Barcelona Improv Group

I’ve been dividing my time into half.

The first half has been going to teaching – planning classes, and writing reports included.

The second half has been my Masters. Just the thesis to go.

And the third half has been my theatre company, Barcelona Improv Group. Within that, I’m planning and teaching workshops, organising weekends away, updating the website, including video links to our new Youtube page, Twitter account, photographs from professional photographers, Facebook fanpage and workshop page, Google Analytics, and updating the list of English language theatre events in Barcelona month by month. All of this is visible at http://www.barcelonaimprovgroup.com. Oh, and of course, performing improvised comedy. And, though it may sound counter-intuitive, rehearsing. (We need to get to know eachother’s styles of comedy, what tricks avoid dead-ends and plot holes, learning accents and stage presence, projection and teamwork.)

Those of you who know maths can see, that is one half too many. But once the thesis is done (mid-February, 2013), I will have a half free for creative writing again. In the meantime, if you want to know what I’m up to, go to http://www.barcelonaimprovgroup.com, poke around, and let me know what you think. Except for the header at the top, it’s all made by me.

 

“Girl Meets Boy” (lesson plan), Guidelines to Improvised Comedy

Well hello again.

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on writing… but CREATIVE writing wouldn’t be accurate.

For the past year, I’ve written essays for my Masters course in Applied Linguistics, and every time I’ve moaned, “but I’m not doing any writing”, people have said, “but you’re writing your essays every week.” Not the same.

As always, being a teacher, I’ve written lesson plans. Mostly they’ve just been simple notes for myself. Recently, I submitted a proper one to a teaching website called Designer Lessons – my article was called “Girl Meets Boy”, and it’s a thought provoking discussion and video class, (with the link here – even if you’re not interested in teaching, the video at the start is worth watching)

And, as I’ve been running nearly every improvised comedy workshop in the past two months, I’ve done a lot of lesson planning for that, too. Even though I’ve been doing improvised comedy for, in total, about 6 years now, it’s only in the last 12 months that I’ve really started to learn how to teach it – mostly through, you know, teaching it. I’m getting pretty good at designing the direction of a class, and what particular points I want people to notice this week.

Continue reading ““Girl Meets Boy” (lesson plan), Guidelines to Improvised Comedy”

Immunity, Teardrops, An Englishman Walks

Well hello there.

I’ll start with a quick bit of self promotion, and get it out of the way. In the past month or so, I’ve gone from co-running Improvised Comedy workshops and putting on the occasional show, to running a theatre company (B.I.G. – Barcelona Improv Group), organising regular shows, venues, promotion, weekends away, creating a website, AND running Improvised Comedy workshops.

The website is here: www.barcelonaimprovgroup.com , and it’s not finished… but it’s getting there. I’m making a little progress every day.

I spent the afternoon on a train to Sabadell to visit a friend (but let’s call her my financial advisor to make it sound more professional), so I got some bits of flash fiction done, and a haiku, and the themes of each one neatly flows into the next… sort of. So I’ll post them in the order of construction. Don’t be too critical – it’s the first time I’ve really gotten much done in all of hot, sweaty August. My brain doesn’t seem to cope well with the heat.

The first is heavily based on something I wrote once before – I apologise if I posted that, and am now repeating.

Immunity

He’d insisted: “When my son is born, we’re not feeding him that medication every day. What if he spits it up? It’s impractical. We’ll give him the injections – he won’t remember the pain.”
Twenty-four hours after the birth, when the nurse entered with the needle, he tried to leave, but his wife held his hand.
Five minutes later, the father emerged clasping his once-again quiet child. “Your first tears,” he whispered, “I caused your first tears in this world.” And he wept.

Teardrops

He stared at the train window; at the rivulets of rain that ran down the glass, gathering weight from the flecks as it fell. His grandmother slept in the opposite seat, her day smile washed off, leaving an exhausted sadness. Her reflection in the glass was half gone, and raindrop tears ran down her face.

a

An Englishman walks
with head held high in drizzle
and doesn’t get wet

Where I’ve been, and Some Jokes I did

Well hello Blog!
It’s been a long time. 4 and a half months.

When I last typed stuff here, it was still hot. Also, I still had a lot of free time, I was trying to get started on performing comedy, and my flat was cleaner.

What changed? Well, quite a lot. First, and most importantly, I started studying again. I’m doing a Masters in Applied Linguistics and Bilingual Acquisition in Multilingual Contexts, which is a big way of saying “ooh, look at me and my cleverness.” While I’m doing that, I’m also continuing to teach part time, and between all of that, I’ve been performing stand up comedy and pulling together a group of funny souls to perform improvised comedy too.

As a result, the writing kind of got…. pushed to the back. And it annoyed me. “I should write again”, I told myself every other day. But I wasn’t even finding time to read anything that wasn’t an empirical study, so I can see why that didn’t happen.

But now, a month’s reprieve. I only have 2 Masters classes for the next month, and instead of the stress-inducing 12 hours of classes (which obviously meant at least that again outside of class to study), I now have a measly 4.

I plan on using the time to stretch my writing muscles (at first) and then get some full on writing done (after that).

I also need to try and get our first Improvised Comedy performance arranged, and write some new material for a new stand up comedy set.

While I get that started, I thought I’d show you something I did over my long hiatus – one of my two stand up comedy sets! (with any luck, I’ll get a copy of the video of the other set soon)

Some forewarnings

– it comes with a long and glowing introduction from the MC – I just skip that bit.

– one of  comedians really is called Adolf. That’s not a joke.

– and it ends when the camera runs out of battery. The last minute BEFORE the battery died… I kind of lost my stride. It was very unpracticed, that bit. As in, written that afternoon, not really learnt. So feel free to stop before the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcwLTYaG8H0&feature=plcp&context=C3773470UDOEgsToPDskIAfXP7aaH2noCRebKOMRht

Heavy Suit; Gentleman

Time for another update, I feel, and this one has a good bit of Japan about it.

First up is a poem I took to that creative writing group I mentioned last time. This was one of the things that the group as a whole liked, and I’ve made some adjustments, following their advice… and then a few more adjustments that might or might not work.
I wrote it in Japan, when I was first getting used to the concept of getting up at 7am and not getting home ’til 8pm and working the whole time between. I suppose being an English teacher is quite an easy-going career at times. I often get large stretches of a day with nothing to do, and I often get to pick my own timetable. In Japan, it was work work work, 5 days a week, and this poem was the result:

Heavy Suit

My suit is heavy today.

As I shrug it
on to my shoulders,
it pulls them
down into a hunch.

As I slide
my arms down the
cool black sleeves,
they grow tired…

My fresh shower legs
crawl into
stumbling trousers

I yank on socks
suffocating,
restricting,
and bolt my toes down
under leather and laces

In the end,
only my head remains
unclothed, shackled
to this endless suit.

Soon, at work, that
too will sink.

Today, my suit is heavy.

a

a

On Sunday night, I was on stage performing something that I only had about 24 hours to prepare. This was OK, because I wasn’t performing stand up. I was telling a story – a true and personal experience from about this time last year in Japan, when I had a run-in with the fox spirit statues of Ikari Shrine. The event was called VENT! ,  which is all about telling stories from the heart, and I’ve attached a link to the Facebook page for those who are interested.

These are some of the malicious fox spirits

I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it turns out that even though the material (restricted by truth) wasn’t that shocking or gripping, I delivered it very well, and it was an enjoyable listen. At least, that’s what I was told afterwards.
I have a written version of this story that I’m working on now. The problem with that is that now that I don’t have to be entirely truthful, and I can be creative, I’m tempted to tinker with it a lot.
In the end, I’ll probably  publish here a refined version of the truth with a couple of flourishes but no drastic changes, and then use the scenario as a scene in a story I’ve been plotting on and off (mostly off) since November.

I’ll close with a silly haiku:

Gentleman

Remind me why I
live between Spain and Japan
when I prefer blondes?

Stand Up Comedy!

After a LONG wait, here is my stand up comedy show in all it’s glory. I messed up a bit, got things a little out of order, and didn’t hit the delivery on a few, BUT I had a lot of fun.

Two last notes:

It IS rude.  Be forewarned of rudeness.

The first couple of lines that are missing are something like “HELLO!” (hello from audience) I’m Matt and I’m single.

Stand Up Build Up

I don’t like posting when it’s just a series of excuses.

Instead, I’m going to instigate another 40 hours in 30 days in June.

And I’m also going to say that, while my other kinds of fiction have done very little over the last 5 or so weeks, I have been working on my stand up comedy. I performed a week and a half ago, to an audience of higher-ups in the EFL teaching career path – book-writers and bloggers and much more professional teachers than myself who attended a conference. My boss had me perform at the end of the drunken dinner at the end of the day – a cross between my stand up (all the teaching and language jokes) and and after dinner speech (including topical references to the day’s conferencing). Everyone said I did a really good job, and it was a great end to the day, so it’s boosted my confidence ahead of us performing in a week or two. Again, I don’t like posting my jokes on here, especially since so much of it is about delivery…

… but I’ll be more prolific again soon, I’m pretty sure.

Groanworthy Jokes and 3 Minute Haikus.

Hello, Blog.

I looked back over the past couple of weeks and thought – Oh, I’ve not been very productive. But that’s not entirely true.

First off, I’ve been writing reports. In Spanish. And some reports in English. It’s been moderately time consuming. I’ve also been creating (and marking) my own exam papers. This term, more than previous ones, I made an effort to create a fair few of the questions myself, rather than just cutting and pasting them from teacher book exam papers, and I’m quite happy with the results.

Secondly, I’ve made the discovery that writing poetry on a whiteboard is actually a really good place to do it. I spend so much of my working day using the medium of whiteboards to express meaning, and shuffling things around and making it look understandable that when I taught haikus to my Advanced Class yesterday, I actually found it quite easy to cut and move words around and get what I wanted to say. I think I need to buy a little one for myself.

Here they are.

Continue reading “Groanworthy Jokes and 3 Minute Haikus.”

TOAST Part 3 of 3

Well, you’ve not exactly been impatiently clamouring for the final part, which leaves me thinking maybe I’m talking to thin air. If that’s the case, then thank you, air, for being a wonderful audience. And also my mother, who I presume is still reading. If she isn’t, then it’s a sad day for my readership numbers… they’ll probably halve.

If you’ve not read the earlier parts, then start here.

So, here we are with the anti-climactic final part.

TOAST (continued, continued)

TOM: One of us should go and check. You went first last time, so it’s my turn.
MIKE: Right.
TOM: I’m just going upstairs, to get dressed, while I wait for the toast.
Mike sees him leaving, and realises he’s been tricked.
MIKE: W-! oh, never mind.
Tom exits.
GIRL: Come and have a bowl of cereal.
MIKE: Okay, but erm… just a small one.
He sits down.
GIRL: Well?
MIKE (cautious): Well what?
GIRL: Go and get a bowl.
MIKE: Oh. Right.
GIRL: I think you need to drink more of that coffee.
Mike looks at his cold cup of coffee.
MIKE: Maybe later.
He stands to get the bowl. She rises too, and goes over to him.
GIRL (smiling curiously again): You know, Mike, you’re acting very strangely. Are you sure you can remember happened last night?
MIKE: Yes! Of course I remember! Well… bits of it…
Short pause. She looks at him.
MIKE: I remember meeting you…
GIRL: (starting to catch on) Oh yeah.
MIKE: I was… with Tom…
GIRL: He’d just gone to the toilet.
MIKE: Yeah, he’d just gone to the toilet. Little details, I can’t remember, that’s all.
Pause.
MIKE: He never had good bladder control, Tom.
GIRL (laughing): I know.
This really unnerves Mike again.
GIRL: But I thought he was being sick.
MIKE: You’d remember better than me. You were sober.
GIRL (sidling really close to Mike): Come on, Mike. Tom’s upstairs. He can’t hear us. You don’t have to keep up the act…
MIKE: I don’t?
She puts her hand on his chest.
MIKE: You – you’re right, I don’t.
He leans in towards her for a kiss, and the toast pops up. They both pull back in surprise at the noise.
GIRL: Oh, it’s only the toast. Now where were we?
They move in close again, when Tom bursts into the room. They pull back quickly.
TOM: Was that the toast?
MIKE (straightening his shirt): Yes, it was. (bitter) You dressed quickly.
GIRL: And now I’d better dress, or I’ll be late. (looks seductively at Mike)
MIKE: Late? Late for – ?
TOM (interrupting): Yes, you’d better hurry.
Girl leaves. Mike starts to follow. Tom grabs him.
TOM: What are you doing? Don’t start asking questions now, you almost gave the game away!
MIKE (distracted, looking eagerly out of the door after her): Oh. Sorry. What did you find out?
TOM: It’s strange. I think I slept in my bed, and you in yours…
MIKE: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: But I’ve got no idea where she slept.
MIKE: I could guess.
TOM: What?
MIKE: Nothing.
TOM: Did you find anything out?
MIKE: That I met her when you were being sick, and that she said she “knows” you have bad bladder control.
TOM: That doesn’t help much.
MIKE: No.
TOM: But she said she knew I burnt the toast… so, I mean, it must have been me, really?
MIKE: Listen. Tom. It’s just that… well… you said she looked like your mother.
TOM: Yeah.
MIKE: Only with less of the –
TOM: Yeah, but what’s your point?
MIKE: Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? You can’t take a girl like that home to meet the parents. Oedipal complex and all that. SO embarrassing. Plus, your dad would probably –
TOM: Yeah, but who said anything about taking her home. I’m just talking about last night.
MIKE: Yeah, well, about that. I’m thinking about it logically now, and you know (looks out towards staircase like that)… a girl like that… she’s… she’s kind of out of your league.
TOM: What?
MIKE: No offence, mate, but… I don’t mean it like that, it’s just girls like that know what they want.
TOM: And what’s wrong with what I’ve got to offer!
MIKE: Well, you could stand to lose a few –
TOM: It’s all muscle! (Pause) Muscle weighs more than fat!
MIKE: And you’ve got a great personality, but girls can’t tell that from one night.
TOM: Great personality!?
MIKE (thinks he’s getting the idea. Eyes the door again) There you go mate. And you’re always telling jokes – like that drinking problem one. Very funny.
TOM: Girls like her leap at me every night! I’m beating them off with a stick!
MIKE: Look, I don’t want to hear about what you get up to in private!
TOM: Listen, she obviously came back with me. It’s about time you sat back and accepted –
MIKE (pointing casually): Oh, your toast’s ready!
TOM: Eh?
Tom looks at the toast, and starts to pick it out of the toaster. Mike sees his chance and sprints for the door.
TOM: What! You can’t go up now, she’s getting dressed!
Tom turns back to the toast, realising he’s burning his fingers off. He throws the toast down onto the side, and turns to chase Mike upstairs. The phone rings. Tom looks at the phone, then the toast, then upstairs, and moves to pick it up.
TOM: Hello? …… oh, hi Mum!…… Funny, we’ve just been talking about you!…. Oh, nothing… I’m fine, and you?………… is she? (he glances upstairs) …… no, not yet…… well, that’s good to know……yeah….. listen, this isn’t a great time. I’ll ring you up later and – ……. Yeah……. Okay, lunchtime……. Okay. Speak to you soon… bye.
He puts the phone down.
TOM: Mike? Could you come here for a minute?
The girl storms into the room, pulling her shoes on.
GIRL: What the hell does he think he’s doing?
TOM: You’ve grown a lot since I last saw you.
GIRL: Your friend – oh, (smiling) finally cottoned on, have you? I thought you’d get to it in your own time. You should have seen your faces first thing this morning when I walked in! I certainly confused Mike a bit earlier, for a laugh, but… perhaps I took it a little too far.
TOM: Oh, did he – and you –
GIRL: It’s my own fault really. I could’ve put him out of his misery, but… it was funny messing around with him first.
TOM: Maybe we could catch up sometime – go out for a drink?
She looks at him, grinning.
TOM: Okay, maybe not too much to drink.
GIRL: I’d love that, Tom.
She kisses him on the cheek, as Mike enters.
GIRL: Call me.
She leaves.
MIKE: What the hell do you –
TOM: Stop. After all, what’s a kiss between cousins?
MIKE: What?
TOM:  She’s my cousin.
MIKE: Oh, yeah, like I’d believe –
TOM: The phone rang just now. It was my mum, ringing to say Cousin Angela had just come into town and that I should meet up with her. And now I think about it, she’s got Uncle Henry’s –
MIKE: Hang on a minute – you said she –
TOM: Yeah, I haven’t seen her for 6 years. She’s grown a bit, that’s for sure.
MIKE: But she –
TOM: She figured us out. Probably right from the start, she could tell we couldn’t remember a thing. So she thought she’d joke around a bit. Mostly with you, it seems, although that toast thing had me flummoxed. (to himself) Hang on – 6 years ago – I had good bladder control. Cheeky minx.
MIKE: But where –?
TOM: Slept on the sofa, probably.
MIKE: Oh. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted.
A short pause.
MIKE: Coffee?
TOM: Make it two.

TOAST Part 2 of 3

Wasn’t sure if I should post the second part in a Mid-Week post or not. See, with NaNoWriMo just round the corner, I should conserve what written material I have, as I’ll be busy writing crap all through November, and that might limit my posts.

But then I thought – what the hey? It’s nice to stick all three parts back to back, and it might make me write more new stuff to get this up.

For those of you who missed it, go back to Part 1 before reading this.

TOAST (continued)

They walk offstage hurriedly together. Throughout this scene she is eating breakfast half-dressed, and the audience can hear Tom and Mike off stage frantically whispering.
MIKE: She must have come back with you. I wouldn’t forget a woman like that. I don’t think.
TOM: Come on, we were both pretty hammered.
MIKE: Yes but – what’s her name? Where’s she from.
TOM: I’ve never seen her before. Not in a pub, or a club, or on the street. I think I’d remember a figure like that.
MIKE: Let’s have another look, now I’ve woken up.
TOM: No! She could see us!
MIKE: We’ll be quiet. Let’s see if we recognise her.
Silence. Slowly, the pair poke their head out past the curtain, watching her intently. They look at each other, and shake their heads. They look again. Following conversation is all in whispers.
TOM: Well… come to think of it, she does remind me of someone…
MIKE: Well?
TOM: I don’t know why though…
MIKE: Come on! Who?
TOM: I don’t want to say – (looks at Mike’s angry face) Oh, all right. My mother.
MIKE: Your MOTHER?!
She stops chewing, and turns around fairly slowly. They quickly pull back. She looks back to her breakfast. Faces re-emerge.
MIKE: No, I don’t see the resemblence.
TOM: Well, you have to trim a few years. In the older photos, she used to –
MIKE: Oh I see, and I suppose the –
TOM: Exactly. Just a few details.
MIKE (chuckling): And she’s got your –
TOM: Let’s not go into that.
Heads go out of view. Voices from off stage.
TOM: (shakes his head) Look. We’re going to have to go back in there.
MIKE: Why?
TOM: Well, we just have to! She could be there all day! She might want a ride home!
MIKE: I suppose we could try and get her to tell us, without asking.
TOM: Yeah. So what are we going to say?
GIRL: What are you two doing back there?
TOM (out loud): We’re just coming!
MIKE: Wait!
TOM: What?
MIKE: We can’t go out together!
TOM: Why not?
MIKE: It’ll make us look gay, or something. Attached at the hip.
TOM: Okay, then. You go in first.
MIKE: If I look like I’m getting stuck in the conversation, come in, and change the subject.
TOM: Okay.
MIKE: Okay.
TOM: GO!
He pushes Mike on. She turns around. He goes to get his coffee.
GIRL: Cold enough for you?
MIKE: Hmm?
GIRL: The coffee. Is it cold enough?
MIKE: What? Oh yes, the coffee. Yes. It’s just the way I like it.
She looks at her cereal as he drinks a sip. He grimaces in disgust, but manages to swallow it.
MIKE: So, I, urm… I can’t remember how we got back last night. Did we take a taxi?
Tom is poking his head out.
GIRL: You can’t remember? I drove us back.
TOM: (whisper): She was sober, and she came back with us! Or even – with me!
MIKE: Did you? I don’t remember… er… much… I mean… well, the early evening was clear – I mean, crystal, ha ha, every little detail, you know? Except, you know, by the end…
GIRL (almost to herself): Oh. That is a shame.
MIKE: Sorry?
GIRL (smiling curiously to herself): Oh nothing. (leaning forward) So, what was the last thing you remember?
Mike looks urgently at Tom. Tom comes in.
TOM: Oh. Hi. Is there any jam left, or did we finish it last night – er, I mean, yesterday morning?
MIKE (relieved): I can’t remember. Check in the cupboard.
TOM: Yeah. Okay.
Tom walks to the cupboard. Silence, which Tom feels he has to fill.
TOM: Urm… yeah, I can see the honey, and the Branston pickle… and…. Yeah, there’s some jam at the back.
MIKE: What flavour?
TOM: Er… apricot.
MIKE: Have we got any strawberry jam?
GIRL: I’ve got the marmalade out.
MIKE: Good. Don’t worry, Tom, I’ll have the marmalade.
TOM: Okay.
Tom brings out the apricot jam, and puts it on the table too.
TOM: I’ll make us some toast.
MIKE: No! Let me! You sit down, have a bowl of cereal. I’ll get the toast.
TOM: No, I’m fine.
MIKE: But you always burn it! (to the girl) He always burns it.
GIRL (grinning): I know.
TOM: Yes, but – you know?
GIRL (as if it was obvious): Of course I do.
MIKE: Of course she does.
TOM: Tell you what, we’ll both do our pieces together.
They walk to the toaster, and get out some bread.
TOM (frantic whisper): How does she know that?
MIKE: That settles it. She must have come back with you.
TOM: Yes, but if I’ve never seen her before, how does she know I burn the toast?
MIKE: You must have had some last night.
Together, they lean over the toaster, looking into it.
GIRL: What are you doing?
They jump.
MIKE: Er, I think that the far sides hotter.
TOM: One side’s always hotter.
GIRL: You both make a bit of a fuss over breakfast, don’t you?
MIKE: Yes, well –
TOM: Most important meal of the day.
Silence.
TOM: So…. Have you got any clean clothes? For today, I mean.
GIRL: No, but the ones in my room will be fine.
MIKE (whispering): Wait! Which room did she sleep in?
TOM: One of us should go and check. You went first last time, so it’s my turn.
MIKE: Right.
TOM: I’m just going upstairs, to get dressed, while I wait for the toast.
Mike sees him leaving, and realises he’s been tricked.
MIKE: W-! oh, never mind.
Tom exits.

toast

I hope this is building the tension. Don’t brace yourself too much, it’s not the most astounding ending.