So here we are at the studio, I'm writing from John's MacBook which is lighter to carry around than my laptop. Steph just bought a stack of pancakes in a bag from a convenient store and they already had butter and syrup spread in between them. She ate it like a big Mac.
After watching the election yesterday we left to meet the NEXT Impro Japan troupe for our joint rehearsal session. After how successful our first night of improv in Japan was, we were all really excited to work directly with the other troupes. We were also a bit nervous because of the obvious language barriers. Whereas the first night of shows was long form, tonight it would be short form. On the train from Ikkebukura we talked about some short form games that we thought would translate well. Some choices, like Challenge in one Minute were out for obvious reasons. Anything that relied too heavily on words would just not work. Guessing games and games involving gibberish might be best because the game of the scene involves someone not understanding something.
We arrived at the studio, removed our shoes, and began mingling with NEXT. Some of the members were also in the long form group from last night. They had planned out a show format which allowed for three joint short form games plus a structure to end the show which they would teach us.
One of the games NEXT wanted to play together was Party Quirks. It was harder than we anticipated to find a good way t o play the game. We played it many ways. Including two hosts, one from each country. We decided the best way would be to have a Japanese host and American guests. Iri speaks mainly Japanese but he knows some English, so it worked well. Above all though, the game worked because he was good at guessing.
The process of playing this usually simple improv guessing game over and over with different combinations of language and then deconstructing it afterwards in both languages was incredible. Why something worked or didn't was talked about by both groups together, some translating was done and we'd try it again another time. If all foreign diplomacy was like this, there would be no war.
When we arrived later that evening at the theater, it was almost dark. We had about an hour to work on things with NEXT. They taught us a new warm up game called Tic Tock Bon which we'll be bringing to IB for sure.
They taught us a structure called "N.G SHU" which means "Not Good Collections," or... "Bloopers." At the end of the show you re live moments from the show but mess them up or make up other bloopers that might be at the end of a movie.
The show went as follows:
NEXT opened with this really cool choreographed piece involving lights and music and their hands behind flats. Their shows are all very highly produced, the finished product is polished, and tech is very important. To give you an idea of how important tech is, there is sound and lighting equipment in the studio, and when we rehearsed two improvisers ran the lights and sound. They are so good at what they do that during Party Quirks a real doorbell plays on cue.
But I digress. Then NEXT did a set with four or five short form games. One of them was a singing structure. If I haven't mentioned yet how amazing their musician, Momo, is allow me to now. We have asked her to come play with us in the U.S some time.
Then it was our turn, we did 15 minutes of long form and then there was a brief intermission. Our set was not as smooth as it was the last night. Probably because we didn't warm up separately. Something interesting that happened, which we've all talked about several times, is that our scenes became very non verbal. We used very little English, and stuck with sounds and big emotions. I think it put us in our heads, whereas the last night we had used big emotions and physicalities and still used English and were fine.
After intermission NEXT did an amazing musical set. It featured Iri and Naomi with the rest of the cast as back up singers. Although I did not understand the words, it was some of the most amazing musical improv I have seen in a very long time.
Then we came back up to play NG Shu. This was really fun to do. We are going to introduce it in a show at IB some time. I got really into it. So into it that at one point Iri was talking to the audience and I just gave a warrior yell and cartwheeled across stage. I was caught by Dai who whispered, "great." Dave was cracking up. Then he grabbed me, shaking because he was laughing so hard and whispered that the show was over and Iri was thanking the audience for coming. I looked around at everyone else back stage and they were all laughing hysterically.
Whoops! Just kidding!