“I love opium.”
It’s a fine line between a character evoking a plot and a character reacting to their reality. A very fine line. But I believe that attention to that line can mean the difference between a scene where improvisers force a sequence of events dependent on an audience’s satisfaction with a resolution and a scene where characters are engaged in the moment of their reality with an audience reacting to – and investing in – a character’s consistency regardless of “sense.”
The following is a series of exercises geared toward prioritizing characters in-the-moment over improvisers setting-up-situations-to-be-negotiated. Continue reading
Want to see a Monoscene? Here’s a good one.
Greg Tindale, Jordan Hirsch, Amanda Hirsch and Sean Murphy of the Washington, DC based group Hijinx took one suggestion and built a great work of character and relationships out of it. Check it out.
Objective: If we are creating together we need to ensure we hear each other’s contributions. Focus out to hear. Project out to be heard. Continue reading
Focus Outward: There is a ton of material for us to mine in our improv if we are committed to seeing it, hearing it and embracing it. We don’t need to be in our heads worried about making something happen once we learn how we can follow what’s already happening to a collaborative end.
ACTION PASS – In a circle, a player turns to his left and executes an action, any action. The next player observes that action and attempts to recreate it EXACTLY in turning to the player to their left.
• Do it once through. Then immediately have them do it again focused on slowing down and really noticing all the nuances of a player’s action and working to repeat the action exactly.
• Call out people that are in their head and not focused outward
• Call attention to what makes them laugh – straight repetition, embracing something “accidental”
• Call out when someone tries to force the evolution for a laugh – this will happen after they get comfortable with a few “successes” under their belts
• See head to toe – take the time to really see all that players are giving you; Where are their toes pointed? How are their shoulders’ squared? What face are they making?
• See more than you’re given – the things a player does subconsciously or accidentally should be noticed and repeated; What did they do before and after the action?
• There are no mistakes/There is no “right” – there is only “what has happened” and “what’s happening now.”
• Repetition is heightening – we don’t need to create unrelated information when there is already material at play to mine. Collaborative evolution is a fun enough; don’t force difference for difference’s sake.
PHRASE PASS – Like Action Pass, but with a sentence.
• Focusing on exactly what was given to you
• Pick just one thing (one word, emotion, inflection, character, etc.) and heighten it 2 notches
• Even with small things, we create a feedback loop that will heighten everything we do to places no one could imagine or achieve on their own
• You don’t have to force evolution – if everyone is concentrated on heightening what they see and hear, the phrase will naturally change. We want to continue embracing small changes to foster evolution instead of forcing mutations that separate an individual from the group.
ONE PERSON WALKING – Students spread out through the room. Without talking, one person has to be walking at any given time. Students have to see each other to know when to give and take focus.
• Now two people are walking at a time. Now three. Build to everyone walking and then work back down to one person walking.
• Make eye contact
• Give and take focus
• Be willing to surrender focus to your scene partner
Objective: Bringing characters into group games brings new opportunities for chaos. Simplifying character-based group scenes with emotional agreement, stage picture and sharing focus can help a team confidently navigate the chaos. Continue reading
Split Screen – To heighten a two-person scene, Player Three and Player Four initiate a new scene – on the same stage, but existing in separate physical spaces. For example, a scene about a married couple fretting over money can be heightened by a couple of mice fretting over cheese.
These two (or more) separate scenes can continue at the same time (usually on opposite sides of the stage), sharing focus back and forth. While they do not exist in the same physical space, information from one scene affects the other as the focus shifts.
Or… The original players can fade off stage as the second set of players establishes their scene, and this second set can fade off as the third set establishes their scene. This is especially useful with smaller numbers of players in a group and can allow themes to heighten faster with subsequent iterations.