Watch this scene, starring Scott Beckett as “Mr. Johnson” and Jonathan Nelson as “Jeeves.”
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
The surprise inherent to improvisation is made even more satisfying when we’re specific in-the-moment. If we are too cautiously vague or too ungrounded in grasping for hilarity, then we deny the scene, our partners and the audience the power inherent in the specificity of The Details that allows a world to form from the nothing on stage.
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
Personal Engagement: If you were all by yourself on stage, how would you feel about who you are, where you are and/or what you’re doing? Finding an emotion and an active scene element to feel that emotion toward can be the continued catalyst for a successful scene.
If I say, “I love cats,” I’m just emoting. If I say, “I love this cat,” I’m emotionally reacting. If we make the object of our emotion active in the scene – actually tangible/ observable/ repeatable on stage – then we have something to react to instead of just talk about.
What is it specifically that we’re feeling about who we are, where we are and/or what we’re doing? What is it specifically that we’re feeling about who our scene partners are, where they are and/or what they’re doing? If we make a decision to connect our feeling to a tangible/observable/repeatable anything on stage, we can progress the scene by heightening our feeling and that “anything.”
PERSONAL ENDOWMENT CIRCLE – One by one around a circle, each player engages an emotion and makes explicit what it is that is evoking that emotion.
• I love this cat
• I hate pulling weeds
• Des Moines, you’re impressive
• I’m proud of my shoes
• I’m afraid of my face
• I’m sad I have no friends
• Specificity breeds details – when you know what you’re feeling and what you’re feeling about, then our creative minds have a clear direction to explore.
• Active elements keep us physically active – it’s much harder to sit still when you love this cats than to sit in a chair and talk about loving cats.
• Don’t wait to be joined before making a choice – We don’t need anyone else. You’re never alone on stage, even if you’re the only improviser not on the wings; you have a world to explore and to react to.
Heightening Through Tag-Outs: A “tag out” allows the audience to see how a character from a previous scene will react to another character/scenario/etc. We want to execute tag-outs in service of heightening the emotional stakes.
TAG OUTS –To perform a tag out, a player enters a scene in progress and literally tags the player that he/she will replace on stage.
• Being a bigger version of Player One; Do what Player One did bigger – always a trusty default (You were excited by snails? I’m going to be really excited by snails).
• Keep it Active / Avoid Being a Psychiatrist – we don’t want to rehash the previous scene (“Tell me about your feelings for snails”/ “Remember? In the last scene when you liked snails?”). Initiate with active elements that can affect characters emotionally in the present moment.
• Wherever You’re Taken, Trust In You – If Player Three takes Player One’s snail lover to see the animated movie Turbo, Player One is expected to heighten his excitement. Player One can relax in knowing that wherever he’s transported he just needs to trust in his emotional reactions.
• Elevate the Details – A player who fears action figures can be terrified of all little versions of things. A player obsessed with her eyebrows can obsess over everything she trims. A tenant complaining to her absentee landlord can also complain to an absentee God.