Active Endowment exercises

Active Endowments: 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.”

Suggested Exercises:

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.
Example:
• 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
Lessons:
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.

SCENIC ENDOWMENT CIRCLE – One by one around a circle, each player turns to the player to their left, engages an emotion and makes explicit what it is about the player to their left’s character that is evoking that emotion.
Example:
• I love your hat
• I hate how smug you are
• You dead-lifted 200 pounds? Impressive.
• I’m proud you’re my son
• I’m afraid of your soul
• I desire your friendship
Lessons:
Give gifts – it’s much more fun to be endowed with information (“Ugh, you got fat”) than to be burdened with requests for information (“What are you doing?”).
Want something? Feel the absence – to avoid head-butting, don’t “demand,” focus on “desire.” You can want something from your scene partner, but you don’t want to become hog-tied fighting for what you want. How does not having what you want right now make you feel?
Give the gift of freedom – if you tell me, “I hate how smug you are,” I don’t have to directly respond to your feeling; I can focus on what I’m smug about (“I’m a golden god”) or I can do anything I want (“I’m tired of this wallpaper”). You don’t want your scene partner to feel constrained to address or discuss your feeling (which is more likely the case with “Stop being smug,” “Why are you so smug?” or “Let’s talk about your smugness.”)
Give the gift of dynamite – If you say, “Your tap dancing makes me so horny,” you better believe I’m going to tap dance.

Relationship Stakes exercises

Relationship Stakes: Our “What” is emotional reactions to active elements. Commitment and repetition are the only “why” we need. But “Because” can elevate the emotional stakes of a scene with context.

“Stakes” come in many forms – and we want to apply emotion to all of them. “I’m embarrassed to be seen in this Slayer tee-shirt” because “You’re my priest.”

Relationship Status – “I don’t like your shoes” gains weight in the context of the relationship between “I” and “you.” What if “I” is a neighborhood kid? A boss? A romantic interest? How we feel about the relationship can heighten the stakes of our emotional reactions to active elements.

Suggested Exercises:

DECK OF CARDS – Prepare a deck of cards that includes a different number/face card for every player (there should only be one King, one 2, etc.). Players take a card and put it face-out on their forehead without looking at it first. Then all player walk around the space. Players work out their respective status through mimed deference and/or dismissal. High and low cards typically get established first, with the in-between cards struggling for consistency. It doesn’t have to become worked out cleanly before it’s edited.
Lessons:
Show status without words – If you see an Ace, you should be deferential. If you see a 2, you can be dismissive. Paying attention to how other people react to you versus others can help you to determine your status.
Variations:
Do it without cards – have students choose a rank in their heads and then attempt to interact consistently to determine how the whole class would rank in order
Vary suits – mix red and black cards (still only one King, 2, etc.). See if that figures into how people chose to react to one another.

BAG OF EMOTIONS & RELATIONSHIPS – Player One takes a printed slip of paper out of the pre-prepared “Emotions” bag (“I’m hypnotized by your charm”). Player Two takes a printed slip out of the pre-prepared “Relationships” bag (Your scene partner is your baby sitter). Player One initiates (with the line of dialogue or an approximation). Player Two has an emotional reaction to Player One’s emotion through the filter of the given relationship (explicitly explaining the relationship or not).
Lessons:
Relationship informs feeling – whose mouth a line came out of can determine whether we like the sound of it or not. But a relationship’s description is not enough; we have to decide how we feel about that relationship.
Status – the regard to which we hold our scene partner’s emotional opinion can determine our reaction. Is her opinion inscrutable even if you disagree? Is he such peon that nothing he says could be right? Do you bite your tongue or speak your mind? Do you take advantage or show mercy?
Allow emotions to coexist; don’t mute conflicting desires – a boy sits across from a girl, pining silently while coolly attempting to flirt: that’s a drama aided by a camera’s close-ups. A boy sitting across from a girl shouts, “I love you,” only to then remember that she’s cooler than he is so he self-consciously retracts his assertion: that’s a comedy that explodes on stage.

DUOLOGUES – the teacher/class interviews a pair of players sitting on stage who have known each other for a very long time. Players can assume/endow anything about the other and, while emotional reactions abound, nothing is surprising to either of them.
Lessons:
“Day in the life” Not “The Day When” – it’s more fun watching a couple who should break-up exhibit all the behaviors that indicate the “because” they should break up than for the couple to directly address they should break-up and argue about it. Accepting a relationship often means accepting the relationship’s permanence. Remember that in scenes where you’re trying to change another person. Suffering the present is being affected, which is more in-the-moment than demanding or negotiating. Accept being affected – everything he does annoys me, and that’s clear to the audience and my scene partner, but I’m going to explore being annoyed instead of trying to not be annoyed
Let familiarity breed emotion not mute it – knowing you don’t have to solve the problem should enable you to explore the problem with emotions at 11. “It really upsets me that my husband sleeps around, I hate it today and I’ll hate it tomorrow, but that’s my burden. When I say, I do, I mean it.”

Emotional Reactions To Active Elements class

Objective:  In any scene you have at least two different emotional perspectives to play from: Your Personal and Scenic Emotional Perspectives – How you feel about “I” and How you feel about “You.”  Your Personal Emotional Perspective =  How I feel about who I am, where I am and what I’m doing.  Your Scenic Emotional Perspective = How I feel about who my scene partner is, where my scene partner is and what my scene partner is doing.   

3.0  Warm-Ups:  Build energy, concentrate energy and emphasize the importance of emotion

Suggested Exercises:

CRAZY EIGHTS

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EMOTIONAL REACTION CIRCLE – Around a circle, every player just has an emotional reaction.  They don’t need words – they can just make an emotional sound.  Have them go around and then go around pushing their emotions to 11.

 

 

3.1  Emotional Character Development:   We don’t need it “all figured out” the moment we step on stage.  Make one choice and then build other choices on top of that choice.  We can start with emotion and build the details of our character around that.  Or, we can start with a detail and build an emotional character from there.

Suggested Exercises:

CHARACTER WALK – students walk around the space as themselves.  Teacher gives prompts for them to make choices from (see Progression below).  Teacher asks additional questions to flesh out the characters.  Teacher has students reset, returning to walk around the space as themselves again.  And repeat.
Progression:
•  Have players change elements of their personal walk to see how it affects the way they feel
• Change your rate – speed up, slow down
• Change your size – is your walk big or small?
• Walk with a different body part forward
• Change your spine
• Be an animal
• Walk like someone you know
• Ask the class to try on a different:
–   Emotion
–  Posture/Physicality
–  Desire (I want…)
–  Perspective (I like…, I hate…)
–  Environment
–  Action
• Ask questions to flesh out the character.  Basically “if this, then what”; for example, how do you feel about the action you’re doing, or how does that desire affect your walk?
• Ask students to speak in their character’s voice – calling out students individually to contribute
• Tell students to acknowledge each other’s presence to discover their ‘status’
Lessons:
Don’t let starting a scene be intimidating – all you need to start is one choice
Seek to establish emotion – as emotion will drive our scenes, we don’t want to stop our character development until we establish that emotional perspective.  Character ≠ Emotion.  You can be a lispy hick, but until you make a choice about how that lispy hick feels you’ll be hard pressed to heighten the stakes of a scene.

 

 

3.2  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.”

Suggested Exercises:

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.
Example:
• 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
Lessons:
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.

 

 

3.3  Scenic Engagement:   How do you feel about who your scene partner is, where your scene partner is and/or what your scene partner is doing? Finding something active about your scene partner to feel about will help facilitate a scene you can both react through instead of think through.

Suggested Exercises:

SCENIC ENDOWMENT CIRCLE – One by one around a circle, each player turns to the player to their left, engages an emotion and makes explicit what it is about the player to their left’s character that is evoking that emotion.
Example:
• I love your hat
• I hate how smug you are
• You dead-lifted 200 pounds?  Impressive.
• I’m proud you’re my son
• I’m afraid of your soul
• I desire your friendship
Lessons:
Give gifts – it’s much more fun to be endowed with information (“Ugh, you got fat”) than to be burdened with requests for information (“What are you doing?”).
Want something?  Feel the absence – to avoid head-butting, don’t “demand,” focus on “desire.”  You can want something from your scene partner, but you don’t want to become hog-tied fighting for what you want.  How does not having what you want right now make you feel?
Give the gift of freedom – if you tell me, “I hate how smug you are,” I don’t have to directly respond to your feeling; I can focus on what I’m smug about (“I’m a golden god”) or I can do anything I want (“I’m tired of this wallpaper”).  You don’t want your scene partner to feel constrained to address or discuss your feeling (which is more likely the case with “Stop being smug,” “Why are you so smug?” or “Let’s talk about your smugness.”)
Give the gift of dynamite – If you say, “Your tap dancing makes me so horny,” you better believe I’m going to tap dance.

 

 

3.4   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.

Suggested Exercises:

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.
Progression:
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!
Lessons:
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.
Lessons:
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.”

Personal Engagement exercise

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.”

Suggested Exercises:

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.
Example:
• 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
Lessons:
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.

Scenic Engagement exercise

Scenic Engagement:   How do you feel about who your scene partner is, where your scene partner is and/or what your scene partner is doing? Finding something active about your scene partner to feel about will help facilitate a scene you can both react through instead of think through.

Suggested Exercises:

SCENIC ENDOWMENT CIRCLE – One by one around a circle, each player turns to the player to their left, engages an emotion and makes explicit what it is about the player to their left’s character that is evoking that emotion.
Example:
• I love your hat
• I hate how smug you are
• You dead-lifted 200 pounds?  Impressive.
• I’m proud you’re my son
• I’m afraid of your soul
• I desire your friendship
Lessons:
Give gifts – it’s much more fun to be endowed with information (“Ugh, you got fat”) than to be burdened with requests for information (“What are you doing?”).
Want something?  Feel the absence – to avoid head-butting, don’t “demand,” focus on “desire.”  You can want something from your scene partner, but you don’t want to become hog-tied fighting for what you want.  How does not having what you want right now make you feel?
Give the gift of freedom – if you tell me, “I hate how smug you are,” I don’t have to directly respond to your feeling; I can focus on what I’m smug about (“I’m a golden god”) or I can do anything I want (“I’m tired of this wallpaper”).  You don’t want your scene partner to feel constrained to address or discuss your feeling (which is more likely the case with “Stop being smug,” “Why are you so smug?” or “Let’s talk about your smugness.”)
Give the gift of dynamite – If you say, “Your tap dancing makes me so horny,” you better believe I’m going to tap dance.