SWOT #3 – Bold Initiating Choices

When we show make a bold choice the moment we step out on stage, a blank slate is immediately endowed with an active element that provides fuel for a scene to grow.  If we put off making a choice – instead timidly walking out to the center of the stage to meet our scene partner and cautiously negotiate a scene on vague information – the scene is doomed not to go anywhere out of fear of going in the “wrong” direction.  In improv we are collaboratively building something out of nothing; the moment we make a choice we have something to build from, and the earlier in the scene we have that something the better.

Bold Initiating Choices

If this Weakness is identified, the following posts may prove helpful in coaching to the Opportunity:
* Why “What” should not wait for “Why”
* Emotional Character Development
* 5 Round Character Development
* Emotional Initiations
* Hot Spot
* Freeze
* Mirror, Action, Object

SWOT #7 – Agreement to What IS

Agreement is a cornerstone of improvisation. We’re on stage creating something out of nothing. If I create one thing out of the ether then we have something. We want to build that something up and out; we don’t debate the validity of something made up.  Inquisition, opposition, negotiation and transaction are counterproductive on stage to our doing what the audience came to see: Improvisers exploring an invented reality.

Agrement to What IS

If this Weakness is identified, the following posts may prove helpful in coaching to the Opportunity:
* Collaboration
* Heightening Emotional Agreement
* Yes, Yes I Am
* Kick The Duck Red, Rover

“Here’s What I Know” self channeling exercise

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW – One player takes the stage with everyone else in the audience. Audience, with teacher moderating, asks the player very technical or nonsensical or just hard questions. The player presents him/herself as an expert in all areas and is therefore able to confidently respond to all questions.
• Emotions are always trump – A maniacal laugh. A dismissive ‘pshaw.’ Even an awkward misdirection. All of these non-informative but emotional responses keep a player in control.
Decisiveness is king – struggling to the right answer is rarely as satisfying as quickly deciding on any answer.
Commitment is all the sense you need – players can get hung up on thinking through responses that “make sense.” Forget sense. Just make a choice and stand by it confidently. Commitment to making a decision despite sense will make your response sound “right” even if it isn’t and/or it’ll focus the scene on your “wrong” character instead of the Q&A “stuff,” which is awesome.
Committed, You Can Stand By Yourself – you can be on stage alone for 30 seconds or for five minutes. Commit to yourself. Don’t rely on meeting your scene partner center stage before the scene starts. You can be alone.

Emotional Decision Making exercises

Emotional Decision Making: If you are to “choose one thing” entering a scene, emotion is always a strong choice.  It doesn’t matter what the choice was if you commit.  And choosing to decide without deference to “sense” can make for fun unique scenes.

Suggested Exercises:

EMOTIONAL CHOICE CIRCLE– Player One makes a decision of what emotion they will use to react to Player Two through.  Then Player Two says anything.  And Player One has the previously decided upon emotional reaction to the anything.  (“I have a dog” / “Fucking Christ!”)
A committed emotion will always trump sense – if you just feel you never have to explain how/why you feel what you do.
Any emotion works – if we try to “understand your motivation” before making a choice about how to feel, you’ll end up in a scene that’s been done a million times before. But, if you make a choice about how to feel before any context is established, then that scene has the potential to be different than any that’s been seen before (“I’m the first Johnson graduating college” / “Ooooh, my god.  I’m so scared”).


EMOTIONAL LAY UP LINES – Player One makes a decision of what emotion they will use to react to Player Two through.  Then Player Two enters the stage to engage Player One and Player Two responds through their chosen emotional perspective (“Hi” / “I love you”).  Give the scenes a few lines back and forth.
Repetition is the only justification you need – If emotional offers are not aligned (“It’s so beautiful”/ “I’m so depressed”), don’t waste your time negotiating which feelings are valid; just heighten the juxtaposed feelings (“The colors in this sunset – breath taking” / “So much pollution”; “The deep reds, bright purples…”/ “The black in our lungs”).


BLIND SCENES –  Player One starts engaged in the environment (with an action, object, atmosphere, etc.).  Player Two, starting with his back to the stage, has the first line of dialogue.
Commitment is the only justification you need – If players’ initiations don’t align, they don’t have to make sense of why they’re together.  They can just accept and heighten what’s happening.


EYE CONTACT SCENES – Players One and Two have to make statements back and forth without breaking eye contact.  For the sake of the exercise, these scenes can consist of two players standing center stage as talking-heads.
Harder to assert when pressured – We tend to want to ask questions or make weak statements when forced up against our scene partners.   We have to be (or at least “seem”) confident even in the face of demanding insecurity.

Emotional Subtext exercises

Emotional Subtext:  Make assumptions to heighten emotions.  “Have you seen my wallet?” “I get it; I’m not fiscally responsible!”  Seeking to use emotions to drive scenes, we can make our partner’s contributions matter even if they don’t initially resonate.

Suggested Exercises:

EMOTIONAL ACCUSATION LAY-UPS – Player One comes off a lay-up line with a very innocuous line (“Oh, look, a mushroom”).  Player Two makes that line matter by making a strong assumption about what that line could mean (“I’m sorry I told you about me tripping on shrooms”).
Don’t feel pressure to explain the subtext/Commitment trumps sense – “What a beautiful sunset”/ “I’ll never cheat on you.”  All that matters is that Player Two thought up a “cheating” subtext from Player One’s “sunset” it doesn’t have to be justified.
Don’t defend; heighten – Player One needs to make assumptions, too.  “What a beautiful sunset”/ “I’ll never cheat on you”/ “I knew it. You’re cheating on me”/ “That you would think I could ever cheat on me is inexcusable.”


“YES, BECAUSE” SCENES – Player One makes a statement about they feel about herself or her scene partner.  Player Two heightens that feeling by making explicit the reason why Player One feels like she does (“I’m afraid of roller coasters” / “Because I dropped you as a baby”).
Feeling Comes First – Don’t wait on your motivation before feeling something.  Let feeling something, and the repetition of that feeling something, lead to an understanding of “why” (if needed at all).
Stay In-the-Moment – Commitment to reacting to the last thing said will keep us committed to the moment and focusing outward
Take a beat – the best thing about emotions is feeling them.  We don’t have to respond verbally right away.  Take a moment to be affected, to feel the impact of the line.  And do it without maybe before knowing “the impact of the line.”

Emotional Initiation exercises

Emotional Initiations:  The sooner we identify how a player feels the better – because that feeling can be heightened by the player and played to by the player’s teammates.  The sooner we can identify how a player feels about a something the better – because that something can be heightened by the player to heighten the player’s emotion and that something can be referenced/heightened by the player’s teammates to force the player into a reaction.

Suggested Exercises:

SELF CONTAINED EMOTIONAL STATEMENT CIRCLE – Around a circle, everyone makes a Self Contained Emotional Statement.  It can be as simple as “I love it here,” “I hate the arts,” or “I’m uncomfortable.”
It’s a statement. Not a question shifting the responsibility of providing information to your partner. There’s a period. It’s definitive.
It’s an emotional statement. Emotional reaction is one of our three key tools; let’s get to it. You need to feel and, for the reaction, you need to give that feeling a direction. Give X the power to make you feel Y.
Being self-contained, the statement places you on solid ground without dictating the scene to your partners – Mick Napier urges us each to “take care of yourself” without confining the scene. Allow your partner the choice of whether to mirror you in some fashion or to take on something entirely their own. Being self-contained is increasingly an imperative the larger a group you have on stage.


ANNOYANCE-STYLE SCENE STARTS – Have the class form a line across the back of the stage.  Call out one name.  That person should immediately take the stage and “take care of themselves” with a choice about their emotion, posture, environment, activity, etc.  The moment you call that name, another improviser should be coming out on stage as well.  That person must also “take care of themselves” with a choice.  Players expand on their choices, most importantly establishing and heightening their emotional perspective.  Run through this several times until you are confident everyone will take care of themselves right out of the gate and, eventually if not immediately, get to emotion.
• If I’m picking my nose, what does that say about my age?  If I’m forty-five and picking my nose, where am I?  If I’m forty-five and picking my nose in a restaurant, am I embarrassed?
A scene needs information.  But expand on what you’ve already got.  Commit to it.
You don’t need motivation to have a feeling