THE SELF CONTAINED EMOTIONAL STATEMENT
How do you start an improv scene? My answer was forged from the perspective of giants’ shoulders.
Mick Napier, of The Annoyance Theater, says we start with just one thing.
- Assume a posture.
- Grab an object.
- Start a motion.
- Engage your environment.
- Embody a character.
What do you do with that one thing? Expand, says Napier. Discover through “if this
than what” extrapolation. Build that one thing out, or draw a line to another point of the
The direction I believe you should expand to – the scene start structure most conducive to
good improvisation – is the Self-Contained Emotional Statement.
It can be as simple as:
- I love it here.
- I hate the arts.
- I’m uncomfortable.
The Self-Contained Emotional Statement aligns you with an emotional perspective. It’s a solid foundation on which to build the possibilities.
It’s a statement. Not a question shifting the responsibility of providing information to your partner. There’s a period. It’s definitive.
It’s an emotional statement. Emotional reaction is one of our three key tools; let’s get to it. You need to feel and, for the reaction, you need to give that feeling a direction. Give X the power to make you feel Y.
Being self-contained, the statement places you on solid ground without dictating the scene to your partners. Mick Napier urges us each to “take care of yourself” without confining the scene. Allow your partner the choice of whether to mirror you in some fashion or to take on something entirely their own. Being self-contained is increasingly an imperative the larger a group you have on stage.
In the examples employed for following chapters devoted to larger group work, I will use the Self-Contained Emotional Statement in a fairly rigid construction. Of course on stage, the statement’s same content can be born out much more subtly. I can’t act out love in text; I have to write it.
On an improv stage, I think clarity, though, must take priority over subtlety. The world we build around us needs to be clear so others – performers and audience members – can play along.
So don’t skimp on The Details. Give your emotion specific direction.
- I love being a part of this office.
- I hate paper mache.
- All these gosh darn marsupials are making me uncomfortable.
Clarity is about specificity and brevity. If you keep your initiations short and succinct, you will enable your partners to establish a verbal pattern around your contribution.
I initiate with the Self-Contained Emotional Statement because it gives me a defined point in space on which I can stand solidly. And because from that one point, the scene has the flexibility to build in myriad directions.
For example… Read the rest of this entry »