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.

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.

The next year he was ready with a good deal of additional fuel for the fire so the enjoyment after the initial show stopping moment would not be lost. In addition, he saved several trees to toss in at random points throughout the evening to revisit the energy of that first moment of great excitement. The Christmas-tree-birthed bonfire keeps his yearly tradition alive and energetic for hours, and memorable the whole year through, creating great anticipation for what will come next year as well. 

I submit that improv scenes should do the same, be treated the same and will exhibit the same behaviors as my friend’s conflagration.

Improvisers in my experience are ready and eager to throw in the most volatile fuel to create intense heat almost immediately. It can actually be a great moment. The problem is, however, that the great blaze of fuel burns out almost immediately and the players are left with almost nothing, and especially not the heated embers of a well founded fire to play out an entire scene.

What if the improviser took a lesson from a master fire builder? Preparing a fire in such a way that it would begin with a flash of excitement which then creates glowing coals that will not smolder out but will be the base for new and further fuel to be added, and saving a few surprises for some additional flare ups along the way resulting in a satisfying, exciting, fun and impactful experience for participants and spectators alike?

This can be true and work for not only a long form scene, but any short form scene as well. Even more ideally for the short-form scene where there is precious little time to get something meaningful going right away.

That is what will be discussed here in several installments. I call this set of strategies and techniques the RV method, mostly because every improv tool needs a fancy, cool or wacky name, right?

We will explore four elements that will insure a successful scene: ReVeal, ReVolt, ReVisit and ResolVe.

Incidentally, these 4 elements dovetail perfectly with the 3-act structure at the core of classic storytelling.


John Sullivan said...

Having taken your Quantum Improv Course i look forward to ReVisiting some of those great lessons.