The Beauty of Performance Exhaustion

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a performance hangover. I’m betting a lot of you from last night’s After Dark audience have actual hangovers, but that’s beside the point. This is the second month we have doubled up performances at Urban Yeti and it’s both awesome and exhausting. The long form mentality of Love is Blind combined with the intensity of After Dark is like drinking liquor after beer. Once again the Anchorage improv community has amazed me and I’m happy to see ticket sales are not dipping. Even though we still have more seats to sell for both of our performances, we are proving the two show concept to be a good foundation for our future work as a troupe. There was a lot of genuine positive audience feedback after the show as well (in addition to some sweet web traffic ranging from facebook likes to written reviews!). The post Bodega-fest audience could at times be a little talkative throughout the show, but that is sometimes the ambiance of After Dark and we are more than capable of handling it for the benefit of the show. Thanks to those who came out to see us, we hope to see you again very soon.

After creating Love is Blind, I set the goal that this season would not only challenge the ensemble who typically perform with Urban Yeti, but most of all I would challenge myself.  I’ve been spending a lot of time creating this business, helping developing our performers and getting people in the seats. This doesn’t leave a lot of time to improve your own performance skills. By shifting the focus a bit internal this season, I’ve given myself a lot of insight for future directing and understand my strengths and weaknesses in the scene. For example, I still have a lot of work to do in the character sphere (including a natural tendency to be a deer in the headlights with accent work) but I have also made a lot of progress in having a clear mind, nothing pre-loaded when entering scenes. In previous blogs you will have heard me talk a bit about getting into quick sand when a scene needs to be elevated. Directors performing is a good reminder how much focus is required to get in a place of control to avoid just that. It’s challenging, especially when you want to feed on the audience energy.

Given the increased focus on myself and diving in as a performer to both sets last night, I don’t have the best perspective to fully critique both shows, so I’m going to need some help. Aneliese and I recently had the pleasure of rehearsing with a group of UAA students who formed a troupe called the Ad-Lib Alchemists. It is always refreshing to play with new people and see improv in the community outside of your own ensemble. Several of the performers in their group came out to see the shows last night, including Shawn, who stayed for both of our performances. I asked Shawn to provide me his thoughts this morning and he didn’t disappoint. He provided the following:

  • Really good presentation, clear understood conventions and generally very clean (good edits).
  • Very professional. Fun, but a lot of control.
  • Love the “no fear” attitude, but refreshingly not crude. You are clearly very comfortable with each other.
  • Also, the guy from Service (Erik) has excellent physical humor. I was constantly excited with what he was going to do.
  • Mime could use some improvement, don’t talk through doors, open them all the way.
  • Clearly get rid of objects and remember what does and does not exist.
  • Edits could get more creative.

This does an excellent job of capturing some overall themes in the show and I’d like to expand on some of the points made. I’m particularly proud of Shawn’s assessment of a ‘no fear attitude’. We want this to set us apart from other groups. We want our formats, our scenes, our energy to show we are fearless in what we do. I also enjoyed several areas of physicality in our show, ranging from the cuddling scene to the Jack in the Box drive through.

On the opportunities for improvement, I think Shawn’s comments build an overall note of control in a high energy event. As After Dark evolved, it got a bit sillier throughout the evening and I think we as performers need to find more opportunities for creativity. Ultimately, our silliness resulted in a chair thrown, which I’d like to avoid. One performer did not throw that chair, we all did at some point. I love the product Parsi has created through After Dark, but it is up to us as performers to ensure we still differentiate this product as great improv in a high energy short form environment throughout the whole show, not just parts of it. Some of this also applies to the second half of our Love is Blind set. We relied too much on fouler language towards the end and less on creativity.

In the upcoming Love is Blind rehearsals, we will emphasize our monologue work. I don’t think they were lacking, but I would like to move from a casual conversation monologue to a strong storytelling monologue. My initial reaction for After Dark was to say more scene based games, but my initial reaction is wrong. The answer is rehearsing the scene in every game, regardless of guessing. There needed to be more scene work in Dead Celebrity Diner, Late for Work and other guessing games. There also needed to be more emphasis on scene work in games like Half Life. This is something Parsi has been working in his rehearsals and something we need to continue.

We are growing stronger, but more importantly we do this together. We are finding more opportunities for performance, so make sure to swing by our Facebook page every now and then to see what we are doing outside of first Saturdays. Look around you ladies and gentlemen, the Yeti is everywhere.