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, March 12, 2015

How To ReVeal

~ PART 6 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes ~
Now, a post (or several) on the topic of adding "stuff" or reveals to the scene. The exercises I will suggest are only necessary to get you out of a "stuck" place. For example, if you're in a place where you feel "my mind is a blank," or "I can't think of anything," these will be techniques you can employ immediately with successful results all but guaranteed, or your money back.

Some coaches and teachers may take offense at the inorganic-ness of these suggestions, to which I would reply: if you've got something else that works better - use it. If offering even greater focus on your partner and your partner's character gets you results, do it. If doubling down the commitment to your character gets you out of your jam or stuck place, you're in the pink. I think at heart I prefer the organic route even myself. But I see a lot of scenes where solely focusing on your scene partner(s) or super-committing doesn't inspire performance-worthy results and is frankly just -- boring.

Think of it this way. Once again I'm going to my sports analogy. It's also an improv class strategy. Learn some valuable foundation skills and techniques. These are best learned off the game court or field and in the practice arena or on the practice field - or for the improviser - on the rehearsal / class stage. Then, when you get to the game, let it be as organic as possible. But if I'm stuck on stage, and can't find an emotional connection with my partner, or I might have an emotional connection, but nothing of substance is happening in our scene and we are therefore not progressing, I might coach, "it's okay to go to your head for just a moment. Recall a skill or technique that can help you get unstuck, use it, and get your head back in the game as soon as possible."

You might argue that this breaks the organic truth of the scene. Yup. It does. No argument there. But it also will help to train your mind to do what you want it to do creatively for the next time. Eventually, you won't have to "go into your head" to help you out of a creative jam. Eventually it will happen more organically.

If you could spend more time in the rehearsal room or class-room you could save this exercise or the development of these skills for that place. Then when you get to the stage, you don't worry about it because its all there, intrinsically in your creative brain matter. Most improvisers, though, are in way many more scenes onstage than they are in rehearsal, and the approach I suggest might be a necessary evil, knowing it won't be that way forever. We've all found ourselves on the stage in that moment of anxiety knowing things aren't progressing in a very satisfying way. What should I do? It's time for something to happen. I can feel it, but I just can't get anything out.

Two techniques I'm going to introduce and suggest: Image Trickle Down and what I call the CAD method.

Image Trickle Down is a great exercise to get at something you can incorporate through revelation into a scene. Again, a "reveal" just means it's something heretofore unseen, unknown, or undefined in a scene. It doesn't have to be something that is introduced out of nowhere, although it could be. Perhaps there is a book of matches on a table, or a knife on a kitchen counter. The audience won't know that until one of the improvisers reveals it. If it's there in the scene, it's there. If it were a movie, the audience would see that there is a book of matches on the table. They would see that the characters are standing in a kitchen and they would see the knife on the counter. What can the improviser do to help reveal and realize - or how about this made up word - realitize - the environment? Perhaps the improviser picks up the matchbook and pantomimes lighting a match for some reason? Now the audience can see it and the environment previously undeclared or unrecognized is a little more clear. And better yet, the other improviser can see it now too.

The first improviser just "revealed" that thing. To my pleasure, the improviser didn't say "there's matches on the table." The worst way to reveal. The improviser might say "mind if I borrow a match?" A little better but still obvious.  What if the improviser just picks it up without saying a word and lights a pantomimed cigarette? Now we know there's a matchbook on the table AND we know that the improviser is a smoker. Two things have been revealed. Now it's the turn of the 2nd improviser. Let's hope to God the 2nd improviser doesn't grab the newly revealed cigarette and toss it away with "there's no smoking in here!" That is anti-thetical to everything I'm talking about in this series. Granted, the scene can still work, but you can bet the 2 improvisers will now be bickering for a while from here - the second line of the scene, and the scene may not be able to live through the eventual (and soon to be experienced) end of that moment of energy.

NOTE: If both improvisers are adept at scene building, they can still parley this into a wonderful and fulfilling scene - they just can't get caught up in the bickering energy and build nothing else.

So we come back to the question of "how do I think of those things" that should be revealed (by introduction, recognition, clarification or use) into a scene? This is where I defy the improviser who insists they couldn't think of anything. Bullcrap I say! Yes you can. I know that at any moment in time I could ask you what image do you see in your head, and there would be something there. It might not be clear to you - and that of course can be fixed, but I doubt that there is ever nothing there. At worst, your answer would be "blackness" or "total darkness," which I would argue is something, and not nothing.

The next two posts will go into detail extolling the virtues of 2 helpful and useful tools for the improviser to expand your idea creation and cultivation horizons and incorporate into your “toolkit,” to generate an endless wellspring of creative ideas to be used at your discretion – Image Trickle Down and the CAD method.