World Hopping exercise

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

Character & Relationship Trump Plot in this video example from Jive Turkey

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!


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

Relationship, Stakes and Scene class

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

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.
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.
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).
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.
“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.”