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. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Nothing bugs me more than a scene where two improvisers meet stage center, stare only at each other and talk only to and about each other.
I get it. Your stage partner is truly the only other active element on stage with you. But, c’mon, show some imagination.
The audience likes to see us interact with things we imagine. The audience loves to see us care about things we imagine. The audience f*#king adores when what we imagine makes us feel.
If you and/or the ensemble you’re in and/or the ensemble you coach are having the tendency to do centerstage talking heads scenes then this warm-up exercise might be right for you.
Check out this Two Person scene performed by Shaheen Ali and Christopher May. In it the performers weave patterns of emotional behavior to link characters, relationships and environment in a sustainable scene. Enjoy!
Watch this scene, starring Scott Beckett as “Mr. Johnson” and Jonathan Nelson as “Jeeves.”
We want to fill our blank stages with imagined environment. We want to engage physically in that environment to help visualize the imagined. And – most importantly – we want to be emotionally affected by where we are and what we’re doing. That’s Improv As Improv Does Best.
Our fellow player(s) and how they emotionally affect our characters is important. But engaging heir scene partner is not where improvisers struggle. One’s scene partner is actually active on stage – his/her presence doesn’t have to be imagined – so too often players give 100% of their attention on their partner and ignore physically engaging the environment.
Like the “We gotta…” and “That’s my…” initiation exercises, the “I was just…” drill helps connect emotion to active endowments.
Don’t be the improver who initiates a scene by running to center stage and delivering a premise.
Don’t be an improviser in a scene where two players stand shoulder-to-shoulder, cheating-out, and talking about something not in-the-moment.
Don’t be a point in the arch of a group game where improvisers stand in a semi-circle and discuss a topic.
See your environment. Endow. And have an emotional stake in the details.
That’s the core of Improv As Improv Does Best.
Feeling about active endowments. That’s Improv As Improv Does Best.
It ain’t easy. That balance between making up imagined details and committing to feeling about imagined details is tough to manage. Already we’re trying to see our world’s details instead of thinking up details, but we also have to care about those details in-the-moment.
Like the “We gotta…” and “I was just…” initiation exercises, the “That’s my…” drill helps connect emotion to active endowments.
An improv stage can be anywhere. On it we can do anything.
You could be in a submarine on Mars raising talking chickens.
Often improvisers are good at labeling the moment.
But you need more than words; you have to be in the world.
This exercise focuses on attaching emotions to the scene’s active elements – what can be felt, seen or otherwise experienced on the stage – to foster reactions.
We want active emotions in our scenes, so we need active details to react to. If the doll your character is afraid of is actually on stage with you, then rather than just talking about how you’re afraid of dolls, you can actually act afraid because that doll is actively making you afraid in-the-moment. If you endow the object with additional details you can sharpen the trigger for your emotional reaction. That doll has an empty plasticine smile and way too many teeth for a baby and that’s what creeps you out. See what’s on stage. React to what’s on stage. Define what’s on stage through your emotional reactions. That’s active endowment.
On the flip side is when we talk about something in the past, in the future or off stage and talk in general, passive terms about our feelings toward that something. Don’t make the audience wish you were off stage.
If this Weakness is identified, the following posts may prove helpful in coaching to the Opportunity:
* Endowments exercises
* Endowment of Active Elements
* Active Endowments Exercise
* Emotional Reactions to Active Elements
* Personal Engagement Circle
* Scenic Engagement Circle
* Triggers and Caps
* See something; don’t just say something