“Even in an absurd world, there is a circle of probability.” — Roemer Lievaart, 16th November 2013, Amsterdam (NL)
Certainly, hyperrealism has become a trend at many improv companies. Sometimes players are afraid to enter into a more dreamy or absurd realm. This is probably because it makes them feel lost.
Many absurd scenes turn out to become overly absurd really quickly. It then seems like every single event needs to make us rethink how this world operates. That makes things very hard for your partners on scene and generally makes the audience tune out after a while too.
Remember that even in absurd worlds, there are laws which events abide to. It also reminds to a little warmup game where the players are asked to quickly form a family photo of aliens. If they all end up making completely different aliens, remind them that even in a different world that ours, members of the same family will most probably look more or less alike (i.e. will be of the same species).
“In real life we tend to hide what’s really going on, but in improv we want to show exactly that.” — Roemer Lievaart, 9th November 2013, Amsterdam (NL)
If your character is angry, play an angry character. It’s really as simple as that.
Of course, if you’re a more established actor, you can set a character on stage that’s trying to hide its anger, but always make sure your partners know that your character is angry.
Remember, you are both actor and character on stage, but so are your partners. Don’t hide information from them, they won’t get it.
“See improv like a game of tennis, not golf.” — Patti Stiles, 18th October 2013, Würzburg (DE)
In both tennis and golf players each get a turn to hit the ball. In golf you’re doing your own thing in your own world and only try to do better than your opponent. In tennis however, everything you do is in direct response to what your opponent just did. You cannot play tennis without paying very close attention to your opponent all the time.
Perhaps a more accurate comparison would be ‘a friendly game of tennis’, just to leave out the competitive element altogether.
“Accept it’s stupid and then do it really well.” — Tim Orr, 18th May 2013, Antwerp (BE)
This is one similar to what is also sometimes said: “If you feel like ‘this is crap’, commit to it 5000 times more”.
Keeping this in mind can really help you to keep pushing a scene forward, even in difficult times.
“Failures and mistakes are great fun, but they should not be your only option.” — Tim Orr, 18th May 2013, Antwerp (BE)
Improv embraces failure and mistakes like nothing else does. At improv workshops we regularly encourage each other to take risks, enjoy fear and fail good-naturedly.
However, it is very important that you commit and try hard in order to reach an honest failure. Even more so, succeeding should be within the range of possibilities.
So, aim high and far, but don’t set ridiculous goals either. Nobody enjoys watching you fail to jump three metres high, but watching a person who can’t really sing commit to a love song can be awesome.
“Act like a sports team.” — Tim Orr, 18th May 2013, Antwerp (BE)
Tim Orr was explaining how to get create the stage magic our audiences are deserving. I’m sure he’s getting this from his background as a basketball coach.
During the workshop, he would regularly have us do simple ball games and ask us to hit a person on the butt if they did something great. It enforces the team spirit and connection to one another.
Improv is the ultimate team sports after all, isn’t it?