Improv Tip; Make Active & Positive Choices
"Make Active & Positive Choices" Elaine May & Del Close
I first read this quote in Jeffrey Sweet's seminal book Something Wonderful Right Away: An Oral History of the Second City and the Compass Players.
I'm happy to say that since that day Jeffrey & I have become fast friends... getting slower as the years go by.
Let's work backwards. I'd like to cover Positive Choices first.
To me this means start your scene in a place of positivity and abundance.
That's a place you want to be, doing an activity that you do well and enjoy doing, with a person with whom you are intimately acquainted.
The opposite demands that the audience watch you in a place you don't want to be, doing an activity that you hate and/or at which you are incompetent, with a person you don't know or can't stand.
If the audience wanted to see THAT they would follow you to your day job and if they wanted to see strangers hate each other for no reason; they just have to walk across 54th Street.
Ok, Activity. For me it translates to,
“Just DO something.”
Actors are often paralyzed by the need to make the “right choice." I often see actors start to move and then stop them selves. That's when I know they’re second-guessing themselves. Any choice that you make starting off with that positive and active frame of mind is going to be interesting. And let’s admit it… That’s really what we’re after when we’re acting improvisationally. Isn't it? Deep down? Hmmmnnn?
It's my assertion that we all want to be interesting... just don’t get caught TRYING to be interesting.
Humans are monkeys that love to watch the other monkeys. We are fascinated by what other people do. The café industry sells overpriced coffee, that people drink on the sidewalk, just so they can watch people passing by. Café are just one example of how people are interested in watching other people do things. It doesn’t seem to matter what. We just love looking at each other.
So, do something with your body.
In improv there are no sets costumes or props. Ok, some
companies have them, and they're terrific, but it's not something you can rely on when you're starting out a career as an improvisational actor.
Excuse me... where are my props & costumes?
Is THIS the set?
What we do have are the activities we can do in that location and how we interact with the location. That's doing something. And doing something, in this case means mime.
No. Not THAT kinda mime.
I'm talking about simple activities you'd logically do in that location. Now, when you’re first starting out in improv you’ll probably be doing bad mime, and that’s ok! Don’t feel bad that you’re mime is terrible at the beginning.
If this is something you want to continue doing as an occupation, you should take a mime class. At The Second City they brought mimes in to teach us but ANDtheatre Company has occasional classes in mime for improv actors. Check their class schedule.
So, here's a checklist for when you’re starting your next scene;
Know and like the person you are with.
Want to be in the location you are in.
Do activities that are logical to that location.
Do those activities 10% slower than you'd do in real life.
Be good at your activity.
Be 100% more specific, (or mindful), as you do your activity.
Start with an active and positive frame of mind and follow the scene where ever it takes you.
Try it out and tell me how it goes,
And while you're at it... buy my book on Amazon
Scotty Watson &
Illustrated by Jacqui Lempert
In the meantime, don't sit around wondering,
"Would I be good at Improv?"
FIND OUT! Go out & improvise.
Take a FREE improv class!!
The theatre company I work with is called Artistic New Directions ... nicknamed ANDtheatre Company
I teach there, along with a group of phenomenally talented improv teachers. Click the link or go to https://andtheatrecompany.org/and-wednesdays/