’s Laughing At You, Cancer

A monologist shares a personal story. Ideally one recreating their emotions about a specific  moment with rich details. Performers then replace the speaker on stage with a series of scenes inspired by the monologue. Ideally not just scenes reenacting the recollection but scenes that heighten the ideas of the monologue through new contexts. Maybe the monologist returns to relate another story; maybe not. If monologues separate the format into beats, ideally earlier scenes are referenced in later scenes.

That’s the Monologue-based Format.

The Armando Diaz Experience is a famous one. The Coalition Theater puts up a “Richmond Famous” wherein local public figures are invited to be the monologist.

LINC, the Legal Information Network for Cancer, puts up “Here’s Laughing At You, Cancer” annually as a fundraiser for their efforts to assist income-qualified individuals with legal and financial issues related to their cancer diagnoses (GREAT organization!).

And, yes, the show revolves around monologists sharing stories related to their cancer. Then the performers create scenes based on those monologists. Funny scenes.

And it works. Check it out.

The show’s monologists in order of appearance are: Jim Guy, Lulú de Panbehchi, Keisha Harris and Ann Hodges

The Coaliton performers are Katie Holcomb, Patrick Gantz, Matt Newman, Lauren Serpa and Jim Zarling.

Fantastic videography provided by Joey Tran and Double Take Productions.

Forging an Organic Format: part TWO

The first time it’s random. 

The second time it’s purposeful.

The third time it’s expected.

This progression informs how we build collaboratively in improv, be it in service of a pattern of emotional behavior, a relationship dynamic, a group game, or forging an organic format.

What is necessary to elevate a random occurence into a shared experience?  It requires that second move – the choice to make the first move matter.

Derek Sivers gets it.

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A Harold video example

As said best in Truth in Comedy, “The Harold is like the space shuttle, incorporating all of the developments and discoveries that have gone before it into one new, superior design.” The other way around, Harold’s learnings pack in the lion’s share of what you need to know to do any other long-form, which is why The Coalition teaches students long-form improvisation formats through the lens of The Harold first.

To provide students with an example Harold (Richmond is not, after all, Chicago, New York or Los Angeles where an improviser can see a Harold every night of the week), some of The Coalition’s most experienced players came together to perform the show embedded below. For a group that had never before all done a Harold together, it’s pretty good.

Lights were pulled before we could get to the 3C scene, but several of us had one ready. That’s why improv is a great hobby for people who like to sit around in bars and talk about what they could’ve done.
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Forging an Organic Format: part one

I’m enamored by memories of the Chicago teams “People of Earth” and “American Dream.” Often an audience member remembers a show by the handful of great scenes it produced. These groups of talented improvisers created memorable shows because the scenes built on each other to create a singular experience.
This post aims to provide some guidance to groups that endeavor to perform memorable shows not just memorable scenes.

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SWOT #17 – Playing with Flexible Formats

I like formats.  Playing within The Harold’s dictated structure of Opening, 1A, 1B, 1C, Group Game, 2A, 2B, 2C, Group Game and 3A/B/C an improviser can spend less time on the wings worrying about what to initiate and more time focused on how to initiate.

I like rules.  Rules free us to play Pavlovianly and enable audiences to engage, even subconsciously, in the pattern.  Again, while rules indicate what gets said more creativity can be pumped into how what gets said gets said.

An improv group has a lot on its plate building something collaboratively out of nothing.  A set format and established rules can be helpful spines to flesh out – useful maps on which to erect roadside attractions.  An improv group though that is experienced in a wide swath of formats, a troupe that is working from the same rulebook, can grow to trust in its ability to be flexible.

Sure, at “Harold Night” every show’s content will be different and of-the-moment.  And, sure, a known format, like The Armando, can foster a loyal crowd week after week.  But.  But if a group of improvisers who know each other, trust each other and share the same language can get on stage and follow each other into a format made up in-the-moment?  That’s improv as improv does best.

Flexible Format Capable Ensembles

If this Weakness is identified, the following posts may prove helpful in coaching to the Opportunity:
* Kick The Duck Red Rover
* Flexible Long Form “Formats”
* Establishing Organic Forms