Improvisational Theater

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Integrity and Comitment

COMMITMENT in improvised scene work is like, or "should" be like, commitment in any other form of performance work, and that doesn't come easily.  When we are first learning to improvise we are often just there on stage doing the thing, but we are rarely wholly there, in character, seeing through our characters perspective, listening and responding, fully committed and engaged.  It's very common that "half-ing it" becomes a habit, and because it's so common, many people expect it and except it as part of the improv experience.  I STRONGLY DISAGREE with that idea.  From my students and myself, I expect craftsmanship.  I expect commitment. I discourage self commentary and detest apathetic casuality. When you, the improviser, are on stage, you are not YOU.  You have endowed yourself into a different reality, a different mindset. Or you have been endowed thus.  Hopefully a little of both (Highlight this and talk to me about it later if you have questions). And you must hold onto this reality, this perspective throughout the improvisation or the improvisation itself loses INTEGRITY.


1. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship's hull.
Here are a few practices you can utilize to improve your ability to commit and retain commitment in your improvisations:
  • Engage your EYES.  When we communicate with other people in "reality" our eyes shift, change focus and intensity moment by moment.  But onstage, I often notice the eyes are neglected and remain pretty consistently lax, and often the eyes wander into the audience checking for validation or assuring the audience that the performer is "just playing", or thinks its funny too...etc.  Practice locking your eyes on your partner and reacting WITH YOUR EYES ONLY first, before you say a word or move in any other way.  A good way to work up to this is by sitting across from a partner and doing a whole improvisation with ONLY your eyes, sometimes responding, sometimes mirroring.  Then add words, then add physicality.  
  • Listen with your WHOLE BODY.  When your partner is speaking try saying the words they are saying in your mind as they say them.  Thus, keeping your mind empty of "ideas" and forcing you to not only hear their words but feel them. Let your eyes and body respond before your mind and your mouth.  Practice using your periphery vision.  Do a silent scene with a partner where in you are not allowed to make any eye contact, (this will be an awesome experience after focusing so much on eye contact).  You are your partner will aim to show a relationship between you, to show an environment you share and an activity you are engaged in together. 
  • Identify a mood or an emotional tonality within the improvisation and hold onto it energetically until it shifts or changes organically.  FORCE NOTHING.
  • Begin bringing your attention to tension.  Practice filling your body, your muscles, your mouth, your eyes and skin with tension.  See how long you can hold it.  Recognize when you sense you are LEAKING tension.  When the tension is ebbing out against your will.  When this happens begin again. As you become more and more aware of LEAKING tension, so too will you become more and more aware of leaking commitment.     

Let me know how it goes....