Improv 101 Lesson 4: Taking Care of your Scene Partner

 

Building trust is vital when doing improv. Improv can be a very intimate experience. People can be very vulnerable. The longer you play with people, you can get to where you finish each others sentences. You can get to the point when you look at someone, you know where they are going. How do you build this trust?

TAKE CARE OF YOUR SCENE PARTNER

Here are a few ways to make your scene partner look good.

Be prepared

Come in your scene fully prepared to be present. Be prepared to bring in elements to the scene and push it forward. I have certain characters that I have developed that I like to play that I will insert into my scene. I try to be detailed, and I try to make my characters grounded and strong.

Focus on your scene partner.

Realize you are not there to be a one person show. You are there to build a scene with some one else. They are trusting that you are going to be there and add to the scene. Your job is to make them look good. It is so easy to always make choices that are comfortable and make you feel good.If your scene partner takes the scene in a different direction. drop your idea, and yes and them. Don’t throw your scene partner under the bus. Make them the star. In return, they will do the same.

Trust that your scene partner has your back

This is one of the best gifts. Take chances on stage. You don’t have to do this alone. It takes so much pressure off of you. It can offer you so much confidence to try new ideas, and activities on stage. If you know that your scene partner will follow you to Paris, London or even the moon, you will be willing to push beyond your comfort zone, and you will grow as an improviser. by you trusting your scene partner, you are taking care of them because you will push them to try new things.

I have made life long friendships on the improv stage by following these steps. I will tell you when you work with people who don’t believe in these principals, you will grow to appreciate those times when you work with people who do.

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Improv 101 Lesson 3: No Questions Please!

If you missed the last lesson of this series of post, you can find it here. Lesson 2 

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Lesson 2: No Questions Please!

Here are several reasons you should avoid questions when you are beginning in improv. Questions often don’t give information, they often don’t push the scene forward, nor do they take care of your scene partner.

To Many Questions

Let’s set the premise a scene where all one player does is ask questions.  Player one is already home and is sitting down reading a book. Player 2 enters the scene.

Player 2: What are you doing?

Player 1: Reading a book about gardening.

Player 2: Why?

Player 1: I thought it would be great to plant a garden, instead of buying canned food.

Player 2: Where?

Player 1: Right out back, see this book talks about patio gardens.

Player 2 is asking questions without providing information. Player 2 doesn’t give information, doesn’t push the scene forward, and Player 2 doesn’t  take care of Player 1.

Let’s see the scene again after we take out questions

No Questions

Player one is already home and is sitting down reading a book. Player 2 enters the scene.

Player 2: Bob, I can’t believe you are reading about gardening again.

Player 1: Honey, this will be very helpful when I plant a garden out back. We can be healthier, and not eat processed food.

Player 2: You’ve been reading that book for 2 months now. It’s time to put the book down and start planting. I got all your plants in the car.

Player 1:Helen, I hope you bought a green thumb.

By eliminating questions, It makes our scene cleaner, and the pacing speeds right on up and get’s us moving forward.

As you advance in improv, you can learn to ask smart questions, but  avoiding them is still best.

So if you apply these three lessons, you can begin a great foundation for improvising. At least if you decide to go to class, you want be blind sided by what they are talking about.

 

 

 

Improv 101 Lesson 2: Listening

If you missed lesson 1 of my improv 101 you can click below.

Lesson 1

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Lesson 2: Listening

When you are on stage, listening is vital because your scene partner is giving you all sorts of good information, and if you are hearing them, your scenes will be great. Using all your senses on stage is important. Watching every twitch of a scene partners eye to a smirk on their face. What they are offering you is a gift. If we learn to listen and watch them, we take the focus of of us. We don’t worry about what we are going to do or say. Our job as an improviser is clear. No pressure. Here are some examples that might occur that would hinder your scene.

Not Listening Example. 

Player 1 “Harriet, here are the Wilson files. ”

Player 2 “I love these flowers”

Player 2 totally disregarded what player one was giving them. Player 1 said the object was files. Player two said the object was flowers. This will cause confusion on the stage.

Not Listening Example 2

Player 1 ” Honey the babies are coming, and I need to go to the hospital”

Player 2 ” I wished we could have a baby.

Player 1 ” I’m pregnant right now.”

Player 2 ” We should get pregnant.”

Player 2 is obviously not listening to what Player 1 said.

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Correct Listening response 1.

Player 1 “Harriet, here are the Wilson files. ”

Player 2 “Mrs Parker, I will put these court files back in the cabinet, and we will keep them just in case the come back with more false claims against Barbecue Grill.”

Player 2 just made it clear that these files were court documents, and the Wilson family had caused some trouble at the Barbecue Grill. Not only did she listen to her scene partner, she added information. Because Player 2 had Listened to what her scene partner was saying, they began creating a beautiful scene together.

Correct Listening response 2

Player 1 ” Honey the babies are coming, and I need to go to the hospital”

Player 2 ” The bag, the bag. I need to Breathe. hee hee, i mean you need ot breathe”

Player 2 has listened affirmed player 1 and pushed this scene forward by becoming panicked.

 

Incorrect Listening response 2

Player 2  enter the scene. Player 1 is already on stage slamming cabinets and stomping around the stage. Player 1 has a scrunched up face. Player 2  enter the scene.

Incorrect response by Player 2 directed toward player 1.

Player 2: I am glad that we decided to spend my birthday here at the zoo today, and I love these animals.

Player 1 has already established that he is inside in a room with a kitchen, and Player one is not looking at animals. Player 2 is not listening to Player 1. Player 2 is saying no by not taking what Player 1 has already established. It confuses the audience, and leads Player 1 to have to make a choice.

 

 Player 1 may not choose to drop anything and say.

“WE are not at the zoo, we are at home, it’s not your birthday and I’m mad.”

If Player 2 comes back with

“Yes we are at the zoo”

This just creates an argument. It creates a lot of negation.

This is how the scene could be less confusing. 

How could Player 1 respond correctly

Player 1 could say to  Player 2

“You are not authorized to be behind the lion cages, where we store medicine and food”

This could fix the confusion, and get yes and started up again.

Correct Listening Example 

But to eliminate all confusion, it could go something like this.

Player 2  enter the scene. Player 1 is already on stage slamming cabinets and stomping around the stage. Player 1 has a scrunched up face. Player 2  enter the scene.

Player 2  Samantha, If you are looking for your Frosted Flakes, I ate them and they were sooooo good.

Player 1: You. I’m telling mom.

By listening now we have a relationship and a scene that can push forward and build into something great.

Improvising is about building great scenes that develop relationship through yes and and listening.

Improv 101 Lesson 1: Yes and…

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I have often mentioned improv on my blog here, but It has been awhile since I have went over the basics of improv. So I’ve decided over the next few weeks that I would write a short blog about some basics that  I would cover in my workshop normally. The first one is by far may be the most important for any beginning improviser, and it’s always good as a seasoned performer to revisit exercise that keep this in your tool belt.

YES AND

When you say no in your scene, it will only lead to nothing. Saying yes will keep your scene moving.

An example of saying no would go like this. 

Player 1:  “Bob, It is our duty as fire fighters to put out this fire on 8th Street. ”

Player 2:   “I’m a police officer. I have never been a fire fighter. ”

An example of saying yes would go like this

Player 1: “Bob, It is our duty as fire fighters to put out this fire on 8th Street. ”

Player 2: ” Yes Pete, I’ve got the truck ready, and I will drive.”

By saying yes and adding direction, this gives us more information and something to work with.

Say yes and

Not only say yes, but give something else to your scene partner by saying yes and

Ex. If your scene partner says 

Player 1: “We are going to the store.”

Player 2:  “Yes we are going to the store.”

Even though you yes to what your scene partner said, you didn’t add anything to help push the scene forward. By doing this, you put all the pressure on them to come up with everything in the scene.

An example of a correct response =

Player 1: Terry, we are going to the store.

Player 2: “Yes Mary,  we are going to the store, and since it is our 25th wedding anniversary, I am going to buy you a new Tiffany Diamond Ring.

This would lead to a fuller scene. It has affirmed and added more information. Now the two players are building a scene together, rather than, one of them doing it alone.

Playing scenes with Yes and is truly the easiest way to build a scene. You might think that it would keep conflict away, but it truly works and make interesting scenes. Starting out keep it simple. Say Yes And.

 

Mapping Out Your Life!

Mind mapping is always so helpful to me.

I decided to do a mind map of my life. This is what I recalled and what I discovered.

At age thirty, I remember thinking that I had completed all the goals that I had set for myself. I graduated high school,

and I graduated college

I was teaching in the private sector. I was married and had two kids.

 

We were also working doing ministry work in churches.  I believed all those things were permanent fixtures in my life, and I knew a lot of hard work was ahead, but for the most part, I had nothing new to accomplish. I remember deciding to try to set some new goals for myself.

I just remember coming to the conclusion that  I needed new goals. I started getting back into the theater and film world.

I starting taking acting classes from a professional teacher. I worked up enough courage to join and improv group.

It changed my life. I know if I wouldn’t had acting classes, or improv, I probably wouldn’t be who I am right now. Eric and I went through some really tough stuff that eventually changed our direction as a family. Sparing the details, I knew it was time for a change.  I took some big trips that helped me become more independent and help me realize that I could do anything I wanted.

I could change directions at any time. It helped me realize that I didn’t have to be stuck somewhere if I was unhappy. I really threw myself into acting and film making.  Once the kids left the nest and became independent, I started to feel loss, and had to search for something to hold on to.

It led Eric and I on a six month travel journey that was good and bad, but overall positive because we learned a lot about ourselves, our marriage, and each other.

We returned and begin to look for jobs. I landed at a  NASA museum and a college that allows me to perform, serve, educate and motivate others.

After completing the historic side of my mind map adventure the following repeated itself over and over again: serving, educating, and motivating. As I push forward on this adventure, I have come to the conclusion that I feel like I lived several lives and accomplished so much, but I feel like I have so much more to do, and give. I never see myself being done. I never see myself giving up. For a long time, I thought I was all over the place, but mind mapping made me realize that I’ve been preparing for the moment I am currently in.  It also gives me an idea of where I want to go as well. I am very thankful and feel blessed to have the experiences I do, and I am very excited to look towards the future.

 

 

Update

It’s hard to believe that its April, and I haven’t blogged since December.  I’ve just been extremely busy.

January: I started a second part time job. I still work at the US Space and Rocket Center, and now I work at the local community college as an office clerk. I am still doing improv and I am helping my daughter manage her band.

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February: I did production design for a music video.

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March: I went to visit daughter number 1 at Disney. I hadn’t seen her since August.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April: I have been doing an improv workshop this month with high school kids.

 

Hopefully, I will get back to sharing more often.

 

 

 

Huntsville Space 2017

The city I live in is pretty cool. We have a deep history of developing rockets, and hardware for space. We have a current history of doing science in space. We are creating the future by working on the Space Launch System. Huntsville has got space.

Play Nice!

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I was reading a social media post and I stopped to read the comments below it, and I was struck with a thought and had to write about it. It amazes me that people are so overcome when they see people do good. It amazes me that this is not natural behavior. I am drawn to positive shows like Mike Rowe’s new Facebook series, Returning the Favor, any you tube video where someone is doing something nice, or surprise reveals where people are overcome with joy.

It’s just so sad that these shows and behavior are consider above and beyond what is expected. Whether you are a Christian or have read the Bible or not. Everyone most likely knows the thought  Be kind to one another.  

I just wished we could all play nice. I just wished that I would expect good from people an not the alternative.

 

Finding the Square Peg Hole!

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I am constantly reminded on a daily basis that I’m not perfect, and I don’t know everything. I need to be in this place as generally, I am a pretty confident person. It helps me practice humility. I guess my weakest area of confidence is being around people who are naturally gifted at being smart. I get easily intimated by someone because honestly, I’ve have to work really hard to learn.

I have a condition called nervous energy that I was diagnosed with as a kid.

website where I got the following information

  • You feel so excited that you could do everything incredibly fast and then look for other things to do.
  • You may also feel like you have to run or do something right now just to burn off the energy.
  • Sometimes you can’t sleep because your mind or body is going a million miles an hour.
  • You feel as if you have energy to burn, a lot of excess energy, and then some.
  • You feel always ‘pumped’ and ‘adrenalized.’
  • You also may feel as if you can’t sit still or relax.
  • Another indication of excess energy is that you feel like taking on new tasks or projects even though you already have a full schedule. The desire to do something new is over-powering. Some examples include remodeling or rearranging your house, painting your home, taking on new studies, start new groups, get another pet, buy more things, etc. This is all because you have so much energy and interests.

My parent wouldn’t put me on medication because honestly back then it was frowned upon. They tried to help me find a natural way to deal with my problems. I mainly exercised a lot.

As a result of having nervous energy,  it’s hard for me to learn. I’ve never used this as a crutch or an excuse. I just try and work through it.

Sometimes, I feel like a failure. Sometimes, I feel dumb. Sometimes, I get really down that I can’t learn as fast as I would like. In the end, I try to just pick myself up, dust myself off, and dig deeper and power through whatever obstacle stands in my way.

I have found for me that improvisation is a perfect fit for me because my mind thinks fast. It’s a stress reliever. I love doing improv , and it has changed my life. It makes this very square peg , meaning me, fit in a square peg hole.

 

Inspiring TV

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I recently stumbled on Mike Rowe’s (Dirty Jobs)  new series called Returning the Favor.  What a great show on Facebook. We need more shows like this on TV. I love the way its filmed, the content, the heart that goes into every episode. It’s something that I will continue to watch for in the future. I love good finds like these.

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