The Small Stuff

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Taking classes at IO West has really opened up my eyes to a lot of things that I have always known about but never really understood the full concept or meaning behind it. In my class Colleen Doyle, of improv duo Dummy, consistently returns to the idea of always looking at the tiny things in scenes and allowing them to influence you, your characters and the world you’ve created. By looking at the tiny things she means really taking the time to notice your small actions, movements and words at the top of each scene to help discover who you are. Initially this seems obvious enough, but this important aspect of scene world allows you to more easily discover and play, because in the end the world is revealing itself to you through these tiny details and relieves you from having to invent, a problem I am all too familiar with.

One example that occurred during class was when I began a scene alone and I quietly walked up to a grave stone and marveled at how it was marked with the year 1992. My character was amazed because that was coincidentally the same year he was born. I continued on to observe the rest of the cemetery but what I ultimately missed was an opportunity to use that first moment to inform me who I was and my relationship to the world I inhabited. Had I taken that initial moment of discovery and focused on the idea that my character finds things in the graves that are oddly relate-able, it would have allowed me to more easily explore my character instead of inventing new things to find and do. Looking back, My character was a guy that found names and dates on graves that he could somehow connect to; what wonderful possibilities would have been opened up had I dug in to my first action! What else could I find that was similar? My own name? A saying I would say or even heard? A death mask that looked like my own face? An open grave that had my own name and date of death? Maybe even an engraving that specifically quoted that I said. So many possibilities of fun!

I love to start and engage in high energy scenes and it is because of this tendency for high energy that I feel like I need to always be moving and going forward. What this ultimately does is cause me to gloss over beautiful moments that can be found early on in the scene that can reveal new pieces of game, new strange paths and even vulnerabilities that will help guide me through my scene and connect to my partner. I need to keep in mind that simply because I start with something small does not mean I wont get to reach the absurd and high energy stakes that I love to play in. All of this, the idea of starting with the small stuff is meant to help make it easier on me so that I can have the most fun I can. I need not fear the small and intimate; I must embrace it. As Colleen has said before, “us improvisers are the laziest people out there, so why try harder?” Indeed I am pretty lazy, so why put so much effort on inventing when I could just let the small stuff tell me everything I need to know.

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On October 4, 2015
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