Monday, January 19, 2009

Sketchfest - A Debrief

Well, sketch fest finished up this weekend and I'm happy to say that I managed to see a lot more shows than last year. Maybe not as many shows as I would have liked but still a sizable chunk.

Now that everything is wrapped up, it's helpful to look back and think about what all one's taken away from the whole experience and what one has learned.

(1) It's always fun to see the wide array of good ideas, good scene work, and good comic bits that come out of the shows. Regardless of whether or not the sketch show is great, there's always something in every show that's worth remembering.

(2) The shows that stand out to me are the shows that concentrate on a unique angle, shows like Best Church of God or Ten West or (even though it isn't actually sketch comedy) The Improvised Wrestling Show. The performers concentrated on creating an entire experience for the audience which made them stand out from your more traditional lights up/lights down shows.

(3) I think what separates a good sketch show and a mediocre sketch show is execution. While a lot of groups had really good ideas and really funny moments, I think the sketches could have used an extra rewrite. There's nothing worse than hitting that funny moment and then having the sketch drag on for another three minutes. I don't know if this is a symptom of sketch coming from improvisation with less of a focus on writing, or if it's a function of rushing the process to meet a deadline, but I think concentrating on the quality of the script is very important.

(4) For those groups from out of town, don't overdo the Chicago references. We appreciate that you're trying to make Chicago jokes but chances are we're coming to see your show because you're not from Chicago - it's one of the draws of the festival - so please just do your thing.

(5) I tended to enjoy shows that featured a little audience participation. Best Church of God actually had a fake missal so that the audience could sing along. Stuff like that plays into the draw of live theatre and gets people involved in the process.

(6) Conversely, I tended not to enjoy shows featuring videos - partly because half the time they didn't work and partly because the videos tend to be of iffy quality which, I mean, why pay to see something you could see for free on youtube? Team Submarine had a funny bit where they would gesture to the video screen and the video would not work and then they would talk about how someone must have screwed something up. For my taste, anything that can be done live on stage should be done live on stage.

(7) If you're going to do a movement to music piece, make sure you find a way to let your audience know why you're doing the piece. This works best when the music heightens whatever action you're trying to perform. I saw one group do an interpretive dance acting out the words of a The Who song while wearing crazy masks. It was visually interesting but a couple of minutes into the piece but it didn't really mean anything outside of being a live performance of a music video.

That's what I took away. If anyone has anything to add, go ahead and leave a comment.

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