Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dynamic Relationships in Improv

Nothing is more interesting to watch than relationships. Let me qualify that--dynamic relationships. Here's a few tips:

  • Define the relationship- Remember back to high school when you had to have the DTR talk (when you'd define the relationship as either friends, dating, or steady dating)? Well, improv is sort of like a big DTR talk--you're defining a stage relationship. Is this person a friend, a lover, an enemy, a teammate, a professional whose services you're using, neighbor, boss, jailor? Don't just show the audience what character each person is... a relationship answers the question, "who is that person to me?"
  • Don't block your teammate's ideas- You might have a preconceived notion of the fact that the relationship on stage is a Father-Son deal, but as soon as your teammate says he's your mother, he is your mother.
  • Assume your partner's backstory, but be prepared for it to change- you don't have to talk about the time in 3rd grade when Janice ate all the ice cream you had saved for your birthday party (although you can), but assume past events happened, and endow her with feelings, motives, characteristics. Always keep in mind, what actually happens on stage trumps any cool ideas you might have had...
  • Use complementary physicality--People are notoriously transparent in their non-verbal characteristics. Use appropriate physical postures that match the relationship you're engaged in. Ex. If your relationship is strained, show closed posture.
  • Raise the Stakes--Answer this question. How can we take this relationship to the next level? Answer, incorporate something unexpected. Are you a couple who's been trying to have a baby for the last 4 years? Answer, yes--and the problem is we still haven't consummated the marriage yet. That's raising the stakes.
    • Change the relationship. Once the relationship's been established, a great way of raising the stakes is to change the relationship.

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