This post is about creating dynamic scenes following five easy steps. To see what the specifics of dynamic scenes are and why dynamic scenes are important consult this post.
Step One in creating dynamic scenes
Have opinions. Have strong opinions about everything and everyone. No tentative views allowed. You’re not allowed to find Hank „quite nice“ or „a bit boring“ – you either love him with all your heart or hate him to the bones. He’s the most sexy, disgusting, admirable, silly, handy, heroic, annoying person on Earth. You choose.
Once you have found your attitude towards Hank (either by sensing the physicality you chose for your character or by arbitrary choice), once you fixed your opinion: don’t adjust the intensity of this opinion, passion or desire – adjust how much you let it show!
Fix your character (e.g. using body anchors, mental images, mantras, real people, Laban movement styles or elements) and then, within this character and while maintaining the way your character observes, judges, acts, talks and walks, change your emotions, status, energy and opinions as often as you can.
Observe. Observe until you notice the tiny details of everything your stage partners do. Read into them. Especially into the things your stage partners don’t do on purpose. The ones that just happen naturally. React to them by changing your emotion, status, energy or opinion. This will make your partners appear like oustanding actors, beause every tiny detail has meaning and perfectly fits into the scene. If you are lucky, your stage partners will do the same for you. But even if they don’t, your scenes will become better and better.
Use different wavelengths of opinions to vary the impact. Okay, that sounds a bit abstract.
Almost every improv technique or game or format invites the players to change spontaneously. The more abrupt and intense the change, the funnier it is.
While being funny is okay, it remains just a curling of an ocean’s surface, enough to repeatedly tickle the beach, but no more. To build up an intense force, like a tide, change your emotion, opinion or energy slowly.
To unleash the force of a tsunami, however, you’ll need an intense and profound change of something that seemed to be solid. The more solid the character’s status, energy or opinion seemed to be, the more defining it was for the character, the stronger and more plot relevant its sudden change will be. A trauma or break like this is usually the core of an entire story. Emotions usually are not profound enough for an effect like this. Think of emotions as the melody an instrument is playing, while the changes of solid opinions or attitudes mean changing the instrument.
Weight: The weight of a scene is a scale that tells how deeply people on stage are affected and moved by what is going on. (Dynamics is how often characters are changed, weight is how profoundly they are changed, or, if you liked the ocean metaphor: dynamics is waves, weight is how much water there is – the amount of water being „how much of the actor really is in that character“).
The most common misunderstandings of weight are that
a) weight always makes the scene dark or tragic and
b) that you can fake it.
If your scenes tend to be action scenes mostly or scenes without dynamics: try and imagine the things on stage were really happening to you. How does it feel?
If you are too afraid or cool to play with your own emotions, don’t play with those of the audience.
If you like to play authentic, but your scenes always get dark: dare to love something and risk getting hurt (as a character). If you have good fellow improvisers around you, they will hurt your character and help you create a meaningful scene. Dark scenes result from improvisers who stay emotionally protected.
If you like playing authentic but the audience is not engaged: Try not to push it or fake it, keep it real. Once they realize you are being melodramatic in order to trick them into engaging emotionally while you aren’t, they will abandon you or retaliate. So be affected only to the degree you can feel. You can’t create more intensity or tension than what you are able to take.
To sum it up:
If you decide to really let yourself be affected on stage – without exaggerating, without forcing it, and for the fun of it rather than to prove to everybody how great you are – the steps one to five offer ideas about how to do it. Once you intuitively play dynamic scenes there is no need to shy away from action – and you can have the best of both.
Learn how to make your scenes more dynamic in this improv course April 28th – 30th in London.
Claim your spot: email@example.com
Mario is the artistic director of the TmbH improv ensemble (est. 1993) and looks back to more than a decade of playing and teaching improv in Europe. He is known for his physical approach.