David Razowsky: Improvising as an Actor Workshop – Day 2

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:

  • Stop starting your scene, and start continuing your scene.
  • Bring your awareness then call it out!
  • Hold onto your shit – and connect with that.
  • What’s really missing from a scene – this can be used for second beats.
  • “Take everything for its face value – take it literally.” Listen to what the words mean. It’s where the humour appears from. You can’t scoff it off. Play it.
  • “What are you missing because it’s a figure of speech.”
  • Repetition adds emphasis – gives your stuff energy.
  • “We don’t have to do that – we get to do that!”
  • “I wish to free you on the improv you do on stage and the life you live off-stage.”
  • You can listen to tones, weight, shape. You can give words as much weight as the way they are expressed in.
  • We know the scene isn’t over because the breath changes.”
  • “When you are honest you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain
  • “Once you start thinking, you start weighing shit out.”
  • “I don’t invent, I discover.” – Pablo Picasso
  • Use everything in your enviroment. Your point-of-view is what you just said and what’s adjacent.
  • Point-of-view’s brew from emotional content.
  • “What did you just feel in that moment?”
  • If you are doing something your scene partner enjoys, why stop doing it? Continue giving those gifts!
  • Once you have the epiphany, your scene partner can have it as well.
  • “I don’t know” is just as valid a point of view as anything else. It’s truthful, it’s the actuality of the scene.
  • All improv is a race between two people where it doesn’t matter who wins. You’re watching the chase.
  • Don’t like the lack – like what’s there. Don’t back away.
  • Respond honestly to the last thing that was said.
  • Hold on to your point-of-view and surrender your point-of-view. Don’t let your ego drive your point-of-view or take you out of it.

Group Scenes

  • If doing a group scene – align with someone, connect with someone. Share an opinion.
  • Alliances and allegiances: How we are connected to other people (not characters!)
  • We have to indicate to each other who we are aligned with.
  • Use pronouns – I/Yours/Mine/Me or Ours/Theirs/We/Us or by using shape.
  • If aligned, use names; especially if their back is to you. Little queues and show it fully and wholly!!

Change and Heightening

  • “You’re looking for the turn, the change, for the bubble to pop.” Once it does, you can drop what you had and it changes and affects you.
  • Just because I notice it, doesn’t mean I have to engage with it.
  • “Go for the thing that stirred my soul.”
  • We can’t stay ‘that’s tiny’ – it’s a change anyway you look at it.
  • Heightening is the actor taking information you have already introduced and adding until you find a breaking point in your scene partner.
  • Don’t get married to ‘the scene is about me.’ Surrender. “It’s very likely that this moment is for somebody else”
  • The onus isn’t on when I stop having fun, it’s when your scene partner stops having fun with your offer.
  • If you feel like leaving a scene, leave the scene.
  • “What’s the emotional temperature of the room?”
  • Use that to generate an opening line of dialogue.
  • You can make a small deal out of something big, or a big deal out of something small.
  • Your feeling doesn’t make something true.
  • Be something, then discover why you are playing the scene.
  • “Being nervous is enough. Being nervous about mailboxes is too much.
  • An exit is a line of dialogue. The scene goes from act one to act two.
  • “Make this as uncomfortable as you can!”
  • “A good scene look written but off-book.”

To Think or Not To Think→

Your reaction is all you get. No one is more than they are right now. In trying to be so is where we fuck up. We hear a line of dialogue, we have a reaction, we ignore or try to be better than our reaction, we think, we come up with a second or third option, but now we are no longer in the moment, we aren’t focused on listening or playing our character, we are in our head. We think we can’t come up with anything when actually we have come up with too much. What we should have done was the first thing that occurred to us.