David Razowsky: Improvising as an Actor Workshop – Day 3

Long-time Second City cast member, director, and teacher David Razowsky visited Australia in July 2015, and I was lucky enough to be apart of a three day workshop focused on his various techniques and approaches to improvisation. Here are my notes and lessons from that weekend:

  • No-one ever wants to start. You want to continue.”
  • Specificity: Add something to what you already have. It’s not just a pair of glasses, it’s a beat up shitty pair of plastic reading glasses.
  • “Either say the line and shut the fuck up, or say the line, repeat it, and shut the fuck up.” (Be efficient with your dialogue! We’re watching a finish product, not a first draft. Trust yourself, say less.)
  • “Dare to leave me dangling.”
  • Unfolded, unfurled, and evolved: How we treat a point of view. “And we don’t do anything but keep going.”
  • Listen to the exact words that are said.
  • “Funny trumps logic.”
  • “it’s not my obligation to explain what the scene is about.” We are acting in the scene, so act in it.
  • Exercise: Solo Exercise: Inspired by music, deliver a monologue.
  • Once you bring in the past, you have to keep creating it. That’s when you get stuck.
  • Be aware of the words you are saying, and be aware of the emotional content of the words. (This will inspire what comes next, as opposed to getting stuck and inventing what comes next).
  • “We have to go forwards with what we say and do. Don’t go several steps back.”
  • Being positive is work – unless it’s your inspiration.
  • The first line of dialogue doesn’t set the scene, the second line does.
  • “Specifics beget specifics. Once you have a few, it’s easy to find the rest.”
  • “We’re writing using the ink of our voice onto the paper of our partners ears.”
  • “You can say a lie, as long as you say the truth later.”
  • Listen to yourself. You don’t just say things, you say them for a reason.
  • Observe the scene. Don’t just “go forward.” Be mindful. The only time we say that we’re done is when we’re done. We don’t call it ourselves.
  • “Don’t be in a hurry to get there, because it doesn’t get you there any faster.”
  • If you fight it, no-one wins.
  • If it feels different to everything else, play with it.
  • Statement of truth – When you announce it, it’s done! (A statement of truth marks the end of a scene – good cue for an edit).
  • Don’t leave out the middle parts – we need to know details.
  • The audience can pick up subtext.
  • Your scene partner ends where they want you to begin!!!
  • If you say one thing that doesn’t make sense, you can continue not making sense.”
  • It’s not about finding the first thing interesting. It’s about weighing up everything and choosing the most interesting thing.
  • When responding to your scene partner – is the answer yes or no? Then you will know how to respond to them. The obvious choices become clearer every time.
  • Object Work: Easier to do things, then define rather than vice versa?
  • “If you hold on to point-of-view – it can be written.”
  • “A major part of what I’m asking you to do is have permission to be silly.”

There’s sometimes psychological reasons people tell stories badly. One element of good storying is being emotionally connected to the words you’re saying, but if people are in denial about something, or suppressing the emotions involved, the story can sound somehow flat and affectless.
Alex Blumberg of This American Life/Gimlet Media talking about what makes stories work for radio. Replace stories with scenes and radio with improv shows, and well… More at Transom.