Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Seduction in Song

Music makes seduction easy. No, not that sort of seduction.
A seduction is a pretty common impro technique, where one character works to change another's mind. It is rarely a romantic seduction - usually it starts with two characters with polar opposite views on something, and as the seduction continues one of them changes their position. Examples might include a meat-eater convincing a vegetarian to eat meat, a red-handed criminal trying to get a cop to cut them a break, or a gust of wind trying to dislodge a stubborn leaf from a tree.

A good improviser won't fall in to the trap of not being seduced; resisting a seduction is just a massive block. "No, I'm not going to eat that steak, and that's final." "OK, I give up. Let's watch TV." What a fun scene. You want to move the story forward and change things, not stall it. In the short form game Seduction, the entire scene is about the work character A is doing to change character B; the ongoing story doesn't matter. But sometimes the seduction is just a small component of a scene or story.

As an audience member, I feel a bit cheated if person A manages to convince person B with only the slightest argument. "I've been a vegetarian for 20 years." "Hey, steak is really tasty!" "OH, ok. Chomp chomp chomp." You want to see them work a little bit, right?

I was listening back to one of our Prognosis: Death shows. We leave a bit of room for songs in these shows; if they happen, that's great, and if not that's ok too. In any given show sometimes we'll have one song, sometimes three, sometimes none. One of the songs from our last run of shows taught me a great lesson about songs and seductions.

In St Love And The 1001 Books You Need To Read Before You Die, Doctor Melody Carmichael (Amy Currie) accidentally spilled magic liquid on her collection of childrens' books, opening up a mysterious portal allowing fictional characters to come through to St Love Hospital. Earlier in the story, Melody caught her fiancee Ludwig Lestrange (Dan Beeston) kissing her best friend Nurse Lotte Buble (Natalie Bochenski). She is sad and angry - she's lost her fiancee and her best friend. She's been hanging out with Captain Hook (Luke Allan). Captain Hook's first mate Smee was killed earlier in the story, leaving Hook similarly sad and friend-less. Melody needs a friend, but the bloodthirsty Captain Hook is just not a good match. Or is he?

In Best Friend/First Mate, Amy and Luke do an amazing job of rhyming and lyrical construction; Amy sets 'em up, and Luke jumps right on board. I love the setup for the chorus - "I want a best friend / I want a first mate" is just classic. Even though the first verse seems to set Melody as low-status and Hook as high-status, that chorus brings them together with a shared problem.

The singers do a far better job than I do on music; I lost time at least four times in the song. Luke and Amy keep rock solid timing, and I generally get back on track, but I have to say it was a pretty sloppy effort on my part. One very nice musical technique shows up at the end when Luke sings "That sounds great". Just taking his melody line and repeating it a few times in the music gives a really nice wrap up to the song.

(If you're curious about what the underscoring sounds like for this show, you can listen to a chunk of the pure piano recording from the scenes immediately following this one. Just head over and listen to Revenge on Uncomposed.)

The moment of seduction comes right near the end. And it's a pretty weak seduction.
Melody: You're just not a friend
Hook: I'm the best friend you'll ever have, my dear
Yep, that's it. Seriously, that's right up there with "Hey, steak is really tasty!" Not much of a clever argument. But I bought it as legitimate; it didn't feel lightweight, even though the words on their own kinda were. That's what grabbed me about the song - a significant emotional shift was made without much clever dialog, just some nice singing.

Right at the end, Nurse Buble is shown to be eavesdropping, so the audience realises she overheard Melody deciding to kill her - that's the source of the big "Awwwwh!" at the end. It scored pretty high on the Awwwwh-o-meter, which for me is an indication the audience is really engaged with the story and characters.

In the space of two minutes, Melody goes from missing her friend and thinking that Hook is a bad person, all the way making Hook her new best friend and agreeing to knock off her ex-best-friend. Can you imagine doing that as quickly and convincingly with just dialogue?

Photos by Wanda Anderson


Amy said...

I hadn't heard any audio of that episode yet, so it was great to hear that song. I always enjoy reading your analyses. I am still not quite sure why Melody decided to go from wanting to egg LeStrange's car and toilet paper Buble's house to agreeing to kill Buble...but Melody is an impulsive creature, and Hook WAS very persuasive.

Kris said...

I find it fascinating and very cool that you say Melody decided to do something... Not you. I guess these characters have established themselves and grown, and you guys set yourselves aside for a while when you're playing them. I'm in awe that you guys can do that :)

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