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!
A fun Pack show featuring Nick Leveski and Patrick Gantz having a lot of fun endowing each other and reacting to one another.
Here’s a scene from a Pack show I did with Nick Leveski, a seasoned Chicago improviser.
This scene evoked a huge laugh from the audience. Like many stage-to-video improv moments, the laugh gets lost in translation.
But I believe I know what the audience liked. We didn’t explain the scene; we lived the scene. When we as improvisers made choices, the audience could believe that those choices were the characters’ reality all along.
Nick and I had previously talked about avoiding audition scenes and scenes focused on “bad acting.” The audience would rather see you try your best and fail than purposely be bad. We knew I would never actually perform a monologue. The scene is about two improvisers building a world moment-by-moment that the characters have been living since day one.
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
We’re going to build “two person scenes” on patterns of emotional behavior.
LET’S WARM-UP Continue reading
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
BLIND SCENES – Player One starts engaged in the environment (with an action, object, atmosphere, etc.). Player Two, starting with his back to the stage, has the first line of dialogue.
• No justification necessary – If players’ initiations don’t align, they don’t have to make sense of why they’re together. They can just accept and heighten what’s happening.
2 Person Scenes Heightening Emotion: Establish an emotional perspective, heighten the emotional perspective through reaction to active details, and edit – That’s scene. We want to avoid negotiation, conflict and the tepid, talked-out “discovery” that stagnates scenes’ growth.
ENDOW AND HEIGHTEN LAY-UPS – Player One initiates from stage left. Player Two initiates from stage right. Both players heighten what they initiate. After a few lines back and forth, teacher calls “Scene” and two new players start the exercise.
• Personal / Personal – Player One engages a personal emotional perspective and Player Two engages a personal emotional perspective.
– Disparate initiations: Player 1 – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.” Player 2 – (looking around in panic) “I heard it again.”
– Complementary initiations: Player 1 – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.” Player 2 – (flipping nostalgically through a big book) “Those were innocent times.”
– Mirrored initiations: Player 1 – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.” Player 2 – (playing with a yo-yo sadly) “siiiigggghhh.”
• Scenic / Scenic – Player One engages an active aspect of Player Two with an emotional perspective and Player Two engages an active aspect of Player One with an emotional perspective.
– Player 1 – I want to kill you and steal your life. Player 2 – I laugh at your weakness.
• Personal / Scenic – Player One engages a personal emotional perspective and Player 2 engages an active aspect of Player One with an emotional perspective.
– Player One – (staring forlornly at the Cat’s Cradle he works with his fingers) “sigh.” Player Two – “Oh, I’ve had it with your attitude, mister.”
• Scenic / Personal – Player One engages an active aspect of Player Two with an emotional perspective and Player Two engages a personal emotional perspective.
– Player 1 – I want to kill you and steal your life. Player 2 – Oh, hey, my Diamond of the Month Club package arrived!
• Don’t give up your thing – heightening our individual choices together is all we need to move the scene forward. Trying to “figure out” how our things mesh, fighting each other’s thing or dropping our thing in favor of our partner’s thing robs scenes of their potential.
• Commitment avoids justification – explaining why two people are on stage often saps the energy from a scene. When two players commit to simply heightening their choices, no one will question the juxtaposition of even the most mismatched initiations.
• Reactionary statements avoid negotiation – when we’re not comfortable with and/or don’t understand what’s happening on stage, we revert to asking questions that often bog down scenes. Simply making choices moves us forward and making emotional choices helps statements stand without defense (“What do you mean, I’m a pig?” versus “Oh, I’m a pig. You’re a dirty whore.”)
• Heightening avoids conflict – “I want to kill you”/ “I want to kiss you.” If these are the initiations, we don’t want to debate or argue – heighten the feelings. You don’t have to address the disparity between feelings right away if ever. Heighten conflict/tension by heightening your part of it. Addressing/discussing conflict/tension takes the dynamite out of the scene.
• Make Scenic/Personal Initiations less rare – it can be fun for Player Two to choose a personally grounding emotional perspective despite Player One′s attempt to initially engage her in his thing.
TWO PERSON SCENES – Player One initiates from stage left. Player Two initiates from stage right. Players heighten what they initiate. Have players decide BOTH how they feel about “I” and “You” – engaging an active endowment about themselves AND about their scene partner.
• Bored? React! – don’t know what to do in a scene? Have an emotional reaction to an active element.
• Lost? Repeat! – I scream. Why? I don’t know. So I keep screaming, heightening the emotion of the scream. Don’t stop what you’re doing to make “sense” of it; Find “sense” through continuing doing what you’re doing.
• Be affected – There’s power in reacting in-the-moment to another player’s perspective/actions/choices. When we don’t react to a fellow player’s move that deserves a reaction we risk pulling the rug out from under the scene.
• Feel first, understand second (if ever) – don’t wait to “understand your motivation” before making a choice about how to feel
• Never trapped by your choice – while players should be encouraged to push their heightening before changing course onto a new thing, players should never feel trapped by the things. “I love my teddy bear.” I heighten why I love my teddy bear (“He doesn’t judge”) but I don’t have to react only to teddy. “I really love my fluffy duck.”/ “He doesn’t give a shit.”
Help Desk Games: A pattern can be based around a series of interactions. This game rubric can be especially helpful in making scenes that had been bogged down in transaction, negotiation and/or conflict look good.
HELP DESK – Have a player assume a character and introduce a place of business; “The Help Desk is open for business.” A second player comes in and interacts. Players on the wings pay attention to language, reactions and the scene’s progression. A third player will enter the scene (replacing the second player) to heighten the interaction – repeating some parts exactly and heightening other details/reactions. A fourth player will participate in a third interaction – keeping the same the things that stayed the same and heightening the things that heightened.