I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the very tops of scenes. Those first three lines. So often if there aren’t choices made in those three lines, if we don’t actively communicate and don’t listen hard, scenes meander or fall flat as we attempt to find something to latch on to. So what are the “tricks” that I can use to make those first moments work for us, to make it easier.
What are those first three lines?
(WARNING: This is batshit long and I wrote it for myself and honestly don’t expect a single person to read it. There is nothing revelatory in it.)
2. There is no reason for me to not be performing. People throughout the day would ask me if I was a performer, and I would respond “No, I’m only in 201.” Often the response to that was “So what?” My mentality has been that I want to get good at improv before I let anyone see me do it. That’s not going to work. That isn’t how improv works. I should be getting my bad performances out of the way NOW so I don’t get to be eligible for Harold auditions and let those judges see me be shitty rather than an audience of my improviser peers. I should be trying to get as many bad shows under my belt now as possible. I’m 21 years-old and in Improv 201, NOBODY will fault me for a bad show. So I need to do them.
“He taught people to commit. Like: “Don’t walk out there with one hand in your pocket unless there’s somethin’ in there you’re going to bring out.” You gotta commit. You’ve gotta go out there and improvise and you’ve gotta be completely unafraid to die. You’ve got to be able to take a chance to die. And you have to die lots. You have to die all the time. You’re goin’ out there with just a whisper of an idea. The fear will make you clench up. That’s the fear of dying. When you start and the first few lines don’t grab and people are going like, “What’s this? I’m not laughing and I’m not interested,” then you just put your arms out like this and open way up and that allows your stuff to go out. Otherwise it’s just stuck inside you.”—
This reminds me of something else I wrote a while back that might be relevant to the conversation:
Choice-coaching is probably the worst way to direct improvisors. For the uninitiated; choice-coaching is the process of telling an improvisor exactly what choice to make in a scene as it progresses. While the choices may lead to well-structured scenes, they do nothing to broaden the improvisor’s ability. The improvisor has learned no widely applicable skill or behavior; they have only learned how to play that one scene they just played. And worse, they learned how to play that scene the way the director would have played it. The improvisor is not the director and they will never face that particular scene ever again. The note given through choice-coaching is useless.
“I think what I’ve offered was different. But not because I drew better than anybody, or wrote better than anybody, but because I was more honest than anybody. And in the discussion of children, and the lives of children, and the fantasies of children, and the language of children, I said anything I wanted, because I don’t believe in children. I don’t believe in childhood. I don’t believe there’s a demarcation of “you mustn’t tell them this, you mustn’t tell them that.” You tell them anything you want. Just tell them if it’s true. If it’s true, you tell them.”—Maurice Sendak, via Drawn (via deantrippe)
Hey! Let’s talk about tag outs. Identifying them at the top of the newly-tagged-into scene will make you seem really fast and ahead of the audience.
For the sake of convenience, let’s base the scene off of this scenario:
The scene begins in an operating table and you stumble into the room, as the doctor’s assistant Clumsy Carl. He asks for a scalpal and you drop it inside the patient. The patient begins convulsing and the back line provides flatline sound effect.
(not the best scene in the world, but it’s easy to understand, so don’t give me shit)
Simple enough, and it’s a natural place to tag in if someone wants to do such a thing. As far as I can tell, there’s three types of tags:
Susan Messing did a workshop yesterday that was a wonderful re-introduction for me to Chicago-style improv. It also made me super sad again not to have finished the Annoyance program. Susan said everyone has a theory about how to do improv and they are just that - theories. There is…
“Media volatility makes more people and more ideas famous for ever shorter periods of time. What the fine art market shows us, though, is that real value isn’t created by this volatile fame. Consistently showing up on the radar of the right audience is more highly prized than reaching the masses, once then done. This works for every career, even if you’ve never touched a brush.”—Seth Godin via http://sethgodin.typepad.com/