If you're a first time visitor to the iQuantum Blog, please refer to the "Foundations of Quantum Improv" to give you an appropriate background to the philosophies and strategies discussed here. #1 What is Quantum Improv #2 More Quantum Background #3 Newton's Second Law of Motion

If you've missed one or more entries in the series:
ReV Up Your Improv Scenes
you can now easily access each and every part.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Living in Denial

I often get into a discussion with improv students over denial in scenes. The conversation (argument?) usually circles around to "I'm creating conflict!" Conflict is all well and good for the improviser but I like to encourage improvisers that to create conflict does not mean that you take the opposite side, view or perspective at the first opportunity while building a scene. That will just lead to an argument and rarely lends itself to building. "Let's build something before we knock it down," I coach. Isn't it more fun and interesting to knock down a sand castle after the turrets, drawbridge, moat and keep have been built than just after the foundation has been smoothed out?

I am, however, a fan of denial in scenes. Does that sound contradictory? Of course. (Unfortunately, improv is full of contradictions). Let me explain what I mean. I believe there are two distinct levels of potential denial at work and I think it is important for the improviser to know this distinction and to be able to work it to their benefit.  I believe it is possible to deny the accusation or premise a fellow improviser sets up while accepting the underlying truth or reality of the premise or accusation. For example, if the offer from one improviser is an accusation such as "You drink too much," it is fine for the other improviser to insist "I do NOT," so long as the other improviser accepts the underlying premise that they drink too much. This can be further developed as the scene progresses in how the second improviser acts and speaks. Perhaps the second improvisers insists further - "you always make such infuriating accusations! I need a drink!" Or better yet, the second improviser pantomimes making a stiff one while saying so, followed by "can I get you something?"

Denial is part of the fabric of life and the human condition. So we play that. It is not, however, a part of the fabric of improvisation (in its true 'yes, and' form).

Let your character deny, but let the improviser take it on!