Objective: Leading with emotion is a hugely powerful way to ground a scene in-the-moment. Don’t over-think an easy win. You don’t need a motivation. You just need commitment to the moment. Just react emotionally.
2.0 Warm-Ups: Revisit names, build energy and concentrate energy
CIRCLE OF SEQUENCES – A player points at another and says any word. That player points at another player and says another word inspired by the first. This continues until every player says a word and points to another player, with the final player to contribute pointing back to the first player to contribute. This is Sequence One; repeat it continuously until the group is comfortable with it. Establish a Sequence Two the same way, and then a Sequence Three. When players are comfortable with each Sequence individually, tell them that they now will be keeping them all going at once. Start with Sequence One and then tap the player starting Sequence Two on the shoulder, then tap the player starting Sequence Three on the shoulder.
• Focus outward – can’t be in your head freaking out; have to be ready and waiting for your turn
• Be sure you’re heard – enunciate, make eye contact, and pointing helps
• Each individual is 100% responsible for the success of the group – if a sequence is dropped, even if you didn’t drop it, pick it up
• Names – Make Sequence One “Your Name” and Sequence Three “Their Name” to add to potential confusion so as to force increased concentration
2.1 Emotional Heights/Depths: We need to be able to exhibit the highest highs and lowest lows on stage so we need to practice emotion at the extremes to become comfortable in that space.
EMOTION TO 11 – Teacher gives students an emotion. The class gives a suggestion of what to emote to. Around a circle, students engage in that emotional perspective toward that suggestion, ramping up from 1-10 to 11. You’ll need to be attentive in this one since people tend to hit walls here. They really need to go bonkers and forget to make sense in what they’re saying. If someone really clams up, offer to do it with them, alongside them. Use your judgment to know when to push and when to let it go.
• Give big, round, easy emotions, “happy, sad, fear, anger”
• Push people, gently “more, bigger” to discover and emote. Don’t be mean. Do it with them if they struggle.
• Exude the emotion physically – 11 in sadness is rolling on the floor and weeping
• Push it past comfortable – being vulnerable enough to share big emotions can be hard, but we have to trust each other and the safe place to “go big” in practice. Support each other with applause.
• Being bored or unaffected is hard to heighten – care
2.2 Emotional Decision Making: If you are to “choose one thing” entering a scene, emotion is always a strong choice. It doesn’t matter what the choice was if you commit. And choosing to decide without deference to “sense” can make for fun unique scenes.
EMOTIONAL CHOICE CIRCLE– Player One makes a decision of what emotion they will use to react to Player Two through. Then Player Two says anything. And Player One has the previously decided upon emotional reaction to the anything. (“I have a dog” / “Fucking Christ!”)
• A committed emotion will always trump sense – if you just feel you never have to explain how/why you feel what you do.
• Any emotion works – if we try to “understand your motivation” before making a choice about how to feel, you’ll end up in a scene that’s been done a million times before. But, if you make a choice about how to feel before any context is established, then that scene has the potential to be different than any that’s been seen before (“I’m the first Johnson graduating college” / “Ooooh, my god. I’m so scared”).
EMOTIONAL LAY UP LINES – Player One makes a decision of what emotion they will use to react to Player Two through. Then Player Two enters the stage to engage Player One and Player Two responds through their chosen emotional perspective (“Hi” / “I love you”). Give the scenes a few lines back and forth.
• Repetition is the only justification you need – If emotional offers are not aligned (“It’s so beautiful”/ “I’m so depressed”), don’t waste your time negotiating which feelings are valid; just heighten the juxtaposed feelings (“The colors in this sunset – breath taking” / “So much pollution”; “The deep reds, bright purples…”/ “The black in our lungs”).
BLIND SCENES – Player One starts engaged in the environment (with an action, object, atmosphere, etc.). Player Two, starting with his back to the stage, has the first line of dialogue.
• Commitment is the only justification you need – If players’ initiations don’t align, they don’t have to make sense of why they’re together. They can just accept and heighten what’s happening.
EYE CONTACT SCENES – Players One and Two have to make statements back and forth without breaking eye contact. For the sake of the exercise, these scenes can consist of two players standing center stage as talking-heads.
• Harder to assert when pressured – We tend to want to ask questions or make weak statements when forced up against our scene partners. We have to be (or at least “seem”) confident even in the face of demanding insecurity.
2.3 Emotional Subtext: Make assumptions to heighten emotions. “Have you seen my wallet?” “I get it; I’m not fiscally responsible!” Seeking to use emotions to drive scenes, we can make our partner’s contributions matter even if they don’t initially resonate.
EMOTIONAL ACCUSATION LAY-UPS – Player One comes off a lay-up line with a very innocuous line (“Oh, look, a mushroom”). Player Two makes that line matter by making a strong assumption about what that line could mean (“I’m sorry I told you about me tripping on shrooms”).
• Don’t feel pressure to explain the subtext/Commitment trumps sense – “What a beautiful sunset”/ “I’ll never cheat on you.” All that matters is that Player Two thought up a “cheating” subtext from Player One’s “sunset” it doesn’t have to be justified.
• Don’t defend; heighten – Player One needs to make assumptions, too. “What a beautiful sunset”/ “I’ll never cheat on you”/ “I knew it. You’re cheating on me”/ “That you would think I could ever cheat on me is inexcusable.”
“YES, BECAUSE” SCENES – Player One makes a statement about they feel about herself or her scene partner. Player Two heightens that feeling by making explicit the reason why Player One feels like she does (“I’m afraid of roller coasters” / “Because I dropped you as a baby”).
• Feeling Comes First – Don’t wait on your motivation before feeling something. Let feeling something, and the repetition of that feeling something, lead to an understanding of “why” (if needed at all).
• Stay In-the-Moment – Commitment to reacting to the last thing said will keep us committed to the moment and focusing outward
• Take a beat – the best thing about emotions is feeling them. We don’t have to respond verbally right away. Take a moment to be affected, to feel the impact of the line. And do it without maybe before knowing “the impact of the line.”
2.4 Emotional Initiations: The sooner we identify how a player feels the better – because that feeling can be heightened by the player and played to by the player’s teammates. The sooner we can identify how a player feels about a something the better – because that something can be heightened by the player to heighten the player’s emotion and that something can be referenced/heightened by the player’s teammates to force the player into a reaction.
SELF CONTAINED EMOTIONAL STATEMENT CIRCLE – Around a circle, everyone makes a Self Contained Emotional Statement. It can be as simple as “I love it here,” “I hate the arts,” or “I’m uncomfortable.”
• It’s a statement. Not a question shifting the responsibility of providing information to your partner. There’s a period. It’s definitive.
• It’s an emotional statement. Emotional reaction is one of our three key tools; let’s get to it. You need to feel and, for the reaction, you need to give that feeling a direction. Give X the power to make you feel Y.
• Being self-contained, the statement places you on solid ground without dictating the scene to your partners – Mick Napier urges us each to “take care of yourself” without confining the scene. Allow your partner the choice of whether to mirror you in some fashion or to take on something entirely their own. Being self-contained is increasingly an imperative the larger a group you have on stage.
ANNOYANCE-STYLE SCENE STARTS – Have the class form a line across the back of the stage. Call out one name. That person should immediately take the stage and “take care of themselves” with a choice about their emotion, posture, environment, activity, etc. The moment you call that name, another improviser should be coming out on stage as well. That person must also “take care of themselves” with a choice. Players expand on their choices, most importantly establishing and heightening their emotional perspective. Run through this several times until you are confident everyone will take care of themselves right out of the gate and, eventually if not immediately, get to emotion.
• If I’m picking my nose, what does that say about my age? If I’m forty-five and picking my nose, where am I? If I’m forty-five and picking my nose in a restaurant, am I embarrassed?
• A scene needs information. But expand on what you’ve already got. Commit to it.
You don’t need motivation to have a feeling