This weekend was packed with activities. Most notable, at least to a general audience, were Saturday's improv class, the Show With No Name live show at the Alamo Drafthouse, and a work session to get the SXSW Palm OS schedule application finished.
Let's start with improv. This was class #2 of 6; last week, we did lots of exercises involving listening and spontaneity. I'm taking this with the excellent orangepaisley; she's had more training, and our conversations about the classes have helped me understand a lot of the motivations behind what we're doing. This week, it was all about offers and imitation. In improv, an offer is some movement or verbalization that establishes parameters of the scene. For example, one of the offers I was involved in had me enter the stage with another class member; I mimed putting on a headset and said "Hello, poison control hotline, can you tell me your emergency?" My partner took a beat, then responded "Yeah, I'm poisoned!". I made an offer, and he accepted it and started adding detail to it. We also learned a lot about different kinds of blocking, which is when you reject the offer, often by contradicting it or denying its reality. Blocks can sometimes be really funny, but they kill the energy of a scene and don't give you new material to build upon.
The imitation involved a game where we paired up and had to mirror the movement of our partner, switching leads back and forth, and eventually forming larger groups that all were trying to follow each others movements closely. This was really tough for me; I thought I did OK in observing others, but I had problems moving the right body parts to match their movement -- I'd use the wrong arm or position my hands in a mirror image of how they should be. This led into a dance game where teams were in a diamond formation, and the leader of the diamond was determined by how the group was facing. That was more fun, as there was music to help guide the motion and provide a rhythm for everyone.
The Show With No Name live shows were great. Both shows were only two-thirds full, which was disappointing, but there was a lot of energy in the audience, and the material was really strong. Charlie had spent the last couple of weeks editing together sections for the show -- one on music, one on the news, one of weird stuff, and a final segment on drunk celebrities. We had both highlights from our favorite clips and segments from the host segments of the show. We got Luke, our 12-year old comedian, up in front of the audience to do some Bill Hicks material, and we brought up audience members to play the "Manson-or-not?" game. It was a nice end to the TV series; the crew does want to work on something new in the future, but it won't be "The Show With No Name" anymore.
The SXSW PDA application is coming along. We've got good data for the interactive and music festivals, but the film festival is a big mess right now, so we're not quite ready to release it on the web. The graphical look of the application's been updated a lot this year, with everything looking more like the SXSW website, and we've got the Ask Jeeves logo displayed prominently, as they're the 2005 sponsor for the application. My partners have been really helpful; Patrick helped me optimize a lot of the graphics this afternoon, while Charles (zen_elf) was plugging away at filtering the data, removing bad events and cleaning up descriptions.