What a way to end our Frigid Affair season!  As the exhaustion caught up with Mal and I last night post show, we couldn’t help but have smiles on our faces.  We are very proud of the Urban Yeti team and ecstatic about the support we have seen from the Anchorage community.  Last night capped off Urban Yeti week, which was full of a Geeks Who Drink dance off competition, a feature in the Anchorage Press and a television spot on KTVA’s Daybreak.  We had an awesome time and increased our exposure into the community.  If you haven’t seen our pictures and videos, check out our Urban Yeti Facebook page.

To understand where I am coming from on these show notes, you need to understand what we have been rehearsing over the past month.  There were three rehearsals between our Episode II and III shows and we used them to work a concept I was exposed to through the Upright Citizens Brigade long form manual.  We worked three different aspects of our scenes:

1)  Establishing a strong scene foundation (base reality) with solid characters, environments and detail.  This was a continuation from our last set of rehearsals and notes.

2)  Dropping an oddity the team can easily identify together.  Once the foundation is established, rather than being driven by plot, we tried driving the scene based on an established oddity which doesn’t necessarily blend in the base reality.

3)  Once the oddity is identified, switch the mind set from pure ‘Yes, And’ partner agreement to ‘If, Then’.  Now that we have seen something strange, what does this mean in the world we created.  If that was true, then what else is now true in this world?

I was very happy with our rehearsal process and not necessarily because we did amazing scenes.  Quite opposite, actually.  When we broke our scenes down to the basic structure of establishing a scene foundation and stopping them when someone raised their hand because they identified an ‘oddity’, we found out we are often not on the same page with one another.  What one person thought was odd to play off of and elevate, the rest of the team didn’t catch.  This means our four players were often pulling scenes in different directions.  But isn’t that a set back John?  Quite the contrary sir!  I felt breaking it down to find a weak muscle to strengthen in a matter of one rehearsal was quite impressive on our players part.  They are willing to play for the sake of learning and improve.

Still not seeing it my way?  Let’s look at it in the context of last night’s show.  What you might have seen in the ‘Wrap it and Wack it’ theme of Frigid Affair was some really funny ideas presented by our players and funny character exchanges.  But lets put it in the context of the above structure to show why the players found a lot of success.  A strong scene foundation was established, particularly through strong characters.  We learned about Cody the Coyote, his strong personality and relationships with friends/women.  This was also tied with a corporation thinking of unique ways to market different styles of condoms, based on the headline chosen by the audition.  Then the oddity was dropped and clearly identified by all players in the show:  What Cody the Coyote thinks is sex, is not sex at all.  Now that everyone is on the same page, there are so many places to go and questions to answer.  If Cody doesn’t know what sex is, then who taught him these ridiculous ideas?  If Cody says he had sex in the past, then what were these experiences actually like and who was involved?  If Cody’s girlfriend is still with him, then what are her motivations in the relationship and how does she not fix this?  This is just a sampling of ‘If, Then’ ideas the players explored.  This combined with high energy and strong character diversity by all four players led to a very successful show.  I am excited to continue working the foundation/oddity/elevation formula into our next season of Debauchery.

The strength of the Frigid Affair set then led to some strong short form performances as well.  I enjoyed Four Square, Stand-Ins and Half Life.  It is funny how short form improv is strengthened when you are playing long form to the top of your intelligence.  I could definitely feel the players firing on all cylinders for the whole show.

But enough with all that ego stroking I just did, let’s get some opportunities for improvement in the equation.  Although there were strong indications we were working well in the rehearsal formula, there were still some times when driving towards plot and not listening for natural scene progression had some consequences.  Towards the end of the Frigid Affair set when we tried to bring back the corporation and file cabinet of condom ideas, the idea of trying to weave the storyline cost us continuity.  The players got confused on who stole what idea and for what purpose.  This is a good example of what happens when players are not elevating on the same page and one player’s idea of where the plot needs to go gets lost because listening and agreeing is much harder when someone is working to drive plot.  No worries though, the overall consequence was minimal and I use this to demonstrate more rehearsal is always needed to increase our efficiency of playing to the top of our abilities.

There is also something we can work on regarding the way oddities are identified through straight characters.  An important part of good improv comedy is making sure everyone is not in on the crazy.  Being in crazy town with everyone in the scene doing something unusual might lead to some good short term laughs, but it can not sustain a scene.  We had good straight characters, but I want to see some more organic/fluid dialogue from these characters and more push back on the oddity.  More push back leads to more detail and more detail leads to more humor.  This is a way to take character interaction in a scene from a B+ to an A.

On a more scene administration front, time jumps are awesome.  They are great ways to see back story on situations and characters.  Sometimes we need to announce time jumps in more detail and I encourage this with our team.  During the show, however, I think we announced too many time jumps when they didn’t need any explaining.  With strong characters and situations, the audience can often follow the story.  Work in this area can further polish our product.

I made a toast last night to our team and made sure they understood how proud Mal and I am of what we are starting to create with Urban Yeti.  But we also need to be aware great beginnings require continued hard work and motivation to reach our full potential.  One season down, but we need to work hard, maintain focus on good improv and continue to find unique ways of spreading the word about Urban Yeti in the community.  Buckle up Alaska, you haven’t seen anything yet…