“When one decides, the other has to discover.” — Daniel Orrantia, 6th April 2016, Leuven (BE)
We don’t like to be too creative on stage. Being creative implies making too many decisions as actors. Our characters should of course be making decisions all the time, otherwise we keep on stalling the story, but we as actors should be as much in the moment as possible.
However, obviously we sometimes make conscious decisions about things in the scene. We can choose a character from the onset, imply a location in a line of dialogue, have a general idea for an offer to make.
In all of these situations, it is very important you remain fully aware that your decision still has to be discovered by your partner. Leave the time and space for that to happen. Don’t jump to the next thing right away.
Keeping this in mind prevents us following our own path in a scene, which risks our scene partner to be left behind in the dark… Take care of each other!
“Repetition is good!” — Missie Peters, 29th January 2016, Amsterdam (NL)
Granted, this quote comes from Missie’s workshop on improvised poetry, but isn’t repetition always good on the improv stage? Sondheim often said that on stage everything needs to be in service of clarity, without which everything else is meaningless. Repetition is a great way of increasing clarity in a scene.
Clarity is the absence of clutter. We avoid clutter by refraining from bringing too much stuff into the scene. Repetition therefore serves two purposes: it keeps us from bringing something new in, and it highlights something that was already there.
Yes. Repetition is good!
“A moment doesn’t need anything more than itself. Two moments confuse each other when brought together.” — Dave Razowsky, 23rd October 2015, Würzburg (DE)
Every moment counts in improv. As improvising actors, we have to be aware that we are constantly letting moments remain unnoticed. But worse is when we start bringing in moments (ideas, story lines, jokes, …) from off stage onto the stage.
We need to be fully present and 100% alert to everything that is going on and around our stage. This is called being in a soft focus.
Razowsky compared a moment with a glass filled to the rim with water. When you bring two of these glasses against each other, they will immediately spill their contents and the water gets mixed up. This is what happens when two moments are brought together, you sacrifice clarity.
“Decide it, name it, and get it over with.” — Jacob Bannigan, 24th November 2014, Brussels (BE)
This is especially true for solo’s, but counts everywhere. Do everybody a favour and decide quickly on naming everything that’s unclear in the scene.
“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.