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.”

Being Affected class

Objective:   Reacting emotionally in-the-moment keeps our scenes effectively in the moment.  You can’t calculate every change; you have to allow yourself (and your characters) to be vulnerable to the moment.  React, and trust wherever it goes.  We choose to feel, reacting emotionally without deference to “sense.”  But.  Our emotional choices can be aided, informed and heightened by situational, behavioral and relationship-based endowments. Continue reading

Situational Stakes exercises

Situational 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.  These exercises focus on endowing premises and “wacky circumstances” with emotion.

Situational Effects – The impact that success or failure of a particular circumstance’s efforts portend to have on players’/a player’s feelings.  “We have five minutes to defuse this bomb or we’re dead.”/ “I don’t want to die.”

SITUATIONAL Suggested Exercises:

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – Players initiate two person scenes with the wildest, crazy-detailed quests/needs that they can imagine.  “It is left to us janitors to slay the dragon.”  “Build me a robot that makes robots and runs on souls.”  They seek solutions.  They pursue options.
• Try, don’t discuss – “I don’t know if this will work.”  Shut up.  Try it.
• All that matters is that you feel – care about what you’re doing.  Experience successes and failures emotionally.  The Matrix was totally predicated on the intricacies of plot (and special effects) and when plot failed, there was no emotion (too cool) to carry it.  Because “The Flux-Capacitor” was the only sense Back To The Future needed; it had Marty and Doc.
• Confidently engage environment – explore your wild premise beyond words.  More often, the stranger the world, the more we hang back from making physical choices (I’m “a pilot” but I don’t know how to fly a plane so I’m scared to engage the cockpit’s control”).  Do whatever confidently and deliberately (How do you build a mainframe? “Like this.  Ugh. Umph. Twist.  Torque.  Here.”)
• Get Satisfaction – We often unnecessarily fear achieving our wants to avoid dealing with what lies on the other side.  When that fear has power over the scene it stagnates.  What happens when you give the guy who wants a robot a robot?  What if you left when someone demands that you “get out of here”?  What if you can suddenly do the thing you couldn’t do?  Especially if we have emotionally committed characters, we can feel comfortable exploring the other side of our obstacles.
•  Lead and/or break into exercise with a few environment warm-ups – “What are you doing?”, “Mighty Isis,” “Build a room,” “Environment/Dialogue Sequences,” etc.