Entry From the Back of One Anonymous Student’s Evaluation, #3

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
-Albert Einstein

Now where were we?

As you will recall from last semester’s newsletter, a student on the back of his teacher evaluation jotted down all of the “Razowsky-isms” I tend to repeatedly blurt out during class. (Since then the student has identified himself. I will respect his anonymity and not divulge his name. Just so you all know that you can trust me!) The following are some more of those bon mots.

Start in the middle. Assume that the audience just opened the door on you while you were in the middle of a conversation. Any need to explain where you are or who you are will be revealed as the scene goes on. The most important thing to hit in your scene-work is your relationship, i.e., how you feel about your partner. Start your scenes with the word “you,” give gifts of emotions, and realize that information that doesn’t deal with the two of you tends to get you caught in a cycle of details we really don’t need to explore.

Everything you need is in your partner’s face. I’ll often see students start scenes watching what activity their partner is doing. Nine times out of ten that scene will begin with one of the actors talking about that activity as opposed to talking about each other. The best way to connect with your partner is by looking at their face and making an assumption as to what they might have just said to you prior to the scene starting or what mood they’re in. Take a moment before you open your mouth to suss out the look on your partner’s face. It’s not the first line that inspires the scene, rather it’s the mood you feel from your partner’s silent offering. Does their look read anger? Joy? Confusion? Bliss? Let those emotions inspire your first line of dialogue.  Remember what you start your scenes talking about is what you will continue talking about. Why not make the discussions about the two of you?

Live in the silences.  This is theatre, it’s not a race. Take time in your scenes to enjoy the silences, to create a dynamic that makes the audience have to wait for your reaction. Tease your partner and make them wait and you tease the audience and make them wait. Play with silences in the middle of your sentences (Harold Pinter made a career out of it). Take your time reacting to your partner and spend some time exploring the space or hunkering down with your activity. Every movement and moment on stage is a potential tool to create something we’ve never felt, or imagined we could convey. (This works only when we have patient partners on stage with us. Make an agreement with your fellow cast-mates that you will take your time in reacting in order to give your partner time to “play.”)

Trust in the trust. Huh? I have had many students tell me that they don’t know where the scene is going to go, so they get cerebral and start thinking and conjuring and inventing and writing. There’s an implicit vow we all have the moment we start a scene. The vow goes like this—“I promise to listen to you, to support you in what you do, to further the action by reacting to your gifts. I promise to trust that you will help me get to the end of this scene by surprising me other with great choices, so help me Del.” Or something like that. (Should any of you improvisors plan on getting married anytime soon, you may use that vow as your vows.) We have to believe that our reactions are not only right and true, but also are our only choices, so we stick with them and express them with conviction. In spite of what you might think, you are not in charge of the scene; the scene is in charge of the scene. Let go of the need to control where you think the scene has to go. Release, relinquish and surrender, and remember if you think you know where the scene is going you’re probably not listening.

It’s all there; you don’t have to invent it. When we enter a scene everything we need is already there, we just have to connect to them. Discover what’s in your environment. Let your mind go where it needs to. Pick up one object and think “I know what’s next to this thing because I say it’s next to this thing.” Surprise yourself by letting your imagination make those discoveries. Better yet, let your heart make those discoveries. Your heart never lies.

Thank you, anonymous student, wherever you are.

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David Razowsky

I have a simple approach to improvising: Your present awareness is the only thing you need to create compelling, smart, truthful, and surprising scenes. Period. No games, no preconceived premises, no ideas, no ego. All that matters is now. The actor’s level of improvisation experience doesn’t matter, for all you need to bring to my workshop is your present presence. All you’ll leave with is your joy and excitement and confidence. And after all, what more do you need?