Thursday, March 8, 2012

David Pasquesi lights the way

In any field there are luminaries who leave in their wake flares.
In the field of improv, and, in particular, long-form improv, one luminary whose flair burns remarkably brightly and whose example many improvisers would love to emulate, is Dave Pasquesi

What is especially lovely about Pasquesi's approach is the simplicity. Clarity. Lightness.
I recently posed some questions to Dave:
AK: You work as both screen actor and improviser, how has improvising informed your screen acting?

DP: My only training is improvisation, so it informs everything I do concerning performance. It seems to me that the prime job of the actor is to listen to the other actors and behave believably in that situation. You cannot do that without paying attention to it all, which is the most important thing in improvisation, I think.  The training for an improviser is to pay better attention. It helps everything.

AK: How has screen acting informed your improvising?

DP: I think I probably learned that in other media I don’t have to do as much.  Then I realized that I probably don’t need to be doing as much on stage either.  Conversely, every mistake is magnified in film, same as stage.  If I do not have a specific intention, if I’m not really clear on what it is I’m doing, everybody can tell. 

AK: Are you also a writer? If so, how has your improvising informed your writing?

DP: I am somewhat of a writer, and, with rare exception, I write with other improvisers.  Mitch Rouse, Sue Gillan, Pete Burns.  Usually the way we write is to talk through an improvised scene, then transcribe it. 

AK: What do you enjoy about long-form improv that no other life activity provides?

DP: You can dare to be kind without any of the terrible consequences that occur in real life when you’re nice

Also, my brain functions differently when I am improvising on stage in front of people than it does at any other time.  And I like the way it works under those conditions. 

AK: One thing I love about iO compared to other places that emphasize short form or that discourage improvisers from playing against type, gender, race, etc, is that iO is open and free. Every time you get on stage you face a completely blank slate. You, yourself, are a completely blank slate. Do you have a belief or stance about the degree to which improvisers should or should not play different genders, races, animals, etc?

DP: I try to play anything that seems to have been already indicated and what is required in the scene, that the need and usefulness is what determines the character, not me. 

AK: Also, I love the notion that long-form improv is considered an art unto itself. What is your take on that notion?

DP: I do not consider whether or not improvisation is an art, per se.  I definitely think it is an end in itself.  Not merely a means to something else.

AK: What was the moment when you first knew you loved improv?

DP: I have loved it since I first found it.  Since my first class, with Judy Morgan as my teacher.  I was about 20 years old.

AK: What is your most memorable moment you have had on stage?

DP: I can’t narrow it down to a single moment. There are a whole lot. The common feature seems to be that something is happening and nothing else could be occurring at this moment, and it is not my doing. I am participating in it, but I am also a passenger. Some other forces seem to be controlling it, not us. We used to talk about how Harold appeared. I know it’s very corny, but that is still kind of what it’s like when it goes exceptionally well.

AK: Who are improvisers that you admire and strive to emulate if not in style then in deftness?

DP: TJ Jagodowski is pretty good. He agrees with everything. Mike Coleman for his ability to communicate an entire relationship complete with history using very few words. I got to watch Jim Fay and Dan Castelleneta.  Castellenta was always so present, he made every character believable and therefore everything they said was believable. Fay was amazing and had the ability to terrify us youngsters.    

Colin Mocherie, Jeff Michalski, Jane Morris, Scott Adsit, Linda Kash, Deb Theaker, Kevin Crowley, Kevin Dorff, Noah Gregoropoulos,  and Joel Murray

Most, or all of the people I listed have great intellect, fearlessness and the ability to serve the scene rather than merely get laughs. Those are the qualities I admire and attempt to improve. There are many more. And there are many more people that I am not listing. They know who they are. (No they don’t.)

AK: What are additional influences – authors, painters, people in general whom you look to for inspiration?

DP: Del Close, Bernie Sahlins, Fred Kaz, fellow improvisers.  Also JD Salinger, Caravaggio, Bernini, Borromini. Everything and everybody.

AK: You say in Trust Us This is All Made Up that you are influenced heavily by the behavior of passersby – random people on the street.  Can you speak to that? How much time do you spend observing the world, and which aspects do you most like to observe?

DP: I spend a tremendous amount of time watching the world.  It’s great fun. That’s the job of the improviser, I think. To pay attention. That and to do interesting things.    

So I watch things. And when something stands out, I try to figure out why it is a notable event. What about it do I connect with? And I figure I am not unique. If I am affected, others will be too. 

Why do I find that interesting/funny/sad? 

AK: What do you appreciate most about iO West?

DP: It’s the same thing I like about iO Chicago. I like that I get to do stuff. It really feels like a piece of Chicago. A lot of my friends. Chicagoans. There seems to be a sense of community. People preforming, people supporting the shows.

AK: Is there anything else you would like to share with the iO West blog-reading community?

DP: Nope. Nothing.

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