Lately, I have been geeking on this piece of improv advice that is commonly attributed to Del Close: “Don’t bring a cathedral into a scene. Bring a brick; let’s build together.”
I often find new improvisers will bring the beginning, middle and end into a scene in the first few breaths. We have not had time to get to know who the characters are, where they are, what matters to them or anything else….but BOOM….there is a big competition happening TODAY…AND IT IS IMPORTANT FOR SOME REASON THAT WILL PROBABLY INVOLVE ORPHANS!
When this happens, the scene has not had a chance to tell the improvisers what it wants to be about – they tell it what it is about by dropping a cathedral smack into the start of the scene. I often coach players that we need to get to know the world – the characters, the relationship, the environment – before we can make such important choices as what the scene will be about. Think of how many movies you have started – and turned off – because you didn’t care about the characters. The same can be said for the starts of your scenes if we know nothing about the people or their lives. Yes, it is much scarier to play that way, because, when you drop in a cathedral, you have more control…..but, I encourage you to trust yourself and your partner. Go slow and simple – you will figure it out. AND, Improv is so much more fun when you…improvise! So, brick by brick, small offer by small offer….let’s figure out what this scene wants to be…together.