Tag Archives for improv
Musical hot spot is an improv warm up game, which used to to also be performed on stage an iO in Chicago. The version we use in Australia a botched version of the original, which supposedly gets you in the moment, out of your head and in a good happy mood. The problem is that not only doesn’t it work, but it can also have a negative affect and actually get people into their heads.
The game starts with everyone in a circle. Either a word suggestion is given as an offer, or someone just thinks of a song, but one person then jumps into the middle and starts singing and dancing to a song. Everyone in the circle then sings and dances along. If you don’t know the song, you still commit to singing and dancing by either copying or doing your own thing, but the point is to support the person in the middle. When anyone in the circle is reminded of a different song by one of the words being already sung, then they jump into the middle singing and dancing to the new song. The previous person in the middle rejoins the circle and the circle now sings and dances along with the new person in the middle. And so on ad infinitum, or often ad tedium. There’s also a bunch of other notes given about supporting the person in the middle etc but basically that’s the game.
I remember being in a musical hot spot many years ago which was like an audition for Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Bette Midler impersonators. I didn’t know most of the songs, and I hated the ones I did. In fact I thought we’d invented punk so we didn’t have to listen to crap like that. It was not a fun warm up, in fact I hated it, especially since I had to spend the whole game pretending that I was enjoying myself, and it just served to make me even more pissed off and in my head.
The problem is that the game assumes that everyone likes all styles of music, particularly pop music. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, in fact my passion for music usually exceeds most people I’ve improvised with, and the styles of music I like are definitely more wide and varied than most people. It’s just that the songs chosen in musical hot spot are usually popular crap that reflect the average age group and interests of those playing the game, regardless whether anyone likes or even knows them.
Of course people can always jump in the middle and sing a song they do know and like, and I guess it encourages prople to keep jumping into the middle. But what generally happens then is that the people who picked all the crappy pop songs then rarely support the obscure ones because they’re not use to doing so, and the person with the exception can end up being externalised from the group because they don’t seem to be working with the group’s choices.
The Australian version of Musical hot spot is a bad improv warm up game. It assumes people have a certain popular and mundane musical taste, rewarding those who do, and punishing those who don’t. You can’t fake being in the moment, and there is no place in improv for warm up games which encourage you to do so.
I’m an improv nut. For the last five years on average, I’ve played in two shows a week. I went to other peoples’ shows when I could, some multiple times, and much of the time just out of support, not because they’re great shows or anything. I’ve also put on (directed, produced, whatever) more shows/seasons than I can remember, and yet, I still can’t get people along to see my most innovative shows.
You could say, “well maybe you’re just shit.” I’m not, but there’s an old improv saying “you’re only as good as the last show I saw you in”, so maybe the last time people saw me was many many years ago? Still, some of my friends don’t even come, even the players who I’ve played with recently, so its not like they’re over seeing Richard do yet another improv show. Its like they consciously just don’t want to come and see something new that I’m in.
Initially I thought it might be because they weren’t cast in the show, maybe they’re just jealous they’re not in it, so they refuse to come. That can’t be the case, because I don’t believe my friends, or even players, would be that petty. And anyway, its just one show of many, so big deal. When I first started, I would go and see every show I could, even the ones I wasn’t interested in. Some of these I would have liked to be in, but that’s just life, even if you’re the best improvisor in town, the group mind is more important in a cast than how skilled you are. Successful shows, even if you’re not in them, mean more shows to play in, and that’s just good for everyone.
Then I thought maybe its the “well, you didn’t come and see mine”, but that’s also petty. If I didn’t see their show, then its probably because I was just plain couldn’t make it, and I usually try to apologise for that anyway.
Maybe players just don’t want to see different types of improv beyond Sydney’s formulaic short form. I can understand that from some, that’s all they play. But there are a lot of Sydney people who’ve recently got the long form bug, yet few of those come to my shows either.
So finally I figure maybe its just that I’m not good at publicity. I’m not a professional publicist, and my shows are pretty niche so can’t cost justify one, but I know for sure that with the publicity we do that the Sydney improv community well and truly know when my shows are on.
I don’t know. It makes you want to stop doing shows, both innovating and playing. It would be so easy to just revert back to playing in regular Theatresports shows and be done with it. In fact its probably easier to just move away altogether and back into film and radio.
Improv is all about making others look good, being supportive, and not having an ego. Maybe a lot of Sydney players need to learn a thing or two. Or maybe I just need to play better short form.
Or maybe not.
Its just weird, I can’t figure it out…