Info

Posts tagged improv character

“For many things, your attitudes came from actions that led to observations that led to explanations that led to beliefs. Your actions tend to chisel away at the raw marble of your persona, carving into being the self you experience from day to day. It doesn’t feel that way, though. To conscious experience, it feels as if you were the one holding the chisel, motivated by existing thoughts and beliefs. It feels as though the person wearing your pants performed actions consistent with your established character, yet there is plenty of research suggesting otherwise. The things you do often create the things you believe.” – Benjamin Franklin

Photo © People and Chairs

Photo © People and Chairs

Having a strong point of view makes doing a scene easy and fun. This exercise gives your character something concrete to play off of, right out of the gate.

Think of something you personally have a strong opinion about.

It doesn’t have to be political or religious; it can be as simple as “I hate clowns.”

Now, just flip the statement, whatever it is, and hold the opposite opinion as you play out your scene.

For example:

• “I enjoy exploring new cities” could become “I’m afraid of foreign places and people.”

• “Fox News is stupid” could become “Fox News is the best source of intelligent, factual information.”

• “Smartphones are destroying human interaction” could be “Smartphones make face-to-face communication better and more honest.”

etc.

You don’t have to force the topic into conversation, but you’ll find as your scene unfolds that you’ll share your newfound belief naturally.

To do the exercise, everyone thinks of a strongly-held opinion while they’re on the back line, then reverses it. Two people are chosen, and the Coach/Director gives a location to start their scene.

Try it at your next rehearsal.

Photo © Kevin Thom

Photo © Kevin Thom

My boss saw two brothers, aged 4 and 8, being interviewed on Breakfast Television. The host asked what they wanted to be when they grow up.

The older brother answered “A dentist.”

The younger one blurted:

“I wanna be a dragon!”

As we get older, logic starts to rein in our imagination. Improv is a chance to let it run free again.

The next time something crazy, unexpected, or illogical happens on stage and your left brain wants to justify or “correct” it, ask yourself: Would you rather be a dentist, or a dragon?

Director/artist/enfant terrible Tony Kaye once enraged a roomful of ad people who’d come to hear him speak at the Clio Awards. He walked to the podium, leaned in to the microphone, and said…

“Trust.”

Then he walked off, to booing and hissing.

Now Tony’s a weirdo, no doubt about it, but he did have a point.

On Saturday, my team and I did a set based on the show Roseanne.

We all loved having such clear-cut characters from the outset. I played Roseanne, and it made me realise the importance of having a point of view or “deal.” It freed me up to respond in the moment the whole show.

At one point, I was in a scene that got swept. Everyone moved off stage right except me; I walked stage left and stopped, because I’d forgotten this particular stage had no “off stage” on that side. All it had was a wall, a chair, and more stage.

Instead of panicking (a fave go-to of mine historically), I sat in the chair with my back to the wall. Even though I was clearly visible to the audience, I decided just to stay quiet and observe the players who’d taken centre stage.

DJ (played by my teammate Chris Besler) and Darlene (Maria Hajigeorgiou) discussed their sister Becky’s departure in the previous scene. Then I watched as “DJ” mimed opening his bedroom window, and exited the scene.

Now Maria was alone onstage. A beat went by and I heard myself say, “Looks like it’s just you and me, Darlene.”

She spun around and looked at me. “Mom! Have you been here the whole time?!

I wouldn’t have made that move a year ago, and it felt amazing to have the courage to stay put, shut up, and when the time called for it, take focus. Most of all, it felt great to be supported by my team.

Trust yourself. Trust your teammates. Trust in the unknown.

Trust.

P.S. After the show Maria told me that in one episode, Roseanne actually hid in Darlene’s closet. How cool is that?

Photo © Caroline McGillivray

Corgi In The Forest as Jackie, Darlene, Becky, Dan, Roseanne and DJ – Photo © Caroline MacGillivray