After my Journalism 1550 class last semester, it should be no surprise to anyone that I did another near-semester long project on the the Studio 013 Refugees. This time around, I decided to do an even more in depth story than last semester, if that was even possible. Here is how it was done.
I came up with the idea for this story back in May. When interviewing former Studio 013 Refugees president for my Journalism 1550 project, he mentioned attending a workshop before he auditioned for the group. After being around the group so long last semester, I had never learned what the workshops were all about. The following month, I was hired for Marquette's Student Media Interactive. Right off the bat, I had my first story idea: to find out what these workshops were all about.
I talked to presidents Bill and Charlie at Marquette's organization fest during the beginning of the semester. I pitched my idea to them – documenting the process of becoming a member of the Fugees. They agreed to it. Just like that, I was about to spend the majority of my semester with the Fugees again.
Both of my Fugees projects have lasted over the course of a couple months. I intended the first project to only involve photographing two Fugee practices and one show. But, due to circumstances in my class, I ended up photographing four practices and two shows. I was around for a good three months.
If you ever hear the term “Newgee” thrown around on Marquette’s campus, looking up the definition online will do you no good. No, the term does not belong to another language. The word is a title for the newest members of Marquette’s improv troupe, the Studio 013 Refugees, also known as the Fugees. A Newgee is created after four weeks of improv workshops and a week of auditions.
The responsibility of organizing workshops and auditions falls to the group’s presidents, seniors Bill Lacy and Charlie Mohl. At the beginning of every fall semester, the Fugees hold improv workshops to recruit new members for the group.
“Each workshop is themed,” said Lacy. “The first one is introduction to improv, the second one is characters, the third is scenes and the final workshop brings it all together.”
Before each workshop, Lacy and Mohl pick out various improv games that fit that night’s theme. Before each game, they explain how it works and have other Fugees demonstrate the game. While workshop attendees play the games, Lacy and Mohl sit up front and watch. The pair watches for people who can follow the three rules of improv. The first rule is “yes and,” which means a player must add to fellow players’ ideas in a scene. The second and third rules are “don’t negate” and “don’t ask questions,” which mean you should never reject an idea that is developed in a scene. Mohl and Lacy also look for people who can work well together in scenes.
“The real goal of improv is to make everyone you’re playing with look good,” Mohl said.
This year’s workshops had an attendance of between 12 and 18 people. It is not required that those intending to audition attend workshops, but it is encouraged. The auditions have the same basic layout that workshops have. Lacy and Mohl pick out games for the Fugee hopefuls to play. However, instead of guiding attendees like they did at workshops, Lacy and Mohl simply sit back and observe the games.
“I remember almost throwing up in every scene I was in,” Lacy said of his own audition experience. “You had all these people intimidatingly sitting in the back.”
“And all of them with notebooks!” Mohl interjected.
As soon as auditions are over, Lacy, Mohl and the rest of the Fugees discuss their options. They pass around each application they receive and look back on each individual’s performance. If needed, they discuss the strengths and weaknesses of particular applicants. Deciding on a Newgee has to be a unanimous decision. Even if only one Fugee strongly feels that a person is not right for the group, that person is immediately out of consideration.
Once the group decides on their Newgees, a list is posted outside of Helfaer Theatre’s Studio 013, which was the original practice space for the group years ago and its namesake. This year, the group acquired four Newgees: freshman Connor Welch and sophomores Ciara Collins, Liz Formella and Hannah Klapperich-Mueller.
The Newgees were introduced to the crowd at the end of the Fugees’ October show. Welch, Collins, Formella and Klapperich-Mueller will be fully immersed in the Fugees show, “Debate Cheetos,” this Friday at 8 p.m. in Marquette Hall 200. Check out the show for some laughs and to see some real-life Newgees up close and personal.
*Story appeared on www.marquettetribune.org
Attempting a live blog again, folks. Tonight I am covering the last Fugee workshop. I am currently sitting in the back of the room watching the group warm up with a game that makes no sense to me. But they use the word "kitty" in the game so I like it...because I am pretending it's a game about cats. There's also a lot of running and yelling in this game. It looks dangerous. Maybe this is the real way the Fugees pick Newgees...the last one alive gets in the group?
I started off the night by interviewing the presidents of the group. A few days ago, I figured that it would be really easy to come up with questions for the interview. I mean, I have been around the group enough these past two semesters to learn enough about improv. Friends and family members have jokingly asked me why I don't just join the group already. I think an audience member from the Fugees' show Friday thought I was in fact with the group, since I was sitting with some of them after the show.
Then, I realized that this was more of a problem then an advantage. Most of the questions I would need to ask have become common knowledge to me. So, in my mind, these would be boring questions. I had this realization when I was sitting with three of my roommates. So I asked them what they would want to know about the Fugees and their audition process. One of my roommates, who is a senior, responded with, "Uhh...what are the Fugees?" After that, I knew the really simple questions were to way to go. I decided to include informational questions about the Fugees, as well, to try to inform Marquette students who have not heard of the group before.
Tonight is the last workshop. They have been running the same as the three weeks beforehand. The only difference is this workshop is used to tie everything together that workshop attendees have learned over the past few weeks. For example, the first two workshops introduced the beginning steps of improv and character based games. Now, all of these lessons are being tied together in the games played tonight. For example, right now the Fugees are going over the game Parallel Universe. One player leaves the room and the remaining three players on stage are given suggestions for objects or events that don't exist in their universe. The player who left comes back and guesses the suggestions based on context clues during the scene. The game is repeated with different players until every attendee gets a chance to play.
The group is near the beginning of what I assume will be their last game of the night. There have only been three or four games during the workshop, but the games have lasted longer each week. The dynamic has been different in every workshop and, in my mind, the standout performances have changed week to week.This may be my last night covering the workshops, but I will be back for auditions next week. I'm really curious to see how auditions will go and excited to see the work from the past workshops come together next week.
My week of marathon journalism has started to catch up with me. Yesterday, I was ran around campus balancing my open laptop as I attempted to load something onto my external hard drive. Earlier today, I decided to bypass the last stair as I walked out of my ethics class (that's just a fancy way of saying I slightly wiped out while balancing all of my equipment and backpack). And, as predicted, I am slowly losing the ability to speak coherent sentences. The most recent addition to this list: I forgot how to spell the word addition. It took about 5 times typing it to get the correct spelling.
Amidst losing my sanity, The Fugees held their third set of workshops last night. I wish I could tell you what the theme was for last night's workshop (I.E. basics of improv or character based games) But, due to the slight crisis I was facing, I wasn't quite listening. I was setting up my filming equipment and, as I turned it on, the video camera screen said it there was no SD card inside the camera. Hence the panic. Without an SD card, I could not film. We almost had a repeat of me running out of a Fugees practice in a panic, along with plenty of curse words whispered at my camera. Turns out, the SD card was just placed in the wrong slot. Just another case of Brynne overreacting too quickly.
With last night's practice, I decided to take pictures on top of filming. I forgot how hard it was to photograph in Humphrey Hall. The horrible lighting makes for very washed out backgrounds. Now I remember why I took black and white pictures for my last project with the Fugees. But these pictures were not so much for the quality but to document what I have been filming and blogging about these past few weeks.
The workshop has run the same as the previous two. Instead of attempting to film all of the workshop attendees' scenes, I finally figured out a pattern to my filming. Now, I'm trying to film every other scene. The only exception is when someone I consider to be a standout in a scene. Besides interviews with the Fugees and clips of them explaining/demonstrating games, I've decided to focus on clips of the soon-to-be Newgees in the workshop and audition process. I believe I will be interviewing a few members of the Fugees before next week's workshop. The video is starting to come together, you guys!
The Fugees did not end the workshop with a game of Mafia, as usual (until next time, Mr. Lacy). They went straight to their post-workshop discussions. It's interesting to see how their opinions have evolved and changed over the past few weeks. The group then transitioned out of workshop mode to film a promo for their upcoming show. See below... it's definitely the best promo they've done for any of their shows.
Also, if anyone is wondering, the title of this post came from a line from one the scenes at the workshop. I really, really hate naming articles. It may be my least favorite part of writing. So thank you, workshop attendee, for making my job a little easier.
Last night was round two with the Fugees. This time, I took my own advice and practiced using my equipment. Last week, I was a little shaky with my camera and its equipment. So I squeezed in some time yesterday to work with my equipment. Let me know if you would like to see the video tour of my house. It includes a great shot of one of my roommates eating lunch. I also conquered my own personal Everest: closing that tripod. Apparently, it isn't that hard. And, fun fact, the tripod can actually come up to eye level. Who would've thought.
But of course, I still set up my equipment almost immediately when I walked into the workshop, as to not press my luck. Lo and behold, I set it up successfully on my first attempt. I had an easier time with the filming process, too. Except for the door.
Oh, that door.
Workshops are held in the auditorium of Humphrey Hall. That room is not the most aesthetically pleasing place. Since I have worked with the group before, I was prepared for the weird lighting and bright orange ladder that permanently resides on the stage. Last night, the emergency exit door to the side of the stage decided to let off a shrill beep every minute or so. Apparently, the alarm was running low on battery, hence the beeping. That will be fun to work with in editing.
The workshop ran similarly to the one last week. The Fugees worked with attendees on character-based improv games. One of these games was "Party Quirks," which is one of my favorites from the show "Whose Line is it Anyway?" If you haven't caught on yet, I have a slight obsession with that show. I watched more of "Whose Line" this summer than I watched the Olympics.
The number of attendees dwindled from last week. I could be wrong, but I believe I only recognized two from the first week of workshops. I assumed the way workshops worked was that a core group of people from the first week of workshops would remain until the last week. So, I am curious to see numbers for the next two weeks and if each group of attendees changes drastically from week to week. I do imagine that it is easier for the Fugees to work with smaller groups, as to remember individual performances better.
After workshops last week, I played around with the idea of tweeting from the workshops. I've enjoyed doing this for previous journalism classes and I thought it could be another fun way to advertise this project. I completely forgot about this idea until I heard someone make a cat reference. For the past three semesters, I have been in the class of a certain journalism professor. Last semester, I decided to take on the role of resident cat lover in the class. This included posting cat pictures in the Facebook group and tweeting about cats. Needless to say, my professor did not approve. However, I still enjoy doing it.
After I got a few cat tweets out of the way (and tagged a certain professor in one of them), I sent out some legitimate tweets. I am not sure if I will keep up with the tweeting next week, that is probably a decision I will make in the moment. I do think I want to take a few pictures at next week's workshops. I will have to think about to what extent I can include non-Fugees, but pictures would be a fun aspect to add to future blog posts.
Once again, this week's workshop ended with a game of Mafia. I was called out by the Fugees for bragging about my Mafia skills and a certain Fugee challenged me to play with everyone at the end of the workshop. Needless to say, I was the last person standing besides a mafia member. That means that technically the Mafia won, but in my eyes, I am the true winner. I may have stolen someone else's strategy for how to stay in the game for so long, but that is neither here nor there.
My only concern that I took away from last night was that I am not quite sure if I have a distinct direction nailed down for this story. Granted, I know what I want the outcome of this story to be and I know that my video will include footage of workshops and interviews with current Fugees. I just don't know if I have figured out how to make it flow yet. Last time I worked with the Fugees, I discovered my direction the more I spent the editing, so I expect things to work the same way for this story.
Until next time, friends.
In case you're wondering, working on three stories simultaneously is a good way to lose your mind. But, when the opportunity presents itself to work on three awesome stories, I guess its okay to overlook these little details, right? So, I will use this blog post to introduce the next three stories for Student Media Interactive that I will be producing over the next month.
The Studio 013 Refugees
Anyone who knows me knows that I really, really dislike the Studio 013 Refugees. I find them to be difficult to work with, not funny and pretty much a nasty group of people. Divas, really.
Anyone who knows me also knows that the above statement is a joke.
The Fugees know I think they're the bees' knees. I first worked with the improv group when I profiled last year's co-president, Andrew Pauly for a class project last year. They were so much fun to work with and so welcoming that I had to find an excuse to come back. I mean, at the end of practices I photographed, some of the Fugees thanked me for stopping by. They basically thanked me for doing my homework.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to follow the process of becoming a new member of the Fugees (AKA a Newgee). I have been filming and blogging about their once-a-week workshops, which began last week. At these workshops, the Fugees work with potential Newgees on improv style by playing a variety of improv games. After a month of workshops, the Fugees will hold auditions.
The main focus of this project will be a video. I will mix footage from workshops and interviews with the Fugees to document the journey. I am still debating with myself how to capture the end of this process for my video, but more on that later. I will be including a newspaper article to accompany this video, as the Marquette Tribune will most likely be running my story.
I've never had to work so hard to get my foot in the door for a story. I've always loved with behind-the-scenes documentaries, so I' m taking a stab at my own. I've decided to make a behind-the-scenes documentary of Marquette's production of Larry Shue's, "The Foreigner."
I first began inquiring about this story 2-3 weeks ago. After tracking down my contact, we began trading emails back and forward. The first issue we ran into was copyright regulations. I was informed that, due to copyright rules, I would only be able to include small bytes of scenes and shots that include no dialogue. I took a look at a few behind-the-scenes documentaries, and realized that's how films had to do it, as well. I could work with copyright rules.
Once we worked that out, we came across another speed bump – my vision for the story. I thought behind-the-scenes was vision enough. I was asked to write a proposal for my video, so I wrote up what I thought was acceptable – a very basic outline of my plan.
However, this was not was was expected of me. The woman I had been emailing responded to me with a challenge: dig deeper. Boy, did she know how to light a fire under me. After working about four hours on a new proposal, I came up with something I think to be pretty great. Long story short, I have decided to spin this story as a human interest piece on the cast of "The Foreigner." I am making this a story about the journey of a group of random people into becoming a well-functioning cast. I start this project in a few days and couldn't be more excited.
And now we come to my most recent endeavor. The Naturals are Marquette's all-male acapella group. I have loved acapella/been jealous of people with that talent for years. As the trailer for the movie "Pitch Perfect," states: "We sing songs without any instruments. It's all from our mouths!" Honestly. How cool is that? So I decided to a piece documenting the arrangement of an acapella number. I start this project a few days after I start with the cast of the Foreigner. I won't lie, though. I may not be able to keep my composure around boys who can sing acapella and wear bow ties to their shows. Oh. My. Gosh.
So there you have it. That's my month. It will be a little crazy, but I am so excited for the final product of all these stories. The lack of sleep and sanity will be worth it. But, just a warning. If you run into me within the next few weeks, I may look incredibly frazzled and no longer obtain the ability to speak words coherently. Do me a favor and go with it? Some fun journalism will come out of it.
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.