Thursday, August 25, 2011

Staying In The Scene

Cross-posted from Reddit:

Hey guys!

I'm new to Chicago and have taken a few improv classes... at first, it was just for fun, but I'm really enjoying it and I've started to try to take it seriously. I've been going to 3 or 4 shows a week (in addition to my weekly class), and I'm trying to learn as much as I can.

Here's the part I need help with right now: I'm really having trouble getting over myself and how other people perceive me in scene work. Especially if there's an emotion involved, I'm having a hard time being "angry" or "anxious," because I think I'm sort of embarrassed about it - so I always seem to fall back on a weak smile and a giggle. It's terrible. Granted, I'm a noob, so mistakes are tolerated --- Regardless, I want to get past this hump for my own sake.

Has anyone had a similar experience? How did you finally get past the norm of caring what other people are thinking so you can really get into a scene properly?

Any insight would be appreciated :)

Dan Finlay writes:

An improv scene is like a shared dream, but while awake. Investing yourself in a scene, and making organic discoveries in that scene, requires a degree of depth in the scene's reality that ventures deep into the definition of hypnosis.

Your problem is that you aren't taking the plunge, and allowing yourself to fall in the trance of the scene. Fortunately, this is a well documented process (hypnosis), and there are certain methods for investing yourself deeper in the scene.

The magical secret is that the more details you imagine in your scene, the deeper you slip into it. Your new goal when entering scenes should be to color them in as richly as possible in your mind as quickly as possible.

Stop settling for characters close to yourself, and really allow yourself to see the person you're channeling.

You can focus yourself by imagining almost any conceivable detail of your scene: Imagine your character in greater detail, explore their posture and accent. Imagine the environment you're in, interact with objects in that environment. Imagine the audience's perspective, and the dramatic tension that you're creating with your scene partner. All of these are vaild, and anything that involves immersing yourself in the scene's reality are valid.

You've been scuba diving and coming up for air regularly, but you need to trust yourself to take a deeper dive. When you feel audience reaction start to pull you out of the scene, focus on the task at hand. This is a serious mental workout, but it's very powerful as well. As the performer, you don't get to laugh at your own jokes, it's time for you to get into the scene.

I've gotten so good at retaining my sense of drama, that I can wake up, go to the bathroom, and resume my dream, because I remember what was at stake the whole time, and it lets me fall back asleep a lot faster, too. Just a strange side-effect.

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