Let's Make a Big Deal

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

There is nothing in this world that is not a decisive moment.
-Cardinal de Retz

One of the great things about improv is that we can make a BIG deal out of anything. ANYTHING. Not only can we, but we must. We create drama out of the mundane, and make little out of the profound. It’s just what we do. It turns the premises that we start with into the scenes that satisfy us.

Have you ever watched a scene that, at the onset, seemed like a great idea but then...something went wrong? The premise was there, the characters were great, everything looked to be in order. Then something seemed to go wrong. Perhaps the same points are hit over and over and over again. The game of the scene is played to death. The actors repeat themselves and their points of view ad naseum. The scene goes on forever. Someone screams or swears and the lights go out. The audience sits confused, then the director in the back of the room cues the audience to begin the applause. 

It’s not very satisfying.

Hey! What happened?

This is what happened: the premise never turned into a scene.

A premise is an idea, a given set of circumstance. It’s the relationship with a side dish of who, what and where. This is how you turn a premise into a scene:

Exposition + relationship + emotional transformation = scene.

In order for a premise or an idea to move into a scene, a transformation must take place. Someone needs to change, to surrender their point of view, to release their grip on what they thought the scene was going to be at its beginning, to relinquish their perceived “ownership” of the scene. Someone needed to be honest, truthful and express how they felt about their partner or the particular circumstance they were in.

Someone needs to have a revelation.

A scene is not over until someone changes.

Once one actor transforms their opinion or emotion, everyone in that scene needs to transform their opinion or emotion. How does your character feel about your fellow actor suddenly telling you that you’ve been right the whole time, that he indeed loves you? What’s your emotional reaction to your partner’s new emotional offering? Are you going to continue to hold onto the emotional content you had prior to his offer? If so, the scene doesn’t move forward. It’s stuck in an old set of circumstances that no longer exists. The scene has moved forward, and your character must follow.

Now that you have the equation, copy it down and make that scene happen.

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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?