Improvisational Movement Theatre (IMT)

November 22, 2008

AKA Improvisational Story Theatre, 2007-present. Taught by the not-to-be-missed Nell Weatherwax. What the heck is IMT? Nell begins a summary with “You allow your body to remind you of a memory that leads to an image that becomes a story.” It’s performance art, but not the tedious, self-absorbed, angst-ridden sort (unless you like that sort of thing). As a performer, it’s one of the greatest creative highs you can have. Especially when performing with others! If you get a chance to take a class, go!

Circle singing workshops

November 22, 2008

2007-present. Tower of Light Janiece Jaffe creates “structured improvisational” music by lining out four voicings for different sections of a group to pick up. Then different soloists step forward and improv above that. Janiece used this technique extensively in A Midsummer Night’s Romp in the Woods, summer 2007. She is highly influenced by African music and is not afraid to pull in any kind of noise to spice things up. I recommend these workshops to everyone even remotely interested in music.

Community sings

November 22, 2008

1990s. Facilitated by the phenomenally talented, multifaceted, “say yes to everything” Lara Weaver. I learned a lot about improv and about suiting the tune to the singer through these free community workshops. I also learned a lot about teaching, since Lara’s relaxed, positive, flexible style is about as far removed from mine as you can get!

Acting classes

November 22, 2008

2002-present. Multiple classes with “I Too Cool” Mr Richard Perez, Artistic Director of the Bloomington Playwrights Project. My most recent class was an “intro to Method.” I yelled “Stellaaa!” more times than I can count (not in Rich’s hearing). What was my motivation, anyway?

Rich has guest directed at Arizona State University and at the Kennedy Center as part of New Vision/New Voices. Rich has taught acting and improvisation for the National Actor’s Theatre in New York City, at Arizona State University, for Theatre Sports New York, Indiana University and the BPP.

His teaching method is minimalist and pithy. For example, watching two actors go through the motions onstage, he’ll pull one aside and whisper a new stage direction in her ear. When played, that immediately triggers a more authentic performance from both the first actor and her partner. Plus it’s just fun.

Vocal workshops

November 22, 2008

1990s-present. Wide variety of vocal workshops, including those offered through the Lotus World Music Festival (Moira SmileyTim EriksenAsia Pacific Performers Exchange, etc) and the National Women’s Music Festival (Kay Gardner, Margot Adler, Ysaye M. Barnwell). In 2005, I attended a lovely women’s retreat/singing workshop with Sue and Marytha of Libana, with a follow-up Balkan singing workshop they created specifically for Kaia.

I always take a handheld digital recorder with me to workshops to capture cool songs, teaching tips, or ideas that come to me mid-stream. Workshops are a fantastic way to learn a large number of songs in a low-pressure environment. For me, they inevitably lead to hours of Web surfing (especially YouTube and Wikipedia) to find out ever more about the topic.

Individual voice lessons

November 22, 2008

1978 – present, off and on. My greatest teacher has been Jeduthun Hughes, who introduced me not just to Richard Miller’s vocal pedagogy but to the integration of body-mind-spirit in vocal training. I studied under several Associate Instructors through Indiana University’s School of Music in the early 1990s. In my one-year stint at Indiana University’s top-ranked music school (is it possible to breathe among so many divas?), I studied with Norman Phillips, 1986-87. Earlier voice teachers included the excellent Trish ___, Pamela Guenzler/DeBoer, and a variety of others. 

My favorite teacher was my first, a 30-something woman who took me under her wing when I was 11. We sang Muppet songs and pieces by the Beatles (I still love Eleanor Rigby). Unlike most of the instructors I had in my formative years, this teacher taught pieces appropriate to my age and physical development. The exact opposite was found in Betty Lou (I won’t say her last name), who had me doing Mozart’s Alleluia at age 13. She loved vocal pyrotechnics and took credit for anything I produced. Her own ego was more important than what was best for my physical and creative development. That taught me a lot. Later. (Yes, still bitter. ;-))

Improv and goofing around

November 22, 2008

I was a member of the Collins Living-Learning Center improv troupe for several years, and have taken a few improv classes since then, but don’t consider these formal training since I was primarily goofing off.

I’m partial to improv that tells a story rather than improv that demonstrates mental dexterity and cleverness. The former seems more interesting for players and audience, while the latter has a whiff of showing off about it. Or maybe it’s just that I suck at the latter?

All wacky kidding aside, I consider theatrical improv training fundamental to musical improv. Anything that connects the body with the music is extremely beneficial.