Fourth week, second day of class: Group work

Today began normally with warm-up exercises but quickly morphed into something very cool. At the Second City, the shows have two acts. There is also a free, improvised “third act” that the actors put on after every show. The old process of coming up with the content for these third acts was called “the pad method.” In this, the actors ask the audience for a long list of four different categories of suggestions— something like location, famous person, things that are used to be in style, and then a common phrase. We made a long list like that as a class and then split into two groups. Usually, the actors in a show have about fifteen minutes to brainstorm all the scenes and cast them, so Sam gave us that same amount of time. Within the two groups, we picked two of the suggestions and pitched a scene to our group. We cast the scene and then made a running order with all the scenes in our group. There were two large group scenes and a few other smaller scenes. We then discussed the scenes as a group and talked about the scenes that made the biggest impression on us.

We then started discussing a gym game/Jim set where the audience gives a similar list of emotions, things on your mind, things in the news, and celebrities you genuinely care about. From there, we formed a back line (where actors stand at the back of the stage and jump in at any point to join in an improv scene) to perform combos of the suggestions. This exercise was hard for me because the suggestions were very specific. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the suggestions and so I struggled coming up with scenes. For homework, Sam had us choose a scene to write a beat sheet for. Beat sheets are a general sketch of how we imagine the scene should go. I chose to write about the scene I proposed for the pad set.

In writing, we cast and performed our homework scenes. These scenes were supposed to be an example of something we do best. I tend to draw from my own experience and write grounded characters who inadvertently make a point or have a meaningful point of view. My scene went well and I enjoyed performing in my classmates’ scenes too. We then watched one of Anthony’s previous shows, Soul Brother, Where Art Thou? which was an e.t.c Second City show in 2015. The show was extremely political and was set like an action movie, ending credits and all. It is super cool hearing directly from the director of a show at Second City, especially about the behind-the-scenes drama and production process. For our homework, Anthony split us into groups of three and assigned each group a part of a typical revue. My group got the audience interaction and blackout section, so we will see how these go! Our themes are alternative history, corrupt rulers, and big personalities.

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