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ReV Up Your Improv Scenes
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Time to Revisit the Theme of Revisit

~ PART 13 of the Series: ReV up Your Improv Scenes ~

Last time we ended at the moment of your scene where something is needed to help you in your hour of ultimate need. This can seem like a daunting task – but fear not…

Remember the example of Ripley and the hydraulic unloader that was set up in Act 1 of Aliens? The key to solving the overwhelming problem was in the midst of the story the whole time. Well, the same can be true for your improv scenes.

We just have to employ a little technique I call “Reverse Writing.”

In movies, the writer knows he wants to put Ripley in this giant, awesome-powered contraption, so he makes sure to seed it (set it up) way earlier in the story, so the re-incorporation or revisiting of it will garner an even greater emotional response from the audience. Certainly, Ripley could have burst through the doors in the contraption without its having been set up previously, but this is generally frowned upon in storytelling. Sometimes referred to by the Greeks as the “Deus Ex Machina,” (God from the machine, or machinery - where a God-like character comes to make everything all better, delivered to the stage on a large, mechanized contraption, usually lowered down from above), this ploy is now seen almost as cheating as it relates to the protagonist’s ability to make their way out of a jam. If the God’s come in and suddenly fix everything, we don’t get that joy that comes from the hero taking matters into his own hands and emerging victorious.

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Even if something miraculous appears to or before the hero, it is still the hero who wields the power of the miraculous object to ultimate victory. Additionally, we don’t respond as well to something that comes out of nowhere as the answer. We respond with greater emotion to things that were there all the time – we just didn’t know it or realize it. Does that sound familiar?

Good Witch: “Don’t you see Dorothy? You’ve had the power with you all along. Just click your heels together three times and repeat – ‘There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.’”

So here’s how Reverse Writing works: there is undoubtedly a Ruby Slipper equivalent you have or had set up in the earlier moments of the scene that can be used to help the protagonist of your scene in the final do or die moment. The cleverness and creativity of the improviser will truly show when you take that thing, idea, or concept, and expertly weave it into your story to help you reign victorious in this final moment of truth.

It is reverse writing because you don’t know what the thing is yet – as the screenplay writer would. But just as the screenwriter/storyteller has set up the thing earlier, you will just take something you’ve set up earlier and make it the thing that will help. One thing I especially love about this technique for the improviser is that so many times you will revel in the realization that something set up earlier in your story or scene is actually a perfect thing for you to consider and incorporate.

That is the theory behind the ReVisit element. When it comes to the point in the story or scene where you need to find something that will solve your overarching problem and lead you to the climax, you are encouraged to revisit elements you have already set up in your scene or story that you can call-back or expand upon if they are still in your story prominently. As you might guess, the success of this technique is dependent on one assumption – that you have set up things earlier in your story.

Remember in our beginning posts, we talked about reveals. Set up things into the reality of your scene and your environment(s). Be specific and don’t shy away from details. One of these will most assuredly become your magic elixir to help you when the chips are down. This technique takes some practice, so don’t feel bad if it doesn’t seem to work the first few times you try to employ it. You’ve got to trust yourself.

Once your mind and brain are in the habit of creating these specific, detailed and interesting reveals, you’ll soon notice there are several to choose from and again – most probably, the one that is your ace in the hole will easily return to the forefront of your mind.

 Next time we’ll look at the easiest element of the RV method – ResolVe. Until that next time – happy revisiting.