A while ago, Will Hines wrote about something he calls sympathetic disagreement on his blog ImprovNonsense. When I teach this idea, I usually explained it like this: “First, repeat what your scene partner just said that you agree with, and then politely object to one specific part of it.”
- I love dogs so much. I’d rather live with the meanest dog than with the kindest person.
- I like dogs too, they’re awesome. But I’ve met some pretty mean dogs, who wanted to rip out my throat.
In this instance, Brad is taking on a point of view that many people share, that he loves dogs. But he takes it to an absured extreme. Continue reading “Sympathetic Engagement”
In your first few improv classes you often get very broad guidelines of how to create good improv scenes. For instance, you are taught things like “Always yes-and your scene partner!” or “Never ask questions!” or “Don’t try to be funny!” These rules are often useful, but improvisors tend to hold on to them too long. They judge their scene work against these rules when the rules don’t apply. And these rules get in the way of learning new things.
For instance when I teach people how to discover games in their scenes, I encourage them to ask questions and to disagree with the other character. We talk openly about trying to make the scene more funny, and this frustrates some improvisors. Sometimes it frustrates them so much that they reject the concept of the Game of the Scene altogether, and that is a shame.
Why do we tell students to avoid questions? Continue reading “Questions, Arguments, and Trying to be Funny”
When working with a script, an actor knows a lot about the scene they are about to perform. They know where the scene takes place and who their character is. They know the relationship between themselves and the other characters in the scene. They know what they are going to say. And if they are properly prepared, they know what their character wants and what actions they will do to try to get it.
When an improviser begins a scene, they know none of these things. They face a stage that could become any setting they can imagine. They can play any character they choose and so can their scene partner. Their choices are infinite. So at the beginning of an improvised scene, the most important thing they must accomplish is to decide on the circumstances of the scene. And the most important tool for deciding those circumstances is agreement.
Simply put, an improviser must agree to all facts and circumstances that their scene partner establishes via dialogue, behavior or action. If I say that I’m a plumber, you must agree that I’m a plumber. If you act like you are in car, I must accept that. If I say that we are in an airport bar, set down your luggage and grab a drink.
Continue reading “Agreement in improv”