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Such a good post. Exactly what I needed to read with where I’m at with improv right now. (Billy has a way of doing that.)
Short version/my takeaway:
* When someone gives you criticism, listen to it and don’t dismiss it, even if you instinctually disagree with it.
* You can get opposite advice where both notes are correct; find the golden middle.
* Lots of improvisers have gotten the “don’t argue”/”you really should have argued there” notes.
First off, take the note. Don’t waste any of your time [or the class/practice] trying to fight the note in your head or with the teacher/ coach.
You will, at some time in your improv training, get a note you disagree with. Or a note that is the opposite of what other teachers and coaches might have given you. This is to be expected. If you disagree with the note let it slide, you don’t have to act on everything said. BUT if you get the same note three or more times from different sources, you have a problem that needs fixing.
Sometimes when fixing a note we receive, we can overcompensate. For instance: One of the first notes given to me  was I improvise like a stand up comedian, jokey, full if ironic detachment. [I know, ME?] This hit me hard, I didn’t want to be that guy, and then I found that I overcompensated and played every scene too serious, taking whatever fun that could be had, out of the scene. The note given to me then was, lighten up, your doing comedy. Both notes were right, and both notes were about the same player.
These are called Pendulum Swing notes, you go back and forth with notes about a certain issue that seem conflicting, but in the long run, you will settle down right in the middle. [unless you fight the note]
Sometimes notes can stop a bad habit right away, but most of the time it takes time and practice. Be patient, surrender yourself to the process.
Sometimes a note is the polar oppisite of what another teacher has told you. Know that there must be a reason for that, find the justification. [You shouldn’t do argument scenes, they tend to stall/ You should of argued in that scene, it would of called out the unusual]
Sometimes a note is given to get something out of you at that moment, but doesn’t apply to the rest of your improv career. [Do that same scene, but like your an animated cartoon]
A note to the note givers: Relax with all the notes. If giving notes on a Harold takes longer then the actual Harold, you’ve gone too far. Know that if you wanted, you could give a note on every word uttered in a scene. Pick and choose. Decide a theme, for instance, tonight’s ‘note focus’ will be on justifications, or “If that then what else”.
Best notes given to me:
“Everything you are doing is wrong, move to New York”
“Did you really need to be a tornado?”
“Play the Horror”