Dual Casting – a tertiary move

Want to play more than one character in a single scene?  You can!spidermen

It’s a powerful move. But – as goes the cliche – with great power comes great responsibility.

Let’s explore how and when to use the move and when and why to not. 

The mechanics of Dual Casting are simple. You’re on stage in a scene with another player and the scene calls for a new character.  You move to the position on stage where that new character will be and inhabit him or her.  The character you’re no longer inhabiting is still on stage.  You can “see” that character by looking at the space that s/he is still assumed to fill even though there’s no longer a player in that space. You can assume lines of dialogue are said by characters that aren’t being inhabited just by listening to the silence and responding to what you assume that you’ve heard.  You can always move back and forth between the characters you’ve created. You can even cast yourself into more than two characters on stage; a scene with two players could have an infinite number of active players. And you and your scene partner aren’t confined to only the characters you’ve established; you can inhabit each other’s characters, taking on their physical and verbal attributes.

When you move to to establish a new character (or between established characters) move confidently and directly BUT not too fast – the danger is making your scene partner think you’re editing a scene. If we run from one character to the other it’s more likely it’ll be seen as an edit. Remember, to edit we move as-quick-as-we-safely-can downstage and across stage toward the wing farthest from where we started.  So, if your intention is Dual Casting, move with quick, confident steps, but do not run.

Remember, too, that this is a tertiary moveso remember the Tertiary Player Good Faith Mantra: I will only enter a scene in progress to serve what has already been established. And I will react to those who enter my scene in progress on the assumption they seek to heighten what has already been established.  The Mantra applies whether there is a tertiary player or whether you’re the player adding a tertiary character.  

You should commit to adding another character if – and only if – the established scene calls for a new character. 

A scene with two characters out to dinner could call for a waiter (but then remember the “a walk on deserves a walk off” mantra).  A scene with two teenagers making out on the porch could call for a parent to interrupt.  A scene with two improvisers ostensibly in a crowd – an office, a dance, an audience, an etc. – could call for extra characters to fill out the space with reactions and reasons to react.

But do YOU need to be that new character? sellars Is there someone on the wings?  If there is someone on the wings that could be that called for character then you need to give him or her the opportunity to be that character.  If they don’t, you can; but they should and you shouldn’t. Dual Casting looks like Stage Hogging if you’re playing multiple characters and denying the opportunity for players on the wings to play one.


I hope to soon have a solid video example to share on this page.  In the interim, here’s an example of a Horse Apples show I performed in with David Pijor and Matt Newman that called for Dual Casting:

  • It was a three player show
  • It opened with me on the wings and Matt and David on stage
  • Matt and David were teenage boys hiding evidence of trouble they got into while their parents were out of town
  • I entered stage as their Dad and I insinuated – by referencing her physical space and reacting to her – that their Mom was on stage next to me
  • David moved out of his teenage boy and into Mom
  • Matt still reacted to his brother’s assumed dialogue and physical space
  • David as Mom mentioned that Grandma and Grandpa would be here any second…
  • And Dual Casting became the spine of the organic format we forged…in addition to grandparents, in came the pool boy and his mother, the mailman, a bear and the ghost of a Confederate soldier…and the three of us bounced between all of the characters, inhabiting each other’s physical and verbal attributes
  • It was fun as hell

Try Dual Casting. But do it responsibly.

P.S. – There’s a great Dual Casting example near the end of Mike Bribiglia‘s FANTASTIC Don’t Think Twice. Gillian Jacobs‘ character has to Dual Casting because she’s solo.  Go see it!

One thought on “Dual Casting – a tertiary move

  1. Pingback: Forging an Organic Format: part TWO | Improv As Improv Does Best

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