This exercise sharpens listening and reacting to your scene partner, because there’s no way you can pre-plan actions or dialogue.
To begin, two players step out.
The Coach/Director hands one person a book. It can be any book that contains dialogue. You can also use a screenplay or play.
Someone calls out a number below 50, and the player with the book turns to that page. They read the first piece of dialogue they find in quotes.
Let’s say the number is 34 and the book is The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The first sentence in quotes on page 34 is:
“Well, Harry, what brings you out so early?”
The second player must respond to that initiation, however they feel is appropriate. They might say:
“Mindy kicked me out of the house. Again.”
“I don’t want to be late for my A.A. meeting.”
“I skipped the full-body shave this time and just sprayed on a little more Axe.”
The first player then reads the next piece of dialogue by the same character. (Sometimes this might mean skipping a page to find the next snippet in quotes.)
Chances are, the written dialogue won’t make a lot of sense coming after the improvised line. That’s OK. The point isn’t to create Edward Albee-worthy scenes; it’s to get you focused on listening and responding to whatever is thrown at you.
The scene continues with one player reading their dialogue from the book, and the second player always responding extemporaneously.
It’s a bit of mindfuck, but that’s what makes it fun. Try it at your next rehearsal.