Scene templates can be very useful for improv scenes. It’s good to have a simple game plan or strategy to help start a scene. And it’s good to practice those strategies over and over so that they become second nature. There is no single right template. Just like there are lots of good ways to begin a chess game or lots of different successful plays in football or basketball, there are lots of good ways to begin a scene.
Here is one that I like.
- Enter simultaneously
- Enter the stage at the same time. Choose some spot on the stage to be and go there. No need to preplan any emotion or character or situation. Just enter, notice your scene partner and stop.
- Look at your scene partner
- Take a few moments to just look at your scene partner. You don’t need to turn your whole body to them, but look at them for at least five or six seconds.
- Make a ‘You Statement’
- One of you, make an observation about the other person’s behavior or emotions. Keep it simple. Don’t invent anything, just look at them and say what you see. For example:
- “You are annoyed with me.”
- “You have a mischievous smile on your face.
- “You are radient.”
- “You’re in a good mood.”
- Yes-and the observation
- If your scene partner says you look suspicious, be that. If they think you look happy, be that. Respond and behave in whatever way they have observed.
- Talk about that behavior
- For the next few lines, just talk about that behavior. Don’t worry about the circumstances of the scene. They will tumble out when you are ready. If the first observation is that one character looks depressed, both players should talk about the player who is depressed for a few lines. Eventually you will realize who you are and what you are doing.
Obviously, this covers just the first 20 or 30 seconds of the scene and there are lots of ways to go from here. But that simple act of observing your scene partner and caring enough to call out their behavior instantly connects the two players. The audience is drawn into moments like this. It’s always interesting. Nothing clever is needed, because humans are fascinated with human behavior.
As you get better at this, you can probably shorten the amount of time you wait before you say something. Eventually you may want to force yourself to make the observation quickly instead of waiting.