Who To Heighten? organic game mini lesson

shieldPlayer One stands rigidly on stage, stroking an imagined object on his right wrist and says, “I love my shield.”

Player Two enters stage, stares agog at the imagined shield and says, “Wow-wie! That is one awesome shield.”

The question for you is: If you were told to enter the scene as the third player to establish a group game, what would you do?


You could enter as a wholy new character.  You could walk-in and with an authoritative tone declare, “The reinactment will commence forthwith!”

You could. And subsequent players could also enter and heighten the established reinactment and dated language.  But remember our Tertiary Player Good Faith Mantra – I will only enter a scene in progress to serve what has already been established. If you’re entering a scene in progress, that scene is not about you.  Your character (and the subsequent string of characters) focused on the reinactment and dated language threaten to overshadow what the original two players had established.  Making this move does not serve the players already on stage; it creates something new for them to deal with.

So, in the spirit of the Mantra, let’s focus on adding to the scene by heightening what either Player One or Player Two established. Let’s specifically do that by being a heightened version of one of the characters.

So, again, question for you: Which player do you heighten? Funny to watch


You could say, “I want to be a heightened version of the player that was the most FUN.”

Well, Player Two was the most dynamic in that she was affected by the other player’s contribution on stage.  Player Two’s emotions were bigger than Player One’s.  And she said, “Wow-wie;” that’d be fun to say.

So let’s imagine that scene.  A series of players heightening their amazement at the shield.  “I love my shield.” “Wow-wie! That is one awesome shield.” “OHmagawd, is that a  Spartan 300?” “Dizz-am, that’s even better than that captain guy’s, the one with those agent guys, the agents of…I forget.” Whatever.

Heightening a series’ reactions is a fine move. We can heighten the emotions. We can heighten the patterns. The one shield sets off an escalade of reactions. It could be a great scene.

But if improv at its best leverages in-the-moment collaboration, then isn’t evoking an emotional reaction from someone more powerful than choosing to react yourself?


Get two reactions for the price of one. Heighten the catalyst instead of the reactor.

Imagine heightening Player One’s, “I love my shield.” If you enter stage sorta physically rigid and say, “My suit of armor is the best,” what is Player Two going to do?

She’ll be compelled to react. “Wow-wie-wah! Your body, uh, armor takes my breath away.”

Instead of heightening a series’ reactions, we’ve heightened a series of reactions. You’ve served Player Two by setting up her pattern of emotional behavior. The audience knows her, knows she’s excited by protection. Knowing her, they’ll reward the heightened pattern of emotional reactions – even if her actual words aren’t “funny.” 

It’s funny to watch an adult chose to care about something imagined. It’s funnier to watch an adult forced into caring about something imagined. 

“I love my shield.” “Wow-wie! That is one awesome shield.” Two Reactions

“My suit of armor is the best.” “Wow-wie-wah! Your body, uh, armor takes my breath away.”

“My force field here has room for two.” “Wow-wie-wah-wie-wah! Your aura draws me in.”

“My condom is ribbed for her pleasure.” “…”

Establishing a pattern of emotional behavior through reactions, the audience will laugh at the joke in their own heads with the set up. You don’t have to even finish the scene.^


There are no mistakes in improv. We strive to accept whatever is. Any choice is good.

However you choose to heighten a scene in progress can be dealt with; however, in heightening a scene along a progression certain moves are more conducive to success than others.

If entering a scene in progress, served what’s established. The Tertiary Good Faith Mantra.

When choosing which of two players engaged in a reaction to heighten, heighten the catalyst. The Serve the Reaction Rule.


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