Last night my team Soulmates worked with Ben Rodgers as our coach. Our team performs the Pretty Flower form and if you aren’t familiar, the Pretty Flower is basically a monoscene with tag outs. Other teams that do the Pretty Flower are Dierkes and Fernie, Sentimental Lady, and Winslow. It’s an amazingly fun, challenging form to improvise with its own set of rules.
There is no way I could tackle the Pretty Flower in one blog entry, nor would I like to (you can’t have all our secrets! Hiss!). But last night we worked with Ben Rodgers on tag runs, which was invaluable coming from a member of Shitty Jobs.
We performed a quick Flower in front of Ben, which he stopped even quicker. “In the first tag out, I felt like you were setting up an idea that we didn’t get to explore. You tagged out, there was one short scene, and then we were back to the monoscene. As an audience member, I can tell you it wasn’t satisfying.”
“Here what I want you to do. When you’re tagging out, treat these tag runs as an opportunity to fall down the rabbit hole. Don’t be afraid to get too crazy because you can always return to the monoscene.”
THE SATISFYING TAG RUN
“You have two people in the first scene: the unusual person and the straight man,” Ben explained. “In the first scene, you want to hit the game very fast. This is a tag run so there is no time to hit the game and let it rest. Play the game and play it hard.”
“If we’ve found a game with the unusual person, what’s another situation you can put them in to play their game? That’s the first type of tag you can do: putting the unusual person in a different scenario to play their game.”
In our monoscene, we learned Dave’s character didn’t like admitting when he didn’t know how to do something and would always pretend he did. So Sean tagged to a new scene and initiated: “Are you sure you know how to eat pussy?”
“Oh yeah! Yeah, of course!”
“Because you’re not suppose to use that much teeth.”
Following the game, I tagged in and initiated: “First time skydiving! Thanks for showing me the ropes, Dave!”
* * *
“The second type of tag is more exploratory. Who is this unusual guy and what’s his deal? Who are his friends? What is his family like? Where does he work? You can take the unusual guy to a new situation, and explore it. In this type of tag, both people must recognize you’re playing a new game.”
“Once we’re in the second tag, the person on the back line should be actively searching for that next tag. Your radar should be sharply tuned for the next unusual thing. In these tag runs, you want to follow the fun. So if the straight man is actually a little weird in the second tag, tag out the unusual person and call out that straight man.”
“But if you call someone out, be prepared to find a new game.”
In my skydiving scene with Dave, it became quickly clear Dave’s character had no idea what he was doing. My character began freaking out, and Sean tagged me to the next scene.
“So you’d like to return this Groupon?” he said.
“YES! I almost died out there!”
“Well miss, you can’t just come to Groupon headquarters for a minor customer service issue.”
New scene. New game.
* * *
As Ben walked us through a satisfying tag run, I couldn’t help but think about how Shitty Jobs plays. All of their tags just follow the unusual person in a scene, which changes from tag to tag. If DC Pierson and Dominic Dierkes are two serial killers on a first date, but Sean Clements waddles in as a duck waiter, we want to know what the duck waiter’s deal is. Maybe in the next tag, we meet his boss who regrets hiring a duck to run this Cheesecake Factory.
But wait? Why would anyone hire a DUCK to run the Cheesecake Factory? Now we follow the boss’ character and find out what his deal is.
“When you’ve taken the tag run about as far as it can go, return to the monoscene and keep those specifics in your back pocket. The easiest way to impress your audience is if you can tie something from the tag run into the monoscene later.”
The main lessons I took away from our practice:
* In a Pretty Flower, treat the monoscene as your home base. Give your character a philosophy and a point-of-view. This will inspire tag outs.
* During your tag outs, make strong choices. Play characters. Be fearless and follow the fun. Now is the time to play aggressively and play fast.
* If you’re on the back line during a tag run, you are just as much in the scene as your scene partners. Pay attention and be alert for the next tag.
* When you return to the monoscene, keep your transitions clear so the audience understands what’s going on. Return to an action. Use character names. Whatever you explored in the tag out is completed, so don’t start talking about it again. Move on to the next thing.
* Look for connections at the end of your Pretty Flower. Are there any characters from the tag outs you can bring back? Do we learn one of our characters from the monoscene actually is someone from an earlier tag out? Let universes collide and tie it all together.
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