Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Here's looking at you, kid

Thanks to Netflix, I have been watching a plethora of movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, specifically from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

That era was so glamorous and smart. Each leading actor had such musicality to his voice.

Today, when you come across a name like Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor or Humphrey Bogart, you can immediately hear the pitch and cadence of his or her voice, and you can see the exact tilt of head and longing glance.

Each star was renowned for conveying so much emotion - whether as part of an epic monologue or pithy quip. 

And such depth of spirit is the primary goal we each aspire to on stage as improvisers. And to get that deeply connected we must stay grounded, connect with our partners, and work at establishing true relationships.

The language of the Golden Age was glorious, too. People called one another "kid," and when things went sour, they became "absolutley dreadful."

And there was such history in the fims of the Golden Age. Take Casablanca for example. The scene in Ricks bar, where the Nazi's sing the German National anthem, and everyone else in the bar interrupts with the French anthem.

Such moments are both meangful and memorable. Casablanca was one of the only films set during WWII that was actually made and premiered during the War, making it all the more poignant. 

While watching one of those old Hollywood greats, I had the spark of an idea. I thought: Wouldn't it be cool to do an improv show where everyone on the team was really well versed in Golden Age cinema?

I was so excited about the idea that I posed it to a fellow improvisor who responded "Yeah, but don't you think a lot of the references would go over the audience members' heads?"

I grew pretty quiet for the remainder of the conversation. I went home and mulled things over and then remembered a quote that restored faith in my idea:

"Treat people like poets and geniuses, and they will respond as poets and geniuses." (Del Close)

When you're on stage, play to the height of your intelligence, as if you are a fountain of knowledge. Don't sell yourself short, and don't be afraid to throw out a reference or two if the time calls for it.

Maybe the audience won't get exactly what you are saying right away, but they will pick up on the emotional resonance, and they will absolutely appreciate the whole of it when they go home and look it up in Wiki or imdb.

Take chances, and know that most great ideas start with someone else saying it's a bad one. 

 - ValerieTosi

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