1.0 – The 3lements

Improvisation: Making it up as you go along.

A group of players gets on stage without previously rehearsed lines or blocking and acts out. The audience understands that this show is constructed from nothing before their eyes. In these aspects, improvisational performance differentiates itself from any other performance medium.

Improvisation then is at its best when it leverages its monopoly on spontaneous collaboration before a live audience. When a group of individuals creates something out of nothing together on stage before their eyes, the audience sees magic. When improv is as improv does best, it is magic. Magic. “How’d you all do that?” Continue reading

1.1 – The Self Contained Emotional Statement

THE SELF CONTAINED EMOTIONAL STATEMENT

How do you start an improv scene? My answer was forged from the perspective of giants’ shoulders.

Mick Napier, of The Annoyance Theater, says we start with just one thing.

– Assume a posture.
– Grab an object.
– Start a motion.
– Engage your environment.
– Embody a character.
– Emote.

What do you do with that one thing? Expand, says Napier. Discover through “if this
than what” extrapolation. Build that one thing out, or draw a line to another point of the
scene.

The direction I believe you should expand to – the scene start structure most conducive to
good improvisation – is the Self-Contained Emotional Statement.

It can be as simple as:

– I love it here.
– I hate the arts.
– I’m uncomfortable.

The Self-Contained Emotional Statement aligns you with an emotional perspective. It’s a solid foundation on which to build the possibilities. Continue reading

1.2 – Collaboration

YES, GOOD IMPROVISATION REQUIRES A GROUP. AND, WE AGREE.

A great improvisational performance requires both a group and an audience.

It’s the collaborative building that makes improvisation exciting. The ability to riff is dependent on having something to riff off of. The definition of riffing demands that there be an “accompaniment” or “exchange.” Sure, a single improviser can riff off an audience like a stand-up comedian can. But rarely is there enough audience input to require that a performer relinquish control of the show. To my mind, performers who put up “one person improvised shows” are playing with themselves in front of a crowd – and the inappropriate connotation is intended.

Improv as improv does best requires a group. Two people. Three people. The over-flowing stage of a festival improv jam. You need people to play with. You need people to riff off of.

Creating something out of nothing with a group of people in front of a live audience is hard. There are more people on stage for the audience to watch and listen to. There are more opinions about what’s happening and what needs to happen. More things breed less focus.

The more people you’re playing with, the clearer you have to be. When initiating with the Self-Contained Emotional Statement, the individual serves the scene’s clarity by concentrating on specificity and brevity. When there’s more than the initiator on stage (and there should be), continuing to serve the scene’s clarity relies on Agreement.

Continue reading