Today was our workshop day.
Dave had done workshops last year and so he was prepping us on what to expect. He said for him his biggest challenge was speaking through Ken, and not giving Ken too much to translate at a time, or forgetting to pause to let Ken translate anything. I figured my biggest challenge individually would be to know when to hang back and when to step in. John was worried about not repeating too much of Dave's content in the second workshop, but covering the same themes.
We met Ken and Naomi for lunch at a place near the studio. It was traditional Japanese and we sat on cushions on tatami mats. Ken ordered for us at our request, and I got a bowl of miso soup, some daikon with chicken, bean sprouts, a big bowl of white rice and the head half of a mackerel. It was as I began peeling the skin of the mackerel with my chopsticks and enthusiastically dipping it in the teriyaki sauce and chewing on it that I thought of my dear cousin Laura and how she would have probably died of starvation here trying to find some mozzarella sticks. Just kidding!*
Something very interesting in Japan is that they do not drink a lot of water. We have all ordered a glass of water in addition to our meal at almost every restaurant. Our hosts are baffled. Kay-a orders it for me now and smiles every time. We told Ken that water comes with every meal automatically in America and he was amazed. We all ordered water and finished our glasses, and Ken and Naomi had a few sips each.
The first workshop was very interesting. It was very small, and consisted only of members of Impro Japan's troupes. Steph , Casey and I took the workshop so we could be used to give examples. We did a ton of character work and then Dave taught them how to do a sweep edit, which is not used here in long form. They picked up on it quickly, and we also taught tag outs. That one was harder for them. It was also harder for us too because except for when Kay-a was able to translate for us we really didn't know what scenes we were jumping into. We also did monologues and practiced using monologues as inspiration for scene work.
It's seems trite to say but the language of comedy is universal. Even without always completely understanding each other, we had so much fun together. There was a definite playfulness to every collaboration, and results were almost always funny because they were so true.
The second workshop was a bit different. John led it, and actually a couple of the warm ups he used I am planning to use to teach my improv class this winter, I had never seen them before. This workshop was open to anyone, mainly people taking classes at Impro Japan participated. The group was much larger, and so the Americans participated in warm ups, but then hung back for the scene work and long form aspects.
I think both John and Dave did a great job using the time alloted, structuring the workshops in a comprehensive and cumulative way, and using Ken as a translator. They also explained why the exercises were relevant to improv. John also did a good job of ignoring the tiny edits I made to his workshop sheet to try and be helpful like "Now we will work in pairs I am a big goofy man."
The questions asked after the workshops showed the students were really processing and thinking about improvisation passionately. One of the Impro Japan company members commented that he likes the sweep edit more than he likes what they do (they clap and yell "edit-o," because it (and I am paraphrasing) gives the scene more energy instead of stopping the action. We were all like... "yes!"
Each workshop was three hours, and we had a break in between so it was 10 o'clock when we got out.
We went to their Bukowski's for dinner. Aya kept chanting "beer!" Naomi explained as we entered Panda, "this is where we live," and they all laughed. Panda is a Chinese restaurant that is well known for its spicy food.
The meal that ensued was amazing. Every night I am here I am sure I can not laugh harder than I did the night before and then I laugh even more. I sat with Jun and Kazu and there was not a single minute of down time. Jun had an English phrase book, so between my Japanese phrase book, his English one and his little electronic internet/translating device we were off and running. I also had my trip notebook with me, as I have every night so people could write things down for me. It was Bell's birthday so we all signed the card for him, and I signed mine in kanji, copying it painstakingly first from my book, "happy birthday," and then from my name tag, "miche."
Jun was very excited and so he began teaching me my first kanji lesson at the table. Dai laughed and said I write better than Kazu which made Kazu pretend to pout.
The food was so hot that eating it I broke a sweat. Steph was able to eat it without ANY PROBLEM. We want to call her "hot lips" now but think that might be misunderstood.
I drank a ton of tea. And ate a lot of rice. And burned my sinuses off.
I also ate my first duck egg. It was very dark in color and tasted... like nothing I have ever had before.
"Foreigner," got into a drinking competition with Aya. She was amazing. He was near tears, just staring at her across the table. We can't use this person's real name because he is so shamed. She had braces and elastics and looked very young but she was so tough. Her last words to Foreigner were "I want to drink with you again."
We learned how to yell "So- So!" if a small accident occurs at the table. This is because we kept spilling things. Kazu explained to me that it's used when "manners" are breeched. Or if a pet has an accident on a rug.
On the way home the Americans got very silly once we parted with our friends. It was one of those nights that felt infinite. We walked arm in arm almost the entire time home. We sang, and we danced and we laughed at EVERYTHING.
A block from the hotel John made us stop and form a circle. He gave us another speech about how he stayed with painters in England for two weeks. He learned something there. He said that if you are experiencing a moment that in the back of your mind you think you will remember forever you should take a moment and just recognize the moment and live it. So we stood in a circle, arm over arm in the middle of Tokyo and took three deep breaths and laughed and looked around the circle and laughed more.
People passing by must have thought we were crazy or drunk but they would only be a little bit right about either, because mainly we're just taking in each other and every minute we have in Tokyo so we can remember this for the rest of our lives.
*"Just kidding!" is a big joke here for us now. Our first dinner we learned how to say "jo-dan -des!" And we taught our friends "just kidding!" So we could talk without offense. It gets yelled often in chorus by the entire table after a joke now!
By the way. In case you were wondering what eyebrows are. As Dave was. They are gifts from the angels to keep the devil out of your eyes.