Subsequent Beats class

Objective: A scene’s stakes (situational, behavioral and relation-based) can be heightened with more scenes, especially when emotions are heightened, too.

6.0  Warm-Ups: Build energy, concentrate energy and emote boldly.

Suggested Exercises:




IMPRESSIONS – Impressions are a fun way to get into a fully formed character
•  Go around in a circle, have everyone say a person they do an impression of
•  Move everyone to the right one spot, they do the impression of the person next to them
•  Get two people up, they do the impressions of people they have no idea how to do impressions of


6.1  Remember what you like; Repeat:   We have to listen and retain so we can return to and heighten established information.  Memory is a muscle to exercise.  But the exercise can be fun – focus on what makes you laugh, what engages you.

Suggested Exercises:

STORY STEALING – Everyone in a circle.  One at a time, players enter the center and tell a true, personal, 30 Second Story.  Once everyone has told a story, the teacher tells the class that players now have to enter the center and recreate someone else’s story.  Every story should be revisited once by another player. 
•  Don’t mock; mirror – this is not about making fun of each other, it’s about making each other look good by remembering their story
•  Remember specifically – remembering a few specific details will be more powerful than remembering everything generally
•  Remember reactions – our emotional reactions are improv gold; focus on those when setting other player’s stories to memory
•  See what’s not shown – recreating what our fellow players initially did subconsciously is great fun.  How do they stand?  How do they move?  What do they sound like?

SCENE STEALING – Two players do a scene.  Two different players redo the scene, repeating and heightening details, characters, stakes, and emotion. 
•  We remember the good stuff – they’ll drop questions, carry over specifics, and remember good stuff, point that out.
•  The bad stuff becomes good when we repeat it make each other look good!  The first time is “random”; the second time is “purposeful”; the third time is “expected.
•  Don’t skimp on the emotion – Player Two might have been simply overwhelmed during the Offer dialogue, but Player Three and Four heighten the emotion of being overwhelmed characters.


6.2  Heightening Through Tag-Outs: A “tag out” allows the audience to see how a character from a previous scene will react to another character/scenario/etc.  We want to execute tag-outs in service of heightening the emotional stakes.

Suggested Exercises:

TAG OUTS –To perform a tag out, a player enters a scene in progress and literally tags the player that he/she will replace on stage.
•  Being a bigger version of Player One; Do what Player One did bigger – always a trusty default (You were excited by snails?  I’m going to be really excited by snails).
•  Keep it Active / Avoid Being a Psychiatrist – we don’t want to rehash the previous scene (“Tell me about your feelings for snails”/ “Remember? In the last scene when you liked snails?”).  Initiate with active elements that can affect characters emotionally in the present moment.
•  Wherever You’re Taken, Trust In You – If Player Three takes Player One’s snail lover to see the animated movie Turbo, Player One is expected to heighten his excitement.  Player One can relax in knowing that wherever he’s transported he just needs to trust in his emotional reactions.
•  Elevate the Details – A player who fears action figures can be terrified of all little versions of things. A player obsessed with her eyebrows can obsess over everything she trims.  A tenant complaining to her absentee landlord can also complain to an absentee God.


6.3  Subsequent Beats: The stakes of one scene can be used as inspiration for initiating new scenes.

Suggested Exercises:

SUBSEQUENT BEATS – Two players do a scene (edited early by the teacher).  These two original players go to the wings.  A Player Three initiates a new scene, explicitly soliciting the participation of Player One, Player Two, Both Players One and Two, or Neither Players One nor Two.
•  Put the onus on initiating subsequent beats on those standing on the wings – the players in the original scene need to be focused on the scene in play; those on the wings have the time to think up an initiation. When players from the originating scene initiate their own subsequent beats, it is too likely that they will over-prioritize plot or simply repeat what they did originally.
•  Use NAMES – it’s easier to solicit the participation of Player One if you can say, “Hey, Jack…”
•  Elevate the situation – Spies stealing secrets?  Have mountaintop-sitting, spiritual gurus stealing life’s secrets.  Have Moses steal the Commandments.
•  Elevate character’s defining behaviors – Player One is an enthusiastic baseball commentator; Have him do color commentary at his accountant day job; Have him narrate as he video tapes his son’s birthday
•  Elevate themes – In lifting the reactions from the originating scene’s players and situation, we give those reactions wider applicability and telegraph to our fellow players that we are heightening the theme represented in those reactions.  (A sailor’s wife awaiting her husband’s return would have a great scene with a dog awaiting his master’s return from the store).
•  Mapping – Lay the dynamic structure of one genre over the particulars of another genre to heighten thematic and narrative depths. Two male improvisers talk about cars or sports while really talking about women and/or sex.  Play the emotional dynamic of a young man asking a father for his daughter’s hand over the particulars of a teenager asking his dad for the car keys – “Boy, what are your intentions with my sedan?”

3 thoughts on “Subsequent Beats class

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