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Pick a card, any card!

April 21, 2013

As an actor, I’m comfortable with breaking down a script, finding a characters’ motivation and quirks, learning blocking. The first thing that happens when you get cast is you get the script and read it over, right?  For my current production of Stop the World, I Want to Get Off! that’s what didn’t happen. While the main cast was learning their songs and mime sequences, I’ve been getting into the world of audience interaction and improv.

I love going to see improv shows and if there’s one kind of person I admire, it’s the stand-up comedian who can stand onstage alone and make up a joke out of whatever the audience throws at them. But me do it? I might say something funny now and again but I never considered myself quick enough to keep up with the comedy. So being told that I’m going to out in the audience, doing my fortune teller act on the spot was like being told I was going to be thrown in cold, shark-infested water: I had to start swimming.

I had only been in one other audience-interactive show before, in which I was planted in the audience purposefully until I was needed onstage. Having done that, I realized the importance of being on your feet and ready for anything. I also figured out quickly that while I’m a proficient tarot reader, I could use more skills to pull out at a moment’s notice and also, that my tarot reading style was not going to work in this dark, noisy, crowded situation.

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(The Three of Cups, Eight of Pentacles, The Fool)

I brushed up on my astrology and palmistry skills and started learning new tarot tricks. Instead of letting every participant shuffle the cards and do a big “this is your life” kind of spread, I reduced my readings to three card on-the-spot analysis. For readers unfamiliar with tarot, there are 78 cards in a deck, all meaning very different things that I have to remember and they combine with the other cards pulled from the deck. Thankfully, I had an understanding cast and director who let me practice on them as it’s hard to rehearse audience interaction without an audience. Not all audience members are as understanding and I had to know when they don’t want to be bothered and move on to my next target. But when they are interested, how do I get them to open up to me? In rehearsals, while the main acts were on-going, I’d be off to the side, practicing different tactics and characterizations until I settled on what I’d felt would intrigue the audience member. In fact, the entire pre-show and all the circus acts in the show were created through improv exercises and on the fly rehearsals!

I still don’t consider myself good at comedy improv. But since I’ve started on this show, I’ve noticed just how much improv I use in my art everyday: I took a dance improv class last year and loved it, especially the contact improv. I also used improv in writing poetry, helping me mix up lines and metaphors until I find something I like. In my acting classes too, even when I’m not doing anything remotely funny—I was doing a scene taking place at the psychiatrist’s in class the other day and I improv-ed almost all of it! Maybe someday, I’ll be lucky enough to study improv further and get better at it.

Well, we’re now running the show and I get to entertain the audience directly every night now and I’m loving it. Check out my cool turban!


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2013 2:04 pm

    If I knew I would’ve given you a few of my tarot card tricks/astrology knowledge. I love those things. Also, I’m sure you are better then you think, since you are an awesome actor! 🙂

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      April 22, 2013 11:02 pm

      Thanks! Someday we will get together and trade tarot & astrology tips 🙂

  2. California Triple-Threat permalink
    April 23, 2013 1:59 pm

    You look awesome!

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