Laughtrack Theater Company “workshop intensives” breakdown – Deanna Moffitt

    The Power of Silence – Saturday March 13th
    by Deanna Moffitt

In this class students will get the opportunity to discover the power of silence in their scenes, by building tension, using emotional connections and finding a collaborative
narrative, with your scene partner. Using a generous dose of stage time students will work their acting skills to find out what happens when they release the pressure of
trying to be funny and instead be real, and discover that the adage of “comedy in truth” is right on the money.


DEANNA MOFFITT started improvising in Portland, OR with ComedySportz in 1998. She soon joined ranks with Stacey Hallal to form the critically acclaimed duo, All Jane, No Dick, which performed in comedy festivals across the nation and Toronto. While in Portland she continued working her way up the corporate ladder as an IT Project Manager for a Fortune 1000 company. After five years of performing in Portland, Deanna followed her heart, quit her job, sold her home and made the move to Chicago, to pursue a career in improvised comedy.
In between her travels she completed training at iO Chicago and took classes at the Annoyance. She was soon hired by ComedySportz Chicago and performed regularly with iO’s premier Harold Team Revolver and the Improvised Musical Del Tones. In 2007 she was hired by Second City Theatricals to work on Norwegian Cruise Line, performing a best of Second City Show. She spent that winter in the Caribbean, in 2008 she spent the winter in the Mediterranean and this winter she is enjoying the best of them all by spending five months in and around the beautiful Hawaiian islands.

My notes for posterity:
Deanna was a wonderful coach, she was able express to us the needs that we as individuals should be aware of when we perform and therefore how to push ourselves to do more. The whole class was built on the idea of being able to express ourselves emotionally and go from 1-10. We did exercises where we would take turns doing two person scenes. One person would deliver an arbitrary line and the other person would have to build a reaction of how that line affected them all the way to a ten. We then did scenes where we put our reaction into an object we were holding in front of us in a two person scene. After the break we did scenes purely based on the suggestion of music and rhythm. We would start with music and when the music went out we had to begin talking, but the music would inspire us to inhabit certain characters and situations.

New Exercise highlight:
Checking in with each other with music underscoring was very rewarding. We had to start where we were both looking at each other and from there look out and begin a scene. It became less about what we, as individuals, were doing and more about whether or not the person we were on stage with knew what we were doing and feeling. Without that moment of really checking in it became hard to do scenes with people of varying levels but with that moment of checking in it became easier.

Rance Rizzutto Workshop 20Feb10

Improv Rehab – Saturday February 20th (1:30pm – 4:30pm)

Every improvisor picks up a bad habit or two along their journey. Some know what theirs are and some don’t. You don’t have to know what it is to take this class, but you’ll know by the end. Based on hours of observing, performing, and coaching Rance Rizzutto has developed Improv Rehab. It will break your bad habits and focus you in strong relationships and environments…oh, and like rehab, your brain is gonna hurt a little.

RANCE RIZZUTTO has been professionally performing and teaching improv for over ten years. He got his start with ComedySportz (improv) and The 3rd Floor (sketch) in Portland, OR. After moving to Chicago in 2003 he has trained with iO Chicago and Annoyance and has performed with ComedySportz Chicago, The Beatbox, and numerous other groups, including Silent Treatment, a two-person silent improv show with his lovely fiancée Deanna. Currently he is working for Second City Theatricals for his fourth contract on NCL cruise ships. Aside from performing his other love is photography.

This class was energizing and fun. It involved a series of loose scenes (suggestions were locations with a lot of activities people could do) and the addition of “rules” to the scenes as the class progressed.
For sake of continuity we’re going to number each series of exercises as scene sets. In each scene set different rules were added on to the players in the scene. The audience also had the task of calling out certain key words if the players on stage were not doing the rules.

1) Rule established is that you must talk continuously (no silence) and do an activity each time you speak. (Key words for the audience to yell out if the rules were not being abided were “Talk” and “Use.”)
2) Added rule you can’t use the same object more than once, each time you speak you need to use a different object (Key word is “Switch.”)
3) Added rule no talking about the object. (Key word Buzzer tone “Eeeh!”)
4) Added rule no standing in a bingo line. (Key word “Bingo.”)
5) Added rule if you say the word “You” or “I” in a relationship context (Key word “aah.”)

Edits in Improv (Basic)

What is defined as an edit is somewhat less important than the effect. Edits are better defined as “any time a person enters or exits.”
However, loosely defined, edits are any things that act on the scene from the outside in a way that changes the direction of the scene. There are edits that initiate a new scene and there are edits that help an existing scene from the outside. This is not a definitive list but more of a work in progress.

For edits to be successfully done EYE CONTACT is essential. If you want someone to stay on stage you need to make eye contact with them, if you want them to leave, do not make eye contact with them.

Edits are grouped below in subcategories that they are most similar to:

1. Basic edits (Hanamichi, sweep edit, transition edit and cross edit are essentially the same thing, in that they all start a new scene).

o Cross Edit – come on stage, walk to the opposite DS position, and start a new scene or start the new scene while crossing down stage. Someone off stage walks across the stage w/o making eye contact and the people on stage exit. People on stage exit.

o Hanamichi Edit – usually happens to DSL or DSR of stage, new person comes on stage and freezes in a pose. Two people on stage leave.

o Sweep/Curtain Edit – someone off stage comes on stage and mimes wiping the stage clean. The action of drawing a curtain is also popular.

o Transition Edit – (Game time) Person enters from off stage and takes Center Stage
Activity – the machine would be an example of this

2. French Edits (Stalker, push, pull and slacker are all variations).

o French Edit (R.’s definition) – In classic French drama, any time a character enters or exits, it’s considered the start of a new scene.

o Push Edit – 3rd person enters two person scene and tells one of them that they are needed offstage. Or someone calls from offstage for a character that is on stage, person leaves (the latter situation mandates that someone jump on stage pronto so the person that is on stage isn’t left alone for any length of time).

o Pull Edit – Call someone from offstage on to the stage. Usually a slacker or a push edit needs to happen to get one of the players currently on stage to go offstage.

o Slacker Edit – three people are on stage and someone finds a reason to leave of their own volition.

o Stalker Edit – usually involves someone spying at upstage center, involves miming a hiding place (in LTC USL or USR is also good). This edit doesn’t change the location. The two people on stage are talking – person upstage says a phrase or word that they have spoken, says it out loud, the two people “on-stage” hear it (don’t know where it’s coming from) but take it as a cue to leave and talk privately – person hiding upstage comes out and starts a related scene from the line or word that they said while upstage.

3. Directing Edits and variations thereof are Swinging Door, Tag Out, and Split Scene (though Split Screen also may transition to a new scene).

o Directing Edit – “delivering a package and exiting” thing. You’re basically entering the scene to deliver some small piece of information and then leaving. The package isn’t the only way to do this. You could also do scene painting which involves someone off stage coming on stage and drawing attention to important aspects of the space to enhance the scene. The point of this edit is to support the scene by adding some new information that drives it forward in some way. Ideally, the players take whatever information that was delivered in the directing edit and make it very important for the scene. It’s sort of a way of saying “I recognize that this scene needs help and am going to provide them with something that will help them.”

o Traveling edit – two person scene involves another location. The two people “travel” (usually walking in a circle) to that location and someone off stage offers to be a person of that “new” locale. Usually an additional push or pull is needed when they get to the 2nd locale so it’s back to a two person scene.

o Split Scene – two people are on stage, two more people enter and start having a loosely related scene (doesn’t need to be in the same location-better if it isn’t). They alternate conversations between the two couples.

o Swinging Door – two people are on stage, one person enters and “swings” the person in the center to them and has a related scene with that person, the person on the other side, doesn’t leave but waits and “swings” the other person back to them to talk to. Person that initiates the swinging door (3rd person) usually is responsible for ending the swinging door and leaving.

o Time edit – Flash Forward or Flash Back. This is a directed edit. Someone off stage says “Flash forward or flash back to (a specific time)” and the people on stage do so.

o Tag Out – come on stage and tag someone out to leave and continues the scene.