Posted by Rolland | Filed under Resources for improvisersWritten by Rolland Lopez (Staff) - @RollandLopez
It’s unfortunate but not every scene goes smoothly in an improv show.
Sometimes, the players can be listening, giving gifts, accepting each other’s gifts, and the scene can still go wonky.
A few things I’ve seen on stage that I feel can prevent a scene from really flourishing.
1) Not having REAL reactions to something said or done.
Did your wife in the scene just say she was pregnant? Did your boyfriend in the scene just say he’s moving out? Unless you’ve established somehow that your character takes all sorts of difficult scenarios with nonchalance and that’s your game…we want to see a realistic reaction from you. We do NOT want to see you gloss over that giant egg that was just laid and go on with your day as if she said “I like vanilla ice cream.”
Give the audience a real reaction, and give your partner something to now react against. It may be uncomfortable, it may be awkward, it may even be embarrassing and something you’re not used to doing in public, but that’s why YOU’RE up there on stage. Those too afraid to put themselves through it paid $5.00 to see someone else do it!
2) Talking about “stuff”
If you’re a couple / roommates in the kitchen, don’t JUST talk about what you’re going to have for dinner. If you’re guitarists in a band, don’t JUST talk about what you’re going to name the new album. If you’ve just purchased a bookshelf from Ikea, don’t JUST talk about how to put it together.
Talk about and deal with how one roommate hasn’t been paying their half of the rent. Talk about and deal with how one’s drinking is getting in the way of the success you want. Talk about and deal with how you’re not ready to have a baby.
You can ALWAYS come back to what’s for dinner, what you’re going to name the album, and putting together that bookshelf. Those things will be there as part of the environment for you to work with, they will be there for fodder and humor, and they’ll be there when you’re NOT talking about the “meat” of the scene, but they’re not good as “meat” themselves.
Nobody wants to spend 3 minutes watching you try to come up with a witty name for an album.
3) Be IN the scene, not COMMENT on it.
I sometimes see one person doing something in a scene and the scene partner, rather than reacting as if they’re IN the scene, says something that is more of a comment. Almost like they’re the player saying it, rather than the CHARACTER. Remember, we call them “scenes”, just like in acting. Go ahead and act! Be in the scene, and “BE” rather than comment.
4) You give your partner too many gifts!
You made your scene partner a ghost. Awesome! I’d love to see that scene of someone having a ghost as a roommate!! But don’t also immediately make your scene partner from the future, with an allergic reaction to humans and has an irrational fear of dogs. Your partner will stand there going “I don’t know what to address first!” Gifts are great, please give them! But rather than constantly inventing forward, look back to what you’ve already established (my roommate’s a ghost) and explore that more before adding another layer.
Now, none of these are rules! There is no wrong in improv, and I’m sure that there have plenty of fun, engaging, amazing scenes that have done each of these things. I have no doubt I could watch people spend 3 hilarious minutes coming up with the name for an album.
But, if you find that your scenes are feeling clunky and feel like they don’t really go somewhere, it wouldn’t hurt to ask yourself if you’re doing any of these.