Being altered by small offers
Came up with a new exercise at our Monday night class this week. It was part of a ‘Listening Workshop’.
I’d already done lots of listening exercises, similar to those mentioned in a previous blog when I got onto the topic of active listening.
It’s not about just being on stage ‘listening’ and ‘seeing’ but doing nothing. That can create boring scenes that don’t go anywhere, as two actors wait for the other to do something thinking that that’s supportive.
It’s true that listening and seeing are the first requirements of improvisation – otherwise how can you know what the other person is doing and improvise with them?
But on top of listening and seeing people must be ALTERED by what the other person does and take ACTION. It’s when we are altered, emotionally, intellectually, physically by the other person’s offers that we get a connection.
Everyone can react to big offers. Actually in fact even that’s probably not true, we’ve probably all seen scenes like this:
– You’re Brother has been shot on the front line
– I don’t have a brother / do you want a cup of tea / good I didn’t like him
The second actor is doing anything they can to not be altered by the news.
Also we’ve probably all seen scenes where someone was shot but didn’t die (booo) etc etc.
So anyway, we therefore came up with an exercise where one person makes the SMALLEST possible offers they can, and the other is ALTERED in a big way by everything they do.
I don’t normally name check people in blogs, but I got Nick Oram to do this and he was so awesome at it I just had to mention it.
So me and Nick were on stage. And I just casually moved my right hand in front of my by about 5 centimeters. He immediately went into panic and jumped away from me and shouted ‘no! don’t press it’. My little offer of ‘moving my hand’ had been turned into ‘pressing a button to release a nuclear bomb’ by his reactions alone.
We carried on with more, and funnily enough even if he tried to be over the top they didn’t actually look over the top, as it just made the scene have higher stakes. I felt super supported as I could do even the slightest move and it had a big effect on Nick. We also tried it where he didn’t react at all, and this resulted in me waving my arms like mad and being too ‘big’, and I felt like a bit of a dick. So when the other actor is not being altered, you tend to over do things and feel self-concious, as if you’re not affecting the other people on stage how can you affect the audience?
We continued this game with the whole group, where one by one someone had to push an imaginary button very subtly, and then the whole group would react with the same reaction at once. This was crazy fun. I found it important to mention that they should be reacting to the build up to pushing the button, not just the action.
So you’re being altered by the other actor all of the time, not just the big deliberate offers, but the accidental offers, the build up, the casual. Don’t wait for an offer, act as if it has already happened. Make something they did important to you. Be altered.