Slow Down and Get Emotional

Last night our improv 201 class worked on adding emotion into the scene. Well, I encouraged them to “unpack” more emotion in a scene. The happiness, jealousy and compassion have always been in the scenes, but on the fringes.

How do you feel about those Deadpool movie tickets your dad just bought you? They’re for opening night.

The emotion was often abandoned for some shiny space object, or idea (i.e. “look at the buttered popcorn,” “a new trailer for the Dawn of Justice trailer sure looks neat,” “I’m going to drop out of Sierra College.”). Scenes can quickly look bloated, filled with objects, and subjects., all of briefly mentioned and then abandoned for another space object, idea, or general “thing”. But, how do you feel about that thing? Why do you feel “that” for “that thing?” That’s not the most elegant sentence in the world, but you you’re smart. You know what I’m getting out.

I gave the students permission to explore feelings. Some students needed permission. Other students needed a nudge. Open up, stick with what you already have, and see what happens.All the students got there, and when tehy did, the improv scenes were phenomenal!

It was extraordinary. I hadn’t seen these students create such vibrant scenes. Rival models, football teammates, first dates, supermarket clerks, and paranoid shoppers came to life. It was so much fun to watch.

I might of likened emotions to steroids. Emotion is like putting some Human Growth Hormone into your work. It’ll strengthen your scene. Where you once were thinking, “I don’t have enough stuff to sustain this scene. I better go grab something else and add it to this scene that’s already about my mom, kitty litter, Kim Kardashian, Under Armour scented Febreeze, Valentine’s Day, and toothpicks.”

No! Stop! You don’t need more. It’ll overwhelm the audience. All you need is to feel something about your mom. How do you feel about her, and why do you feel that? Now, proceed! That’s a great start to the scene!

As I continue to write I realize I’m blending two thoughts together. I don’t want to muddle the message so let me be more clear.

1. Each scene is about something. It’s about that ONE thing. Focus on that.

2. What’ll help you focus on one thing? Feeling something towards said thing. (Talking about Sierra College admissions? Why are you terrified of the admissions process?)

Don’t pack rat scenes with space objects and subjects, and ideas. Look at one thing, and respect it by feeling something for that character, idea, development. How does your character feel? Notice something, unpack your feelings about it, and in turn, that’ll make you notice something else? Repeat. Notice. Unpack. Notice. Repeat.

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