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ReV Up Your Improv Scenes
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Next Step is ReVolting

~ PART 10 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes ~

We’ve spent a lot of time going over just the first phase of the RV method – the ReVeal, but remember as I said in earlier posts, this is the most important phase. It sets the groundwork and the foundation, which allows the scene plenty of fuel, ready to power it into and through the Act II of the improv scene, on its way to the climactic moment. I’ve offered some great tools, skills and techniques that can help you get your scene set up successfully. Now your story and your stage has a good deal of substance to it and is ready to progress to the next phase. Now is time to really get in to the excitement and conflict of the scene or story.

But wait! (Don’t you just hate that? Things are ready to launch forward and someone yells – wait! As an improv director I see this a lot. Why are the actors so reticent and hesitant to get in to the most interesting and compelling and exciting part of this experience?) Well, after that parenthetical diatribe, I’m embarrassed and ashamed not to take my own advice, but I must digress just momentarily for a very important announcement: ReVolt! (at least my digression is an exciting word).

At this point in a story or scene we need something actional that will launch us in to our Act II.
The story seems well set up, and there is the underlying (or should I say over-riding) feeling that “something” needs to happen. That is absolutely correct. This moment in movies is sometimes referred to as “Crossing the Threshhold.” It is the moment that sends the protagonist (and anyone else in the vicinity) into Act II.

In the RV method of improv, I call this the ReVolt. Something happens that puts a compelling twist into the story as it currently sits – in some way turns it on its head, spins it around, potentially out of control. Think of that word Revolt. It is the same root as Revolution. Like a wheel – a wheel turns completely around and we call that a revolution. Same thing here – something happens and the story is spun around.

This is the moment where something is presented or introduced to the story that is contradictory to all that is set up –a  complication to the norm that has been established. This is the moment many improvisers jump to in the second sentence of a scene. That is not the appropriate time. Now is the appropriate time. If the two characters have been set up to be friends – something is introduced that will challenge that friendship – will knock that reality out of balance. One of the most common is the revelation that both characters have the same love interest. Here are some others that come to mind from the world of movies – can you figure out which movies they come from?

A girl who has expressed a desire to live a more adventurous life must get home quickly and safely because a foreboding storm is looming. ReVolt moment: Tornado!

A down and out fighter settles into his life of drudgery after sensing he must give up on his dream of being a champion boxer. ReVolt moment: the reigning heavyweight champion wants to give an unknown a shot at the title!

A young man dreams of a life of adventure but resigns himself to his boring life working for his uncle. Revolt moment: The Imperial Stormtroopers destroy his home and his family in search of some droids. (You better know this one…)

Once the story is set up – and in these we know very clearly what the protagonist wants/desires/is after – something happens to turn their current world upside-down.

After this moment of ReVolt, the protagonist is in what is referred to as a “new world” or “new universe.” It could be a physical new world or universe as in “The Wizard of Oz.”  It’s an actual different world. Or it might be something more subtle like in “Rocky.” It’s the same world, for all intents and purposes, but the energy is completely different, the stakes are different, the choices called for are very new and different. Luke Skywalker literally goes to a different world – a different planet – in fact several different planets.

The point is – something happens to change the world around the protagonist or main characters. This moment is another revelation, but with great impact – the ReVolt. Once experienced, the story or scene is automatically and energetically launched into Act II. From this point forward, nothing will ever be the same, and for the sake of the story – there’s no turning back.

Here are some examples from improv scenes - after a few minutes have evolved, allowing the improvisers to ReVeal enough interesting gems: “I’m pregnant.” “I want a divorce.” “Your daughter’s been kidnapped!” "I love you." “I accidentally put rat poison in your tea…” “You’ve been served.” “We’re locked in…” Get the idea? Let the creative revolt begin!


Unknown said...

It's an interesting phenomenon to watch improvisers get right up to the moment of action, and then decide to stall out and discuss it. There's a fear there that I've observed that's something like, "If I make the next obvious choice and get into the action, I won't know what to do next!"… so they do nothing. It's at that point when you're on the precipice of action that I tell my students to jump off the cliff and build your parachute on the way down.