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
This is a fun show. Lots of support. Big group games. Many recurring patterns through the show. Invested characters. Accepted endowments. And some authentic Improv As Improv Does Best moments.
Horse Apples is Matt Newman, David Pijor, Matt Micou, Patrick Gantz and Joey Tran
Thank you, District Indie Improv Festival for having us and recording this show!
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.
The environment is fleshed out and experienced. Characters’ endow and react to endowments through their Personal Game filters.
From my Johnsons Full Show 9.21.14 featuring, Lauren Serpa and Shawn Hambright
Objective: To responsibly and recklessly endow scene partners (with characteristics, information, activities, etc.) that s/he must accept.
2 Person Scenes Heightening Emotion: Establish an emotional perspective, heighten the emotional perspective through reaction to active details, and edit – That’s scene. We want to avoid negotiation, conflict and the tepid, talked-out “discovery” that stagnates scenes’ growth.
ENDOW AND HEIGHTEN LAY-UPS – Player One initiates from stage left. Player Two initiates from stage right. Both players heighten what they initiate. After a few lines back and forth, teacher calls “Scene” and two new players start the exercise.
• Personal / Personal – Player One engages a personal emotional perspective and Player Two engages a personal emotional perspective.
– Disparate initiations: Player 1 – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.”
Player 2 – (looking around in panic) “I heard it again.”
– Complementary initiations: Player 1 – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.”
Player 2 – (flipping nostalgically through a big book) “Those were innocent times.”
– Mirrored initiations: Player 1 – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.”
Player 2 – (playing with a yo-yo sadly) “siiiigggghhh.”
• Scenic / Scenic – Player One engages an active aspect of Player Two with an emotional perspective and Player Two engages an active aspect of Player One with an emotional perspective.
– Player 1 – I want to kill you and steal your life.
Player 2 – I laugh at your weakness.
• Personal / Scenic – Player One engages a personal emotional perspective and Player 2 engages an active aspect of Player One with an emotional perspective.
– Player One – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.”
Player Two – “Oh, I’ve had it with your attitude, mister.”
• Scenic / Personal – Player One engages an active aspect of Player Two with an emotional perspective and Player Two engages a personal emotional perspective.
– Player 1 – I want to kill you and steal your life.
Player 2 – Oh, hey, my Diamond of the Month Club package arrived!
• Don’t give up your thing – heightening our individual choices together is all we need to move the scene forward. Trying to “figure out” how our things mesh, fighting each other’s thing or dropping our thing in favor of our partner’s thing robs scenes of their potential.
• Commitment avoids justification – explaining why two people are on stage often saps the energy from a scene. When two players commit to simply heightening their choices, no one will question the juxtaposition of even the most mismatched initiations.
• Reactionary statements avoid negotiation – when we’re not comfortable with and/or don’t understand what’s happening on stage, we revert to asking questions that often bog down scenes. Simply making choices moves us forward and making emotional choices helps statements stand without defense (“What do you mean, I’m a pig?” versus “Oh, I’m a pig. You’re a dirty whore.”)
• Heightening avoids conflict – “I want to kill you”/ “I want to kiss you.” If these are the initiations, we don’t want to debate or argue – heighten the feelings. You don’t have to address the disparity between feelings right away if ever. Heighten conflict/tension by heightening your part of it. Addressing/discussing conflict/tension takes the dynamite out of the scene.
• Make Scenic/Personal Initiations less rare – it can be fun for Player Two to choose a personally grounding emotional perspective despite Player One′s attempt to initially engage her in his thing.
TWO PERSON SCENES – Player One initiates from stage left. Player Two initiates from stage right. Players heighten what they initiate. Have players decide BOTH how they feel about “I” and “You” – engaging an active endowment about themselves AND about their scene partner.
• Bored? React! – don’t know what to do in a scene? Have an emotional reaction to an active element.
• Lost? Repeat! – I scream. Why? I don’t know. So I keep screaming, heightening the emotion of the scream. Don’t stop what you’re doing to make “sense” of it; Find “sense” through continuing doing what you’re doing.
• Be affected – There’s power in reacting in-the-moment to another player’s perspective/actions/choices. When we don’t react to a fellow player’s move that deserves a reaction we risk pulling the rug out from under the scene.
• Feel first, understand second (if ever) – don’t wait to “understand your motivation” before making a choice about how to feel
• Never trapped by your choice – while players should be encouraged to push their heightening before changing course onto a new thing, players should never feel trapped by the things. “I love my teddy bear.” I heighten why I love my teddy bear (“He doesn’t judge”) but I don’t have to react only to teddy. “I really love my fluffy duck.”/ “He doesn’t give a shit.”