Looking for an exercise/warm-up that will engage your group in tapping personal emotions and leveraging those emotions in heightened subsequent beats?This exercise builds in three parts: A Monologue, A Two-Person Scene and Pivot.
First, a player takes center stage and engages a monologue about “something they feel about.” The dog you love. The boss you hate. The future you fear. The past you regret. Don’t just talk about your feelings; feel your feelings. Let the feeling infuse your speech and infect your position and gestures. Make your emotion present even if – especially if – the “something” you “feel about” is not there in front of you.
During the monologue the rest of the group is on the wings. Their job is to A) think about how to distill the monologue into a defining statement, and B) think about how that defining characteristic can be heightened with a subsequent scene.
In his monologue, John shares how anxious he’s been because he realizes that to truly excel in any of his hobbies that he really has to devote himself fully to one hobby. He doesn’t want to have to choose; he wants to do it all. And the pressure and angst is present in the pitch of his voice and tension in his movements.
How might his fellow players define John by his monologue? How can his emotion toward his hobbies be expanded into a pattern of behavior that dictates how he reacts to other aspects of his life?
Here’s a potential statement to define John with: Having to make choices makes John anxious.
Now how can John’s emotional behavior be leveraged in another scene…
In our second step, a player will engage John in a two-person scene by initiating in service of the defining statement the joining player has identified. For example, “Pick a major, John. You’re driving me insane.” John’s job is to react to this initiation with a heightened version of the emotion he established in the monologue. It doesn’t matter if, in real life, John had no problem picking his major; he’s now playing a heightened version of himself – a character defined by the emotional stakes of the monologue. Even if John the improviser doesn’t understand exactly how the joining player’s initiation relates to the monologue, he must trust that Player 2 is serving what John established and heightening his emotion is what’s expected even if it doesn’t make “sense.”
Player 2 doesn’t just serve Player 1. Player 2 should have emotional stakes in the game as well. For example, playing the role of John’s mother, Player 2 is desperate for John to choose a lucrative career – “your choices are law, medicine or statistics” – so she can have the mansion she’s always deserved.
So now, with this first two-person scene, the game of John’s emotional behavior has been set. Choices make John anxious. Raising the stakes of the choices before him, heightens John’s emotional reactions.
And in our third step, we Pivot. Remember, as a savvy alternative to a Tag Out, the Pivot allows a character to be transported to a different scene without the at-time-clunky mechanic of literally tapping a player on the shoulder to indicate that s/he should leave stage.
In this exercise, when Player 3 sees that Player 2 has heightened the emotional stakes of Player 1’s defining statement, s/he enters stage to initiate a new scene through the Pivot. This is a brand new scene further heightening Player 1’s emotional stakes. For example, Player 3 enters saying, “Would you just pick a mansion already, John? I need this commission.”
It’s a fun exercise. As a warm-up, players have to:
A) Tap into their personal emotions, experiencing them in-the-moment
B) Remain thoughtful while on the wings, focusing on what’s happening on stage so as to determine how they might heighten moving forward
C) Initiate in service of the core character while establishing themselves as dynamic, interesting characters themselves
D) Heighten the progression of the emotional-behavior-focused game with brand new characters, locations, stakes, etc.