Watch this scene, starring Scott Beckett as “Mr. Johnson” and Jonathan Nelson as “Jeeves.”
Details and Space. Character and Emotion. Patterns and Games. This scene’s got it all.
Patterns and Games: The scene progresses with three beats of a simple game built around Personal and Scenic endowments – Scott appreciates the food and wants Jeeves to pass on his appreciation of the food to the kitchen staff; Jonathan dutifully accepts Scott’s request and then moves away to bask in the appreciation as the whole “kitchen staff.” The first time the sequence occurs, the players have just made juxtaposed choices to feel. The audience loves the sequence, engaged in its emotional stakes, and the players know to repeat and heighten it.
Characters and Emotion: The characters are affected by what’s on stage with them, the objects and each other – Scott appreciates the food and heightens his enjoyment with every bite; Jonathan feels dutifully subserviant to Scott. As mentioned, those choices of emotional endowments forge the nodes of the scene’s main game. But the depth of character here speaks to a world beyond this moment – Scott is a billionaire surfer dude; Jonathan is a British butler, and pershaps the only “help” in the whole mansion. Too often on an improv stage, players found their characters on one note and beat that one note into the ground over the course of the scene, perhaps calling out a discussion of those character traits instead of just living in them. Scott’s and Jonathan’s character traits don’t need to be called out; they can just be. There’s a world here, and the audience engages it.
Details and Space: The specificity of this scene is engaging, grounding both the players and the characters. They’re in a breakfast nook the audience can visualize. Scott knows food and shares “himself” with the audience through his “script.” Jonathan endows his boss with a “Cumberbund come undone” further painting the scene with “surprises” for the audience that expand the characters the audience already know. Scott takes the time to mime, which heightens his emotional reactions to the food and breeds patience into the scene. Jonathan takes the time to separate from Scott to experience the appreciation he’s earned, milking the pacing of the game to give each iteration additional punch.
Details and Space. Character and Emotion. Patterns and Games. This scene’s Improv As Improv Does Best.