The Four Elements Of Improvisation
(Posted On: 31-03-2015)
These are my opinions as to the four major rules of improvisation (not necessarily comedy). I encourage you to look for what is good in these rules. So far, I have found them to apply to all scenes. I however don't want anyone to blatantly assume these elements to be true or necessary. Also, they make really good key words for learning and analysis.
Truth: This mainly comes from previous teaching and what you have learned in your life. The English language is a form of "Truth." A scene between two people who don't even share that knowledge tends to be fairly bad (Although, it is possible to pull this off by relying on other truths). When going into a scene given that you are The Road Runner and not knowing who the Road Runner is can be a bad thing (The main way to get this scene to work is to give the audience the truth that you are not aware of who this character is).
Trust: Imagine you are playing MacBeth and instead of telling you to kill Duncan, the actress playing Lady MacBeth tells you to bake him some cookies. She has, at that point, broken your trust as to what your expectations were. In improvisation this is important because a lack of trust does not yield for good scene work and leads to denial, jokes at the expense of the actor (not the character), and negative interaction. Trust is something that needs to be built between improvisers. I believe Del Close said that he feels worse when trust is broken then when a bone is.
Spontaneity: "Being in the moment" Don't come with preconceived notions. Allow your brain to come up with the notions for you. Think freely and allow possibilities to emerge that can only come from an open mind. Your mind is a wonderful thing; allow it to function freely.
Communication: An improvisation scene involves at least two participants (at a minimum it is improviser and audience). There has to be interaction between these participants. This includes stage presence, acting ability, vocalization and enunciation, and the ability to observe. A scene where subtle hints are given between the actors can be great because the communication is almost superhuman. I was in a scene where I started off in silly manner "Have you ever seen anything that big. It's huge!" My partner replied "Ya, Jack it's tremendous." The way this was communicated automatically made me think that I was Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and we were looking at the beanstalk. Now, that's subtle communication.
I believe that Truth is the fundamentals of the whole thing. Without truth, improvisation doesn't occur. Once you have Truth, you need trust and spontaneity. Only then can Communication occur.
Here's the 4 fundamentals of improvisation:
Be in the moment
Be honest with yourself
Be honest with another
Put it out there