Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mind reading

The reason so many people are amazed by improv: It looks like we can read minds!

Ok, us improvisors know that we can't really read minds, but the better we get at faking it, the more awesome we seem to be. In fact, I argue that an improvisor primary role is "to create the illusion that everyone is on the same page" of a script that isn't written. But whose mind are we supposed to be reading?

A beginning improvisor must first and foremost read the mind of their scene partner, by learning how to AGREE & HEIGHTEN when someone makes an offer. Del Close went on further to state the the job of the improvisor is justification--they are there TO JUSTIFY the existence of everything that has thus far been created (even if that which has been created was created by mistake.) By constantly justifying back and forth, raising the stakes of the situation, you look as if you scene partner(s) have are working off the same blueprint. When you work with some people within a troupe long enough, you start to anticipate the kinds of offer that they make. While this is re-assuring and creates confidence and trust in playing with certain people, over-indulgence in this predictability can lead to very predictable scenes (which is the death of excitement that improv brings).

An intermediate improvisor soon realizes that not only should they read the mind of the fellow improvisor, but also that of the audience, by learning how to BE OBVIOUS and how to create an INSIDE JOKE. Most improv shows solicit an ask-for from the audience to start play. Someone people think that asking for a suggestion is a way to prove that this art is not prepared in advance. I actually think that it is more. I believe it is a way to honor the audience by saying to them, "hey, I actually think that you are smarter than me."

Keith Johnstone stresses the importance of being obvious. The reason is: if you try to be clever, you end up alienating people who don't think exactly as you do. However, if you do something obvious, then there is a high probability that your audience was thinking the exact same thing. The net effect is you end up validating what the audience was thinking, and they think you're brilliant, and pay more money to see you do it again. (Being obvious does not mean you can't demonstrate your intelligence or creativity, but what it does mean is that you have to convince the audience that they are smart FIRST, and then you show how creative you really are.)

When an improv show starts, you and the audience are complete strangers. If you invest time in validating them by appearing to read their thoughts, eventually over the course of the show they become bonded to you. You are now friends who are sharing a night out, rather than audience/performer. As a result, within any circle of friends INSIDE JOKES start getting created. This is where you really shine as a mind reader, because now you're be obvious with the clever things that have happened to you all night long.

After mastering mind reading of those on stage with you, those sitting in the seats, the only person left... is you. An advanced improvisor knows how to read their own mind, their own feelings, thoughts and perceptions. If you're acting in a scene "feel" that it's loosing energy, and that the chemistry with your scene partner is lost... keep the character you're playing, but check in with how you REALLY feel and use those words. Within the Village Idiots paradigm, we stress that the only real way to know if your scene was good, is to become sensitive to that internal barometer of your feelings. Using your natural reactions is the best (and only) way to make your performance seem natural. You have willing to read your own mind. This is very, very hard; trust me.

1 comment:

Mano said...


You've an incredibly great weblog. To turn into a successful person the basic point should be to have positive thinking. Enjoy Sky Rocketing Accomplishment with Turbo charged Positive Affirmations... Develop Positive Thinking So You'll be able to Remove Tension From the Existence, Raise Your Self-Confidence and Program Your self For Lifetime Success!