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, September 26, 2014

A Horrifying Example, Science Fictionally Speaking...

PART 5 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes
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If you missed Part 4 - Click Here

Let's take a look at a movie example - Act 1, the set up. I'll dissect one movie here but this can be done for pretty much any movie you have seen or will see. One great things about movies - you can be certain that anything and everything you see or is revealed in Act 1 is important and integral to the story in some way or other. Nothing is wasted. Everything you see in every frame has a purpose. The entire set is built and decorated only with stuff relevant to the story. Why? Because there's no time to waste and no point in paying for something on the set that isn't integrally important. Okay, let's take a look at one of my favorite action and sci-fi movies, "Alien." This list is not exhaustive, but look at all the details that are revealed in Act 1.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Response to Comment on Revelation Revealed

In a comment on post: Revelation Revealed

Mark wrote:

So what should you do when your scene partner says something or makes an offer that introduces conflict too soon, without blocking or invalidating what they've said or done?

I have several thoughts, so I thought I'd just make the comment another post.

Mark - what you do is tell your partner, in fact, yell at them from the top of your lungs "STFU! Didn't you read Dave Russell's blog?"

Okay, don't then. My best advice is don't try to force anything. Be patient, be nice and still love your fellow improviser. Remember, these dynamics I'm talking about and introducing in this blog series are rampant among improvisers. You'll see it most among younger, less mature improvisers for the reasons you have illuminated - fear mostly. But you'll still see me doing it from time to time and I have a self-professed displeasure with such things. Plus, I've been improvising for 105 years, and it still happens.

Here are 4 useful tips to help you over this hump:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reveling in Revealing

PART 4 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes
If you missed Part 3.5 - Click Here
If you missed Part 3 - Click Here
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Okay let's get into the nitty gritty. Reveal, reveal, reveal. That's what we're talking about here. Hang on because I'm about to combine 2 or more metaphors and illustrations. First, I want you to think of the most delicious bowl of stew you've ever tasted. Yummy yummy with lots of good things all mixed together for a tasty and savory sensation of a meal. Hearty, robust and fills the kitchen (and whole house where I live) with wonderful and tantalizing aromas. Then when you eat it - how satisfying and delicious. Consider your improv scene in the same way. Now imagine if you take a pot and put it on the stove, add some beef broth, bring it to a boil, simmer it for an hour - and serve it. I know, your mouth is watering just thinking about it, right?
Well, suppose you added maybe a bay leaf. Nobody wants just beef broth. Sound tasty yet? In a sense, that's what a lot of improv scenes can be like. We start with such limited ingredients - when you bring it to a boil, there's only so much that can yield from such a mixture.
Is it food? Technically, yes. Is it something we'll savor and enjoy? Probably not that much. But when you add herbs, spices, vegetables, and some meat - and let it all cook together - oh, what a feast you'll create.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Contrasting Improv Ideologies?

PART 3.5 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes
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I'm marking this post as 3.5 because I feel the desire to slide it in at this point, although it is not the intended succession of the original flow.

I wanted to speak about a talk my wife Morgan and I had regarding improv in general and this "method" of training in particular.

Morgan and I taught an improv workshop this past weekend and later she said to me "you know, I think we have different philosophies on teaching improv." On further discussion, I might say she's right - and that's okay! Even better was the realization that I think we are both in agreement on our philosophy of the performance of improv.

Her comment stemmed from my forwarding of the very "method" or "process" I am discussing in this series. I think she prefers a more organic approach to the instruction process, where the 2 improvisers are putting their concentration on each other and the unfolding relationship between them.

I'm actually in agreement with that philosophy - especially in performance, but I did have to reflect a little in my head about the statement because she's right - I don't really teach that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Revelation Revealed

PART 3 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes
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If you missed Part 1 - Click Here

Let's discuss revelation. In the Bible, revelation comes at the end. Actually, I would submit that it is a chapter of the new beginning. Genesis is what I'm talking about here. That's the Act 1 of the Bible Story. What I'm talking about is the set up of the story, the building of the story foundation. Stories told well are full of reveals, strategically crafted so the story has all the power it deserves. Most of the reveals are right there in Act 1, during the story set up.

That's what I would like to see improvisers do as they build a scene. Consider this initial portion of the scene or story as a sequence of "reveals" that will help tell the story.

Let me start with a little insider information straight from Hollywood and some simple math.

I'm sure everyone is aware of the Hollywood "formula" for blockbuster movie making. Please keep in mind this will be a little over-simplified but will help set the tone for our purposes here.

I like the comparison and connection with the Hollywood blockbuster movie for improv because we are talking about a highly active and visual form of storytelling, especially when we are talking about action movies. If you've heard me talk about the "science" of improv and improv scene building, you've heard me refer to the start of an improv scene as two improvisers standing on a stage with nothing. It's not actually nothing, though. I restate that they stand there with nothing but potential. There is great potential for something wonderful to happen from this apparent "nothing." It just seems like nothing to the outside eye. The goal of the improvisers is to get to something actional, or kinetic. We want to convert this potential energy to kinetic energy, and thus move the scene forward. Because the audience has nothing to see, hear or experience from the stage or scene except what the improvisers offer, it is incumbent on the improvisers to provide that. In a stage play, you have the help of sets, costumes and other special effects that have all been planned and organized to help tell the story for the audience. In improv there are no such luxuries. That is one reason we must create as much action as possible, to bring the scene or story to life for the audience. That's why pantomime is so important in improv - improvisers need to create the environment for the audience as best they can to make the scenic experience as real as possible.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

RV and the 3-Act Structure

PART 2 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes
If you missed Part 1 - Click Here

A quick review of the 3-act structure for storytelling, first credited to ancient philosopher and playwright Aristotle. 

According to Aristotle, who authored “The Poetics” circa 350 B.C., all stories follow a simple three -act structure: 

 Act I, also known as the beginning, also known as the set up. 

Act II – also known as the middle, where the hero or protagonist experiences obstacles, triumphs, setbacks, ups and downs on the way to the climactic moment and ultimately to victory, and…

Act III – also known as the resolution, also known as the end.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The RV Method of Scene Building

PART 1 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes

After experiencing thousands of improv scenes, I often come away with (or am distracted by) the sense that the improvisers didn’t get all they could out of the scene. Many times it is manifest in the fact that the scene never really gets going to begin with. Other times the scene loses momentum along the way. 

The following multi-part series will explore some of these dynamics, but more importantly will offer an exciting and easy to employ set of strategies and techniques that can quickly get your improv scenes underway in a hurry and help play them out to exciting, fun and satisfying conclusions.

First, a little backstory to set the stage. I have an associate who has a very wild and fun seasonal tradition I have coined the “conflagration celebration.” If you’re someone like me who likes setting stuff on fire and watching it burn, you’ll appreciate this.

Each year in early January he invites several friends and their friends to his lakeside “fish camp” for a post-holiday party. They are all invited to bring their recently de-decorated Christmas trees.
Everyone throws their contribution into a big pile by the lake and the host sets them on fire just after sunset. As you can imagine, these trees that have been cut weeks ago and have since been drying in someone’s living room aided by the slow and consistent heat of a thousand lights will provide a glorious blaze for all to admire. That is certainly true and those trees never disappoint. The popping, crackling and spitting is always a wonder to behold. But after the first year, my friend had to make some modifications in his set up and delivery of excitement. The trees were so wonderfully dry that they did indeed blaze up immediately, but the excitement was over almost in an instant with little or nothing to follow. It did not make for an experience that would last through the night’s festivities.