- In the info of a line, what’s important in that line?
- What’s conveyed?
- Character > situation
- The character is what’s important
- If your worst scene is still a realistic depiction of life, you’re golden.
- Gagging is unrealistic.
- Frequent direction: “This is really happening, <x>!”
- Don’t play the action, play the person.
- Again, character > situation.
- You can always disclose your opinions/knowledge about the other character.
- This lets you ‘check in’.
Loads of good stuff in these notes.
When you’re being led by discovery, you’re analyzing your scene partner for information. You aren’t looking internally for ideas, you’re looking externally at your scene partner to see how they’re reacting, to see what offers they’re making (both big, obvious and verbal gestures, and smaller body language offers). You’re then using those offers and making intuitive response offers. That makes connection with your scene partner much easier, as what they’re receiving from you is based on what they’re giving out. They aren’t being fed any strange curve-balls.
Look at your partner. Do they seem nervous, happy, tense? Take this into account. Give them something to work with, but give it to them one step at a time. Do the Cha-cha. Move back and forth between the two of you. “Hey Bobby, thanks for coming to meet me in this mediocre coffee shop.” See how they respond.
This is my challenge to you: be more aware of the interaction between you and your stage partner than of what you want to happen next. Forget what you have “planned” for the scene. Keep your ideas, but allow space for your partner’s ideas as well. If you keep moving with this dance, you’ll get to a place that you never could have achieved on your own.
Here are some notes and interpretations I took while listening to Chicago improv podcast Improv Nerd. This is from Episode 163: TJ & Dave. Click the links on the times to be taken to an audio version of the note.
10:34: How the TJ & Dave format came about: “We decided to improvise in the way we were going to improvise.” No planning of what the show was going to look like in advance, including format. After a bad first show, the duo made some choices to “find out what this show tends to do”. The cast was kept to two, as they only wanted to add people as they were needed. Rather than doing “a bunch of different stuff, let’s just do one thing.” Someone else pointed out that the shows would always take place in the same time – almost real time, within the hour TJ & Dave are on stage. No time dashes, but jumps to different locations (in the same time) occur. TJ & Dave playing multiple characters over the course of a show came out of necessity.
14:40: “The show itself, it’s an exercise in seeing what happens when you really only go from moment to moment to moment with no plans, no bits, and really just behave this way. [..] Like an actual human being, which is like the easiest way to get a show to a sustainable way, like put real people in it. Real people tend to live for a while, you know what I mean? They do things that they live by, and make choices that their accountable for, and that kind of stuff and so, if it was just going to be us and the show would be about an hour then, let’s make these people as actual as we can, and they’ll do things that people actually would do. Because no-one’s coming, we’re not getting edited, so we gotta live in these people for a while. It’s going to be easier if we make them real.”
16:53: Responding honestly means the response falls in the believable realm for that character’s point of view. In short, the logic checks out. An absurd character can be believable by being honest on stage, which may in turn gain laughs more so than an absurd character stating absurd things (because they are absurd or funny).
17:35: What a character first does can deem what they become. An over-solicitous waiter stands in a certain way, walks in a certain way, the pace in which they move or talk.
19:45: [..] There is going to be comedy in it [a TJ & Dave show], but it’s not the intention. That isn’t what we’re focusing on, we’re really just trying to go from moment to moment to moment, and one’s own nature will probably reveal itself in certain situations, you know the tendencies. We have a skewed outlook that often people view that as funny. Like in therapy, that’s sad. It’s medicated. But on stage, oh that’s hilarious! If you said comedy is the goal, if you said funny is the goal, you’re likely never going to hit interesting or frightening or any of that, you’re just going to hit, you’re going to miss, you’re going to hit unfunny.
21:44: “Honesty doesn’t prohibit comedy.”
30:23: Improvisation isn’t getting on stage and talking. It’s choosing your words, your movements, how you conduct yourself carefully in response to your scene partner.
33:56: Scenework that involves making discoveries on stage involves removing internal fears. “Empty yourself of all your own garbage”, and to “operate as an antenna” to receive, not push the scene in the direction we want it to go in. You don’t have to say something soon – talk when you feel the need to talk. If a place or person isn’t defined, we don’t have to define them in order for the scene to be considered good. “When in doubt, seduce.”
35:17: “Pay attention to the other person. That’s all that matters, that’s all that matters. What is going on here, what’s the relationship. That’s the extent of how important I am, what am I to them? And it takes a lot of the onus off trying to work all this shit out.”
56:45: “The job of the improviser is to not do the same thing, to always have a new. If what we’ve decided to explore becomes less than new, we have to find something else to explore.”
1:09:16: “Never love it [improv] so much that you’re not having outside experiences.”
1:09:55: “A bad scene should not force you to think less of yourself. A bad scene should and can make you look forward to improvising again.”
This is a great improv app I found on Reddit ages ago and finally got to put into practice when training with the Full Disclosure cast a few weeks back. Add a minimum and maximum amount of time in seconds, and click start. The timer counts down to a randomly set time, blaring an air horn to mark the end of the scene. Then it starts again with a different amount of time. Really awesome, especially when running a min of 2 seconds and a max of 12 seconds to encourage people to get out there and start doing stuff.
Commitment goes beyond what you do in scenework. Commitment is itself a practice. When you do an exercise in class or practice, do a scene, run a long form set, or even do a stupid warm up exercise to start a session… doing it with commitment is going to give you and everyone more than just doing what you have to do.