“Copy, repeat and complete.” — Bart Van Loon, 7th April 2017, Mainz (DE)
One of my favourite mantra’s of Keith Johnstone is to not be creative. We are not making stuff up! Creativity is a thought process.
We want to re-act, use what is already there and read the situation to come to truly inspirational scenes. Don’t use what’s in your head already, use what can be found on stage by copying stuff, repeating stuff and, ultimately, completing it.
As improvisers, our true power lies in spotting all kinds of patterns and completing them as obviously as possible.
“To react is to accept another’s authority to change you.” — Sébastien Chambres, 5th April 2017, Brest (FR)
Indifference is the the worst thing in improv. Indifference to an offer is the very essence of blocking it. Ignoring or not caring about your partners is exactly what will make others not want to play with you in the future.
Improv is all about reaction, not about action. And real reaction invokes change.
Accept anything to change your character. This doesn’t mean you should change your mind all the time (a strict vegetarian should never accept that sausage). It can also mean you change your emotion, change your status, change your energy, change the speed/volume/pitch of speaking, etc…
If you’re serving your partner, you accept their authority to change you.
“Look for something bigger than yourself and join it.” — Sébastien Chambres, 5th April 2017, Brest (FR)
This quote beautifully captures an essential part of improv for me. If we are always on the look to join something which is bigger than ourselves, we leave no room for the ego. Perfect!
Don’t go on stage to create something or to make something up. Go on stage to discover and join what is already there.
“The silliness or seriousness of a scene is apart from its emotional truth.” — Charlotte Gittins and Andy Murray, 28th January 2017, Amsterdam (NL)
Finally a good way of expressing something that I always struggled with in the past.
When focussing on truth in scenes, we tend to go realistic. We stay close to ourselves and explore situations close to our everyday life. Hence we reach ‘serious’ scenes.
But taking our work seriously (i.e. playing truthfully) doesn’t at all need to mean that we have to play serious characters in serious situations. Be silly! Let improv be like dreams, not fiction!
“The more time you spend looking at each other, the better your show will be.” — Charlotte Gittins and Andy Murray, 28th January 2017, Amsterdam (NL)
Charlotte and Andy form the British duo Folie à Deux and teach about 2-person shows. You can tell from their shows that they love working with each other and fully accept each other on stage all the time.
This connection is of course formed offstage too and a great tip is to spend a significant part of your warmup doing an emotional check-in and time simply looking at each other.
Improv is working together, so it will make your show better, in every single way. Always.
“Follow the fun!” — Pedro Borges, 27th January 2017, Amsterdam (NL)
In improv we want to be on the lookout for the things that are bigger than us. If you ever find yourself lost, just follow the fun and you will very much enjoy where you end up. But keep on following the fun diligently, don’t just look at it.
“Your show = performers + audience + space.” — Will Luera, 21st January 2017, Amsterdam (NL)
The impact of the performers on the show is pretty obvious. The team with which you’re playing is also important on your input to the show. If you’re really there to support your partners, then you play very differently depending on who you’re sharing the stage with.
Then, we all have felt the difference between playing for ten people or a hundred or perhaps even a thousand. But there’s also the difference between playing for children, in front of people with different native tongues, specialised audiences at companies, etc…
Finally, in improv, the so-called fourth wall stands behind the audience, not between the audience and the stage. Use the space in which you are performing to the fullest, let it shape your show.
Obviously, playing in a bar will result in a different show from performing in a grand theatre. Yet, wherever we are, we should always check out the performance space before the show and during the show not be afraid to push the boundaries of what we call the stage.
“Commit with an explosion!” — Daniel Renwick, 22nd October 2016, Tallinn (EE)
I love this expression. We have discussed commitment a lot on this blog already (see http://improblog.be/tag/commitment/), but this is the first time we look at the beginning of commitment.
By jumping into everything head first, you’re leaving no way out for yourself. This might help you to simply let go of your fears and inhibitions and move on to explore your unknown further and further.
Remember, this has nothing to do with ‘exploding emotions’ on scene. You can also commit with an explosion into being a very silent character and commit with an explosion into very small movements, for example.
Try this in your next scene!
“Truth is better than realism.” — Marko Mayerl, 17th October 2016, Hamburg (DE)
Improv as a stage art form allows us improvisers to do almost anything we want. All too often however, we limit ourselves to overly realistic portrayal of our characters and their lives. I think it might be because of an overdose of television and movies we are consuming, making us forget the power of theatricality.
Make it bigger! We should use all of our body and voice to deliver our message to our audiences. Think of the stage as a canvas to paint on rather than a set to play in.
Dance! Sing! Bring us inner monologues! Jump around! Lose yourself completely in dilemma’s, emotions and beautiful moments. Go for choregraphic gestures to engage the audience into the inner world of the character.
Use everything you have to portray the truth for your character and don’t let yourself be limited by that dirty thing called realism.
“Be surprised by yourself.” — Daniel Renwick, 22nd October 2016, Tallinn (EE)
First do, then think. Or, as said before: first jump off the cliff, then figure out how the parachute works. That’s precisely what you have to do to keep on inspiring yourself or, in fixed groups, your partners.
Going boldly where you have never gone before is always rewarded in improv. Embrace the unknown, go to where the danger is and… surprise yourself. It’s fun! 🙂