I decided to start this semester off the same way I ended last semester – with an in-depth project on the Studio 013 Refugees.
For my Digital Journalism II class last semester, I decided to profile the president of the group for my final project. I absolutely loved my time with the group. It was great observing the dynamics of the group and, as a long-time improv fan; I was just thrilled to be behind the scenes of an improv group. In my interview with the president, he mentioned something that stuck out to me: improv workshops.
That idea stuck with me this past summer, and I decided to roll with it once I was hired to work with Marquette University’s Student Media Interactive. I approached one of the presidents about doing another story on the “Fugees” this semester. This time around, I am focusing on the auditioning process for the group. It begins with four weeks of improv workshops, followed by auditions and then selecting the new members (affectionately referred to as the “Newgees”).
Tonight was the first workshop. Earlier, I realized my coincidental choice in fashion for the day. I decided to wear a plaid scarf. It was new, so I decided to break it in. That seems like a fairly normal fall outfit, right? Well, the Fugees’ unofficial team color is plaid. Most of them dress in plaid for every show. So, as if I wasn’t around the group enough, I now subconsciously dress like them. But as I strolled into the workshop, no one noted my fashion choice, or they were just too nice to say anything.
My concern at the beginning of the night was repeating the first night I had with the Fugees for my previous project. I focused on photography with that story, and quickly learned that my personal camera was not a good choice to use in that room. My camera could not pick up any movement and, best of all, died on me in the middle of the practice I was sitting in on. I ended up running out the room in a panic with the Fugees believing they offended me with the scene they were performing.
This time around, I am using a video camera, which was the reason for my concern. I do not have much experience with a video camera so, being my cynical self, I was convinced something would go wrong. I had a bit of a rough time figuring out how to secure the camera on the tripod, but overall the experience wasn’t too bad. It a struggle trying to catch people moving out of the frame, but that skill will come with more practice.
The workshop ran somewhat similarly to a typical Fugee practice. For those of you who have not spent hours observing improv practices, the way they work is the group just runs through various improv games that are performed at shows. The only difference is at practices, the members offer each other critiques and advice in between games. As I learned from my time with the group last year, practicing improv is all about practicing form and style. So the group doesn’t practice lines, they just go over various games to keep themselves quick for their shows. One of the games the Fugees and potential Newgees played tonight was “World’s Worst.” Here’s a look at the cast of the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” playing that game.
About an hour and a half into the improv games, I learned that I did have a slight malfunction with my equipment. I did not realize that my tripod came up about 6 inches higher. So there I was sitting, kneeling and leaning on walls to get my shot, when I could have just raised the tripod a bit. Whoops.
However, the odds are that I won’t even be using much footage from tonight in my story. Tonight was more to get a feel for the way the workshops work. I realized I need to include the current members of the group more to create a more engaging piece. I was relieved to see that none of the people auditioning felt uncomfortable with me filming. It made my job a lot easier. I was flooded with ideas when I left the workshop, so I think covering this story will become easier as the weeks go on.
The group ended the night by inviting those auditioning to play a round of mafia. I was invited to join in, but decided to hang back to review my mental notes from the night. However, I am known to dominate that game and was once described as, “shady as f***” while playing. Anyone who has played Mafia knows is a compliment. Needless to say, I will have to partake next time.
Overall, I would describe tonight’s experience as semi-successful. I wish I had gotten better quality footage from the workshops. I had a busy day, but looking back, I could’ve squeezed in some time to practice with the camera. However, I did take away a lot of ideas from the experience and I will definitely know what to expect next week.