Andrew Bernier is a recent graduate of The Torch Theatre‘s training center in Phoenix where he also performs with Beach Blanket Bingo. He’s traveling across the country and just spent a week in Chicago for The Second City‘s weeklong improvisation immersion program. The Torch Theatre’s 4721 Blog is happy to present Andrew’s take on his Chicago experiences!
by Andrew Bernier
Tuesday July 9th, 2013 from The Second City in Chicago, IL.
Standard second day whatnot started off the second day, naturally: chit-chat with the other students, debating if you have enough time to go fill your water bottle before the instructor comes in, oh no here he is, you know, that stuff. Except when the instructor just starts talking calm and casually in a language you have never heard of before. Not random noise making and babbling that I have heard in gibberish activities from other improv exercises but this had to be a real language. But what was it and from where? And hot damn, he was fluent and articulate in this language.
Instruction came, in this language. And our responses, somehow, came in this language. Syllable by syllable, we went around a circle and exchanged words of this language. Not random jibber jabber, but tangible sounds that could have been from any part of the world. And so we learned the language, piece by piece. It was not random sounds coming out of my mouth, but it became intentional. My facial expressions supported it. My hand motions supported it. The tone and inflection of my voice supported it. And my class partners supported it and somehow, got the message.
And so for the first hour of class, not a single word of English was spoken, and we covered more object work and emotional heightening. We shared, said yes (it felt like we said yes), and had entire conversations and scenes. We started to transition this language into English but still conveying the emotions and urgency of what we were saying without really having to depend on what it is that we were saying. And this was a big AHA! moment for me, as I am a very wordy improvisationist. I think too much on what I say, and this exercise was perfect, in that you can carry out an incredibly engaging scene and connect deeply with your scene partner without having to have witty or creative statements to rely upon. As we moved forward with English, I found my impulsiveness wanting to revert back to speaking more, but checked myself and found more emphasis on movement, facial expression, tone and emotion; all legitimate means of communication besides words.
We closed the day with repetition exercises, repeating exactly what our scene partner said before and then adding onto it. This really got into the listening component, something I always need to work on, not just on stage but in life too. It was great to just to focus solely on my partner and not worry on how I was going to contribute to the scene, but allow it to flow naturally.
We hit up the Cubs game that afternoon when they put on a very uncharacteristic home run display. CUBS WIN!!! Since iO was right around the corner, we hit up the night’s shows, where we saw the historic Susan Messing and the hilarious Blaine Swen in the duo Blessing, which had a very high interactivity with the crowd while still keeping longform in great form. Afterwards, the troupe Summer Nights, a younger troupe, rocked it with a great array of recurring characters and themes over many scenes. It came to be a fine summer night in Chicago indeed.