"The Audience Is Like Mel Gibson" - An Interview with the Voices of Note to Self
Figment Theater’s Note to Self opens next week on March 13th at the Asian Arts Initiative, Figment’s new weekly improv home! It is directed by Brian Rumble (read our interview with him here) and features Adam Siry, Andrew Coppola, Bobby Lang, Corin Wells, Fred Brown, Jessica Ross, Joel Sumner, Kate Banford, and Whitney Harris.
Last week I talked to the improvisers performing as principal characters, who talked about collaborating with their “voice” counterparts as well as Brian’s fictitious drinking problem.
Today we hear from the heard-but-not-seen Joel Sumner, Adam Siry, and Whitney Harris on what it’s like to be someone’s internal monologue and whose head they’d like to get inside.
Tell us about Note to Self. What’s got you excited about this show?
Adam: Note to Self is a show about the internal drama we create for ourselves every day. Certain characters will have their inner monologues exposed and the audience is like Mel Gibson in the classic film What Women Want.
Joel: It’s like a sitcom on stage.
Whitney: You get to see both sides of these characters, what they’re thinking and how they’re acting, and a lot of the time they don’t match up, which makes me self-conscious now in situations like ordering at a restaurant. She says with a smile, “Sure you can have yet another basket of chips,” but is she really thinking “Fuck off.” Well, probably not because I’m an excellent and polite customer but I guess we’ll never really know.
Joel: I’m excited to see how audiences react to what we’ve created. I’m curious about what will strike them about the discoveries we make.
Adam: It’s exciting to be involved in a show doing something that’s entirely new and getting to improvise with some great people I hadn’t gotten a chance to work with before. I also really love that the show is set in a durable world.
What is it like to be paired with one other improviser for the duration of this process? Does it feel like you’ve created a character synthesized out of both of your personalities, and have there been any memorable discoveries you’ve made together?
Joel: Well I got paired with Fred Brown so for me it’s a dream come true. More seriously its been like working a completely new improv muscle. Having to take into account someone’s physicality, words, and attitude in relation to their scene partner and then as a third member of that scene comment on what exists in those moments. I feel like the character Fred and I created came completely organically through rehearsals. I’d say he is a mix of both of us in some ways and in other ways he is his own entity.
Adam: I love working with Andrew. One of the most fun things about improv for me is the cooperation and shared terror of being on stage with another person working together to create something out of nothing. This has been like that times 1000. Andrew and I are a lot alike and the character we’ve settled into is kind of an version of ourselves with the volume turned way up on every self doubt and feeling of social discomfort. We recently discovered that our character owns one plant (and only one plant) and he’s very protective of it.
Whitney: It’s been great being paired with another improviser, especially one like Corin (she’s fantastic!). It’s such a fun process building this one character together and making new discoveries about her as we go along. One of us can make a decision that maybe the other one would have never thought of. I think our character is a mix of both of us but taken to the extreme. I’ll admit I do enjoy an episode or two of America’s Next Top Model but not as much as our character does…spoiler!
Can you describe what the rehearsal process has been like? Has anything been particularly surprising about it?
Joel: It has been interesting. Figuring out the form this show would take has been the biggest journey.
Adam: Because the form is so new, a big part of the rehearsal process has been trying to figure out how to integrate the voice into the scene work. With the added voice, every two-person scene is really a three-person scene.
Whitney: We started off trying to figure out who we wanted our character to be by doing scenes and being allowed to change our characters for our next scene. We could drop what we didn’t like and keep traits or qualities we did. And week after week we kept building on what we had from the weeks before. It’s been fun watching each of the characters morph and form into the three solid characters we have now.
Joel: Surprising to me are the solid cast of characters the ensemble has created. From crazy bosses, to intense room mates, to frustrated significant others, they paint these worlds so well.
Adam: One surprise for me is how much emotional ground the show can cover in one hour. The addition of the inner voices allows the character to be dealing with two different emotional arcs at once sometimes.
If you could hear the inner monologue of any living person, who would it be?
Joel: This is a tough one. I’ll go with the Dalai Lama. For someone so at peace and so centered I’m dying to know what kind of conversations he has with himself.
Adam: Any astronaut who is right now out in space. Preferably one doing a spacewalk.
Whitney: David Blaine so I could learn all his secrets. His magic secrets.
Has working on this production had any affect on the way you think about improv?
Whitney: Yes it has, thank you for asking.
Adam: This show has gotten me to focus much more closely on the question of “what does my character want,” and, more specifically, “how does he try to get what he wants.”
Joel: It’s helped me with listening immensely. Along with that, playing the voice has allowed me to really watch a scene and comment on what’s not being said. To play with what a character may want without having to be the one to “say it out loud”. As the voice I don’t have to be subtle.
Describe Note to Self in three words.
Joel: Discovering the Unsaid.
Adam: Contemplation begets comedy.
Whitney: The best, ever, or there’s blood everywhere, hard to choose between the two.
Note to Self runs March 13 – 16 and 20 – 23 at 8pm with additional 3pm matinees on Sundays at Figment Theater at the Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street, 2nd Floor Studio C. Tickets available here.