I have said this before but it is once again important to talk again and again about characters emotions. If the exposition of a scene is the foundation, then the emotion is the meat.
In our beginning class we work a lot on emotion because it is a hard principle to apply to scene work, particularly when you start improvising. When initially studying improv we are told to have characters, so we either create characters that are shallow, with vague point of views and undefined emotion or we input ourselves into scenes and situation that we have no point of view about and/or no connection with. The problem with both of these scenarios is that with out a point of view or emotional substance there is no way scene partners can find the relationship within the scene. Instead we rely on our own wit or “the joke”, instead of relying on relationship, emotion and connection.
Here are a couple of ideas that can help you focus on emotion:
1. Have a Point of View – If you have a point of view you can have an emotional response to scenarios with in scenes.
2. Respond Emotionally – So often players are given gifts in scenes that are listened to but denied because we do not respond emotionally.
3. Silence – I think Alanis Morissette said it best, “Why are you so petrified of silence?” Silence can be an improvisers most precious tool… Silence can such the audience into your scene like nothing else can.
3.5. Shut Up – This is a .5 to silence because when someone is trying to build silence it is just as important that his/her scene partner to puts a period on their statement.
4. Be Real – Give real honest responses to situations! In a scene it is so easy to deny a player emotionally by not responding honestly. True responses are what make improv funny.
One of the best scenes I have ever seen came this last week in our beginning class. It was a break up scene, the women in the scene didn’t feel understood. The guy was shocked because he loved her but realizing that what he was doing in the relationship wasn’t enough and asked what he could do. The women said it was too late… And the emotion in that scene was so real that the guy couldn’t even respond and a lingering silence grew until the entire class was laughing hysterically. What made it funny was the realization that we had all been in that situation before and had felt that same way… Nothing in this scene wad funny, but everyone still laughed because of the truth of the scene.