Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Feared First Decisions

Whenever we're starting on a project, the first decisions are always the hardest. Nothing is harder than:

  • drawing the first line on a piece of paper
  • writing the first sentence of an article
  • picking a topic to write about
  • starting an improvisational scene with no suggestions
Seeing that this is an improv blog, let's talk about scenes. The first decisions in an improvisational scene seem to be the hardest/most feared. I've seen wonderful, smart, intelligent, witty people stumble over the first endowments of a scene. At first it makes sense, the beginning of the scene is when the pressure is on.... will this scene take shape, or will it be no better than watching Bob Saget on America's Funniest Home videos (sorry Bob, but it wasn't any good).

In reality, the first endowments and decisions of a scene should be a very freeing time to explore and experiment. The scene WILL go somewhere, and although those first decisions could take the scene in a radically different direction than you'd hope for, one of the biggest principles of improv remains true:

No matter where you find yourself, there's always something you can do to keep improving the situation.

So, the first few lines of every scene should be powerful, but if they're not improvising kicks in--the process of improving the situation.

Unfortunately, it's very easy to a) start thinking ahead, b) become too self-conscious/self-critical, c) become overly deliberate, or d) analyze and paralyze the scene. Any of these things negatively affect our ability to engage in the process of improvising because we're overly concerned about producing the perfect product.

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