“Hey Tony, I like your shoes.”“Thanks Sarah, I see you’ve come to the dance floor prepared.”
“Yes I have. Hey, they’re calling our number! Let’s get ready.”
In just three lines, the actors established context for the audience, and most importantly, for themselves. We immediately knew who was in the scene, how they were related to each other, where they were, and what they were doing. At the same time, the actors still had plenty of creative leeway to communicate something interesting and answer other questions like, “why are they there?” and “what’s going to happen next?”
Tip: Use self-imposed constraints to establish context as quickly as possible. Without context, we end up lingering in indecision, paralyzed by the lack of clarity.
The three-line scene–along with the other exercises and games we played–drew to a head during the final week of class, when we took everything we’d learned and performed several extended scenes — the type you’d catch nightly at The People’s Improv Theater. While we might not be headlining at Second City anytime soon, to the dozen of us realizing just how far we’d come, we were hottest show in town that night.
If you go to The PIT’s website, you’ll come across the tagline “Improv your life.” It wasn’t until after the last class was over that these words revealed the final lesson that Improv had imparted to us:
In improv, as in life, no two performances are ever the same. The only real way to prepare for them is to cultivate healthy creative habits. These habits encourage us to listen, accept, and keep the story moving. They strengthen the level of connection between ourselves, our projects and our audience. Ultimately, these habits help us set aside our fears of failure and launch into the world of the unknown; living, laughing and learning with every step (or misstep) along the way.