An improv stage can be anywhere. On it we can do anything.
You could be in a submarine on Mars raising talking chickens.
Often improvisers are good at labeling the moment.
But you need more than words; you have to be in the world.
This exercise focuses on attaching emotions to the scene’s active elements – what can be felt, seen or otherwise experienced on the stage – to foster reactions.


Filtering Emotion Through Relationship exercise

Your scene partner initiates, telling you, “You’re terrible.” Does that make you sad? Does that make you angry?

What if your scene partner is just “some stupid kid”? Maybe he says, “You’re terrible” and you just laugh; “Yeah, okay, I’m terrible.”

Making a choice about a relationship and relative status can help inform reactions and enable active emotions that elevate scenes.  Here’s an exercise to help. Continue reading

1.0 – The 3lements

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

1.1 – The Self Contained Emotional Statement


How do you start an improv scene? My answer was forged from the perspective of giants’ shoulders.

Mick Napier, of The Annoyance Theater, says we start with just one thing.

– Assume a posture.
– Grab an object.
– Start a motion.
– Engage your environment.
– Embody a character.
– Emote.

What do you do with that one thing? Expand, says Napier. Discover through “if this
than what” extrapolation. Build that one thing out, or draw a line to another point of the

The direction I believe you should expand to – the scene start structure most conducive to
good improvisation – is the Self-Contained Emotional Statement.

It can be as simple as:

– I love it here.
– I hate the arts.
– I’m uncomfortable.

The Self-Contained Emotional Statement aligns you with an emotional perspective. It’s a solid foundation on which to build the possibilities. Continue reading

1.7 – Hey Everybody Games


How do you focus a Ten Person game?

Step right up. Step right up.
I want to ride the roller coaster.
You’re too short to ride this ride.
See the two-headed boy for two dollars.
I’m afraid of clowns.
I ate too much cotton candy.
Where can I buy beer?
I’m on mushrooms.
Don’t miss Smash Mouth at the amphitheater.
Hey, baby, want me to win that whale for you?
I’m pregnant.

We have ten different perspectives. We didn’t build with collective agreement to focus ten players into a One, Two or Three Person scene.

We have ten different perspectives on ten different things. While we’ve expanded the environment of a carnival, we Continue reading

1.8 – More Hey Everybody Games


“Hey Everybody” initiations can lead to some pretty stilted scenes wherein the initiator forces the role of facilitator. If you’ve seen improvisational performance, you’ve seen these scenes.

“Ladies and gentlemen, [important person] is ready for your questions.”
“I gathered you all here today because…”
“Class! Class, pay attention (to me).”

Players rush out on stage to support the initiation, but Continue reading

1.9 – Organic Games


Using To The Ether mechanics we can build a pattern from a progression of personal games, establishing and heightening a scenic game in the pattern’s evolving repetition.

Using Help Desk mechanics, we can establish a pattern out of a scenic game, and repeat that pattern to heighten a personal game or theme.

Using Hey Everybody mechanics, we can develop a pattern from a scene’s disparate personal games, and then heighten all games through that pattern’s evolving repetition.

With these rubric game mechanics in our toolkit, we can confidently navigate any progression of moves. Continue reading

2.0 – “Two Person Scene” Theory

When we whine that we don’t want to do group game work anymore, we ask, “Can we just do some two person scenes?” We want to breathe. And we equate two person scene with time to breathe up top.” There’re just two of us; there’s less impetus to force our voice into the scene. We’re free to discover the scene without fear of hijack.

We can walk up to center stage to face our partners, careful not to make any sudden moves, meet them eye to eye – chests turned out slightly to the audience – and in our round, enunciated theater voices negotiate the reality of the scene. “Well, if I am your lawyer then I need to know why you’re in the pokey in the firsty place.”

What happened to the Self Contained Emotional Statement? Where’d your patterns go? “But…uh…we’re doing two person scenes now.”

There are many approaches to two-person scenework. I prefer to do two-person improv as improv does best. Continue reading

2.2 – More “Two Person Scene” Practical

How do we build our two person scenes after the initiating sequences? Practice.

Let’s review the components of strong two person scene initiations:

1. From the moment you enter the stage, actively engage either your environment or your scene partner with an emotional perspective dialed up to 11.

That is all.

With that, or those, emotional perspective(s) established, we seek to build sustainable scenes through heightening the pattern of the games at play and establishing and heightening the pattern between the games at play.

Ready? Continue reading