GUS, the delightful and talented team from The Baltimore Improv Group, opens its sets these days by asking the audience for “Three non-geographic locations.” Asked to come up and lead a practice, I brought this exercise with me. We had a lot of fun with it. You will, too.
Have you ever been in The White House? Ever gone into space? Ever visited an old West saloon? No? Well have you ever seen a television show or movie about one of those locations that you felt was “relate-able”?
The audience relates to Characters and Relationships even in “unrelatable” circumstances. As improvisers, we can go to wackier and wackier places as long as we center our scenes in knowable characters and relationships. And, remember, we know our characters and relationships through their patterns of emotional behavior.
As an improviser, have you ever been suggested a location or activity you’re not personally familiar with and as a result you end up playing a character who is “new” to the location/activity or just openly inept?
When the audience is engaged with Characters and Relationships they care way less about the authenticity of your mime and/or details. It’s the old Back To The Future Versus The Matrix dynamic: Because we were invested in Doc and Marty as people, knowing that once 85 MPH was achieved the Flux Capacitor sent you back in time was all that we needed. Conversely, because The Matrix was mostly filled with unemotional characters, nerds ruthlessly attacked the world’s nitty gritty.
Bottom line: This exercise will allow your group to more confidently explore far off worlds by finding a connection in Character and Relationships.
I love World Building in improvisation. With World Building in mind we can bring focus to our Organic Formats.
The first scene of a show starts in a train; the rest of the show exists in that same train.
The first scene of a show starts with Little League players. The next scene focuses on the parents in the stands. The next scene focuses on the players’ siblings hanging out in the parking lot.
The first scene of a show introduces a reality wherein people shield their improper thoughts from heaven with an umbrella. The next scene shows angels using the same umbrellas to shield them from God’s view. And later we see God himself hiding his own self-doubt under an umbrella.
In our efforts to build worlds though we mustn’t lose sight of Improv As Improv Does Best, which relies at its core on heightening established Personal and Scenic Games. So how’s about we build worlds around our patterns of emotional behavior?
Here is a series of exercises I ran to that purpose… Continue reading
Check out this Two Person scene performed by Shaheen Ali and Christopher May. In it the performers weave patterns of emotional behavior to link characters, relationships and environment in a sustainable scene. Enjoy!
Jive Turkey is Chris Ulrich and Joe Randazzo. They’ve been working on a two-man format where all the worlds connect.
There’s certainly a through-line of a plot here – finding one character’s spouse, trying to have a threesome with said spouses, etc. – but what I like here is that the worlds are more connected by emotional characters and their words than by the plot.
“Buh-duh, buh, buh, buh,…”…enjoy it!
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.
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
Looking for an exercise/warm-up that will engage your group in tapping emotions between characters and leveraging those emotions in heightened subsequent beats? Continue reading
Objective: To focus on strong initiations that heighten established games with new stakes, situations, characters and relationships. Continue reading
Objective: To focus on strong initiations that endow personal and scenic games and leverage those quickly defined games with subsequent beat initiations that heighten characters and relationships. Continue reading
Objective: How we feel about our scene partners determines a lot of our scene. Emotional agreement is strong default. But our characters needn’t always align.
We love tension. We can do conflict. But we should be wary of argument, negotiation and head-butting.
Active scene elements, relationship stakes and a willingness to lose ensure our scenes move forward as they heighten. Continue reading