Coming up next, the conclusion to my notes that I took during the Bill Arnett character workshop from a few weeks ago.
If someone says something stupid, bust them on it.
I love this thought process. Now, he’s not saying to deny what someone is telling you, on the contrary, he’s telling us to accept the reality of what was said but if it is something crazy call the person on it. This is especially true if you are playing the “straight man” in the scene. EX: “Let’s wear our underwear on our heads and our hats on our crotches!” “Why would I do that? That’s just weird.” “Because it will keep our hair from chafing!” “Ok…” Basically, call out the ridiculousness of what’s happening, but you can still give your scene partner the benefit of the doubt and support them (Lance Gilstrap does this amazingly well at Coldtowne).
If it’s funny in life it can be funny on stage.
Simple, you don’t have to be crazy to be funny on stage, sometimes things in life are funny in general…use them.
Treat the scenes as real.
This one really made me sit up and take notice. Treat the scenes as a real occurrence, act like you would in real life even if the scene is completely absurd. If someone said something that pisses you off, let them know. If someone says something that affects you in an emotional way (really does, not just acting like it) then use that and show the emotion that scene is drawing from you. And my favorite part about this is “if you say you’re going to do something, do it”. If you tell your scene partner “That’s it, I’m leaving” the LEAVE! It makes the scene real, Don’t hem and haw about leaving and never do it, fucking DO IT!
The next 3 go together somewhat (and I’m getting tired of typing)
Clear characters are strong characters; Give yourself suggestions that empower you; playing different textures will set the type of scene.
Make sure the character you are portraying is clear. Decide on their mannerisms, voice, etc and stick to it. You can never have a weak character if you give your character strong characteristics and keep them up.
Make the suggestions you are giving your character personal, make sure they empower you. If you don’t like something you are doing with the character then you will not give it everything you have, your character will not be a clear/strong character. You must enjoy what you are doing on stage and enjoy what you are doing with the character.
Don’t always play the same way, vary it. When you very the textures that you are putting in to your scenes then the scenes will inherently be different. So many times (I catch myself doing this a lot actually) scenes will be very familiar to each other, especially when you are first starting out with improv. Don’t be afraid to change it up, add different layers, add textures to the character you are playing as well as the scene itself. When you do this it opens up the scene to so many more possibilities than just coming out and saying “Why don’t you love me anymore” every time.
I loved this workshop and in the past few weeks since I took it I have been trying to integrate these ideas into my scene work (previous video posting on this blog notwithstanding). Characters were my week point in improv, partly because of ideas but mostly because I was too nervous to ACT as someone else (makes sense doesn’t it? I’m too nervous to act in acting class), but I have been overcoming that nervousness slowly in the last few weeks.