A classic Keith Johnstone exercise.
In improvised scenes we try to accept and build on the offers of our scene partners, instead of block or negate them. Keith found that by asking people to first deliberately block ideas they were then more able to notice and control that behaviour and switch from blocking to accepting and building.
Step 1: Both Block
A scene where both improvisers attempt to block each other on every line.
A: “Great to see you again.” (opening offer)
B: “No it’s not, you hate me.” (blocking)
A: “I don’t hate you, I’m married to you.” (blocking)
B: “We’re not married, we got a divorce.” (blocking)
A: “There’s no such thing as a divorce, they haven’t been invented yet.” (blocking)
Step 2: One Blocks One Accepts
One improviser attempts to block every line but the other attempts to accept and build on these blocks as if they were helpful offers.
A: “We’re so ready for this cross channel swim.” (opening offer)
B: “No we’re not, we can’t swim.” (blocking)
A: “You’re right, we can’t swim” (accepting) “and that’s why we are ready. Because we will learn on the journey. And that’s what life is all about. Conquering obstacles no matter how big.” (building).
B: “We won’t learn, we will die!” (thinks they are blocking, but actually they have been brought into the scene and are playing a point of view.)
A: “Maybe we will Gerrard, maybe we will! But we will die splashing and trying and that’s how I want to go out!” (accepting and building)
Step 3: Both Accept and Build
Both improvisers attempt to accept and build line by line. Hopefully by going through the earlier steps they are more aware of the choice they have between blocking and accepting and building.
A: “Come in, we’ve been expecting you.” (opening offer)
B: “Thanks, I sure am thirsty, it’s quite a ride across the plains.” (accepting and building)
A: “It sure is partner, we’re the most out west you can get. Let me pour you a whisky.” (accepting and building)
B: “Thanks. I just hope my travel weary hands can still play that dusty piano. At least this whisky is helping to warm them up.” (accepting and building)
A: “Gotta to have a piano playing during a gun fight. It ain’t right without it.” (accepting and building)