Nov. 2, 2021
Ahoy NACA! Improv teacher and coach Rich Talarico here and I'm truly happy to share this improv tip: "Transcribe Your Shows."
Since the late 1900s I have been lucky enough to perform with Bob Dassie and Craig Cackowski on a three-person improv team called Dasariski. We've performed at theaters and festivals all over the US and Canada; as well as extended runs at UCB LA and NY and Improv Olympic in Chicago and LA. Like many improv groups we video-taped our performances. Not only for posterity but also as a tool so we could re-watch the shows and learn from our mistakes. Then one day, some years back as a part of a writing process we began to transcribe our taped shows. Transcribing improvisation forces you to relive and reexamine every moment-to-moment choice line by line word by word.
And we discovered that transcribing was a great teacher that offered insights that might not have come if we had just watched the show tapes. For example, we discovered one phrase that kept popping up in the better shows was "I know…" The scenes and shows were better when the characters already knew what was going on in their worlds. The "I know" laden shows were more focused with less meandering, the details and specifics and relationships flowed. Because of this we developed a mantra for ourselves as improvisers—one that we all teach to this day "Choose to Know."
Watching our tapes but also transcribing our shows had helped us discover a mindset that improved the quality of our work and ever since then we have each incorporated an "I know" type exercise into our teaching. When first starting to improvise theater, beginning players often assume that choosing "not to know" what is going on, will bring laughter. But it usually invites stilted situational play with little to no discovery nor inspiration possible. We've learned that our favorite characters are intimately familiar with the details and specifics of their worlds. "Choosing To Know" a little something about what is going on will always make the improvised scene, character, and show that much easier to play.
Transcribe Your Shows
Rich Talarico is a Peabody Award winning and four-time Emmy nominated writer known for his work on Key & Peele, MADtv, SNL and The Tonight Show. Rich has done punch up work on the comedy classic Mean Girls and the Oscar-winning Get Out. More at richtalarico.com.
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