Vladimir Toma invents a heating device…
“Yah, so, this I call…vodka…”
The difference between one actor delivering all three of those lines and three improvisers delivering one of those lines apiece is huge in terms of audience reaction. When the audience sees that a player is accepting a choice given to them – as opposed to making their own choice in a vacuum – the audience will reward the attempt above the delivery. Forcing another improviser to own an endowment (aka pimping) can leverage improv as improv does best by emphasizing collaboration and minimizing the pressure on an individual to be clever.
It’s wonderfully counter intuitive. If I “pimp” another player into reciting the poem they just wrote, that other player may feel a lot of pressure to provide a clever/funny response. But, with the audience knowing the situation has been forced on the player, whatever the player commits to will be accepted. Improvisers need to feel that being forced into a corner is not confining, it’s freeing.
And, accepting a bizarre reality is more affecting than creating a bizarre reality.
This warm up exercise will make a team more comfortable forcing a situation on one another and more empowered being forced into an endowment.
NEWS REEL Endowment Warm-up: Get all players on stage, with one player in each of the 3 positions as shown in the diagram below and the remainder on stage right in a line ready to take the #3 position when it is their turn. The dotted lines in the diagram below show where each player goes after an iteration is completed (Player on wings into Position #3; Position #3 into Position #2; Position #2 into Position #1: Position #1 to the back of the line of players waiting their turn on the wings)
The Player in Position #1 provides a Place and a Time, ex: USSR, 1730. The place can be geographical, non-geographical, real, imagined, or anywhere in between. Similarly time can be the past, future or alternate timeline. Other examples: “New Orleans, Pre-Katrina,” “Wild West, Frontier Days,” “Planet X, 40B12,” “This room, 10 minutes ago”
The Player in Position #2 provides a Character’s Name and some Thing with which the character will interact, ex: Vladamir Toma and a heating device. This player’s contributions don’t HAVE TO align with what the first player provided, but the team will quickly see how the endowments heighten faster (and serve the player in Position #3 better) when they build on each other. Sure, forcing the third player into accepting a juxtaposition can be fun (“Rockefeller Center, Christmas Time,” “Murray Derschwitz…”) but you’re setting up the third player to be pulled in two directions, making a hard position even harder. Better then if the player in Position #2 contributes as though “pimped” by the player in Position #1 and attempts to provide a Character Name and Thing that fits with the Place and Time.
The player in Position #3, accepting Place, Time, Character Name and Thing, provides a monologue while actively engaging in the environment, ex: “Yah, so, this I call…vodka…”
Why is this a fun warm-up?
- WHATEVER the player in Position #3 does, as long as s/he commits to trying, will be great. It’s one of the joys of improv as improv does best; Committing to Following and Collaborating trumps being individually funny.
- The audience loves seeing players commit to something they were forced into. The audience may not like what the player in Positions #1 or #2 provided, but they’ll admire Position #3’s willingness to deal with WHATEVER they were given.
- WHATEVER!!! That’s freeing. Whatever you’re given and whatever you do with it, if you’re committed to accepting the given reality and to trying to engage it, then you can do ANYTHING.