I sat with across from an executive. It was a benign conversation – a check-in meeting. Neither of us was all that engaged.
Looking down at his desk, I noticed he’d arrayed files on his desk in the order of a rainbow – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple (though Roy G. Biv forever, squad).
I didn’t say anything about it. But thinking about it led me to this exercise.
Looking to practice evoking emotions through engaging environment? The audience loves seeing improvisers “see” something on stage. They love seeing us enthusiastically accept what our fellow players imagine. And they love it when we invest emotionally in those imagined somethings.
Want an exercise that forces us to see something, say something and have that something matter to our scene partner? Keep reading.
Imagine this scene –
An employee sits across a desk from an executive. It is a tense conversation – a pass-the-shit-on-down thrashing. The exec’s accusatory stares fail to make eye contact as the employee’s head is loaded down with shame.
Looking down at the desk, the employee notices his boss has arrayed file folders on his desk in the order of a rainbow.
And the employee engages the tangent: “I just noticed your array of folders here. Arranged in the order of the rainbow…”
“Yeah,…” the boss is taken aback. And then a smile of pride crosses his face. “Roy G. Biv.”
The employer looks down and takes appreciative note. “Hey, yeah; Indigo is represented.”
The boss is really proud now. “Can’t get rid of Indigo! Maybe they can do without it but I can’t.”
And now the employee puts the two threads together with puppy dog eyes. “Sir…”
“Okay, Indigo; you’re unfired.”
– Edit –
Now let’s do it.
I JUST NOTICED YOU… exercise – Two Players on stage. Player One is charged with giving a reason for the interaction. It doesn’t have to be boss/subordinate but status-related set-ups are nice. It doesn’t have to be conflict-driven; it could be two people in agreement (P1 – “Yessir, swell day to raise a barn!” P2 – “Sure is!”).
Player Two is to be emotionally affected by Player One’s set-up: abashed, excited, fearful, supportive, in agreement, whatever.
Each scene then proceeds a bit with both characters heightening their emotional engagement with the matter at hand. (P1 – “Hour’s perfect, too. ‘Raise a barn at 3, a happy you will be.'” P2 – “I’m happy. Now I got a place to keep these cattle and all this corn.”)
THEN, Player Two is to notice something in the environment – something that can be engaged through mime – and deliver a “I just noticed you…” line. (P2 – “I just noticed your sweet Jeep!”)
Try and make the “noticed” active object initially unrelated to “the matter at hand.” For example, if two Sea World employees were lamenting a sick orca together, Player Two noticing Player One wearing a PETA pin is too heavy handed, noticing that Player One has a mighty powerful oil lamp going is a little less heavy handed, and Player Two noticing Player One has Med School applications among his veterinary tools is even less. Try totally Disparate “I just noticed you…” lines. See what works best for your ensemble.
NOW, Player One is to make whatever Player Two “noticed” matter emotionally, but not defensively. It’s not, “Yeah, I arranged my folders according to the rainbow, what of it?” it’s, “Yeah…” delivered initially embarrassed but solidly proud by the “h.” To continue the barn-building example, (P1 – “Dope, right? Soft top. Grappling hook. AM/FM.”)
Follow the tangent however long.
If you find your way back to the original “matter at hand,” great; if not, totally fine. This is something to explore, not force. (P2 – “Wait. I didn’t think Amish people can drive Jeeps. Or…drive…at all.”)
The “just noticed” moment also doesn’t need to flip statuses or 180 the emotions. Imagine: Grandma is boring granddaughter with a photo album when something just noticed in a picture paints grandma in a bad-ass light.
The Key To The Exercise Is: One player finding a tangent in an imagined scene detail. Their fellow player accepts this detail. And both players are affected by the detail.
As long as those three points are hit, the scene in this exercise is “a success.”
Try it. It’s fun.
Scenes in this exercise typically earn their edits from one of the following:
- The progression of emotionally-invested-in details evokes a laugh
- Players’ commitment to feeling something about something imagined gets the audience’s reaction
- Status flips as the initial matter-at-hand is undermined by the noticed object
- The noticed object provided an avenue to a compromise on the matter-at-hand
- Characters seemingly-changed through the exploration of the noticed object flip back to the strong emotion of their initiation
- Characters heighten passion behind a newly-found common ground or divisions to an editable apex
The I just noticed you… exercise joins the following exercises in the pursuit of active element driven patterns of emotional behavior: