Well the first weekend of Crazy Eights shows has wrapped up, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Friday night’s show was the first ever, and I know I had some jitters. It’s the first time in a long time, maybe ever, that I’ve felt nervous going out on stage. But it was good to see it come together though. We had a few bugs in the first show. I played at the card table and picked a character who was introverted and didn’t know two of the other characters. That was a bad choice. When the show revolves around relationship and stories, it’s pretty crippling to make a choice like that. Anyway, I learned my lesson. I also put three men and one woman at the card table. It felt slightly awkward. The other problem was that there was not enough scene initiation from the bench players, which put a lot of pressure on the card table. Fortunately, the banter at the table was strong, and carried a lot of interest. However, the show was unbalanced, and it had me feeling kind of nervous. That’s never a good thing on stage.
I made some adjustments to the format for the second show. We warmed up doing quick and strong scene initiations with organic edits. Basically that’s the skeleton of Crazy Eights, and it was good for us to get into the habit early in the night. During the warmup, we even developed a few tricks that we called back in the show, like painting a scene like a movie scene, with camera directions and details added by outside players.
I also changed the lighting plan. On the first night, we tried using lighting to shift focus from the card table to centre stage depending on where the action was. It looked lovely, but put the bench in the dark most of the time. For tonight’s show I wanted just a plain wash of floods on the stage, so that the improvisors could instantly put focus where it needed to be. It also helped the bench feel more a part of the action. I removed the chairs that the bench players sat on, so we had to stand or crouch when not involved in a scene. That made it much faster for us to move onto stage when necessary. This approach worked well because Crazy Eights depends so heavily on split-second timing. Scenes need to be initiated in the middle of conversations at the card table. The delay caused by bench players having to get out of their chairs was disrupting the flow in Friday night’s show. Combine that with the darkness on that side of the stage, and I think the bench players felt more like spectators than players. I changed the casting a bit too. I put two women and two men at the card table, and two women and two men on the bench.
Anyway, the changes paid off. Tonight’s show was more energetic, better paced and had no lulls. We had a damn good time playing. Everyone was taking risks and playing smart. I think this is how Crazy Eights is meant to look and play. I’m looking forward to doing it again in April, this time with better promotion. 🙂