Dear Improv Diary,
Finally my Improv 201 class, at UCB, is starting to come together. I’ve been having a rough time in class from the first day. I started Improv 201 directly after 101. In fact, I started 201 one day after finishing 101. This lack of time to reflect, sort of threw off my improv game. I jumped into 201 unprepared that the change in teaching styles and curriculum would effect my abilities, but it did.
I’ve always prided myself on having very little inner thought about my improv. I really try not to edit, think, or pre-plan my scene-work. Just jump out and hope for the best. My motto in improv has always been “dare to suck,” meaning that you have to be prepared to fail in order to be able to succeed. This motto had worked until I hit 201, where the sucking really wasn’t the problem, but rather the daring.
In Improv 201 there is emphasis on “finding the game” or “the game of the scene” and as much as I appreciate this notion, I believe this notion is flawed. “Finding” in my head means searching. Searching means thinking and thinking is definitely, analytical, left brain territory. Improvising I have always equated with the intuitive and creative right brain. Thinking about the game, automatically snaps me into my left brain, and in effect, turns off the improv side of my brain. My scenes have suffered as a result.
Then last class, I had a epiphany. “Finding the game” can have multiple definitions. While finding can mean “to discover (someone or something) after a deliberate search” it can also mean “to discover or perceive by chance or unexpectedly.” This was the definition I was looking for. “Finding the game” is too simplistic a description of what should be “notice, by chance, a game.” Granted, “Finding the game” does have a much better ring, but it’s important to understand that the purpose in not to look for the game, but rather to notice it when it passes by. This change in thought completely changed my scene-work.
It’s also important to note here, the change in semantics from “the” to “a”. “Finding the game” means there is one game to be found, and often frightened me into thinking, “Is this the game? Or is it the right game? Or is it just a game, but not the right one.” Contrarily, “finding a game” means, while there may be a lot of games out there to find, your job is just to find any one of them. It changes the performer’s relation to the game and allows them to move forward in their scene-work rather than spending time judging the game they have just found.
I got up on stage in class and started improvising, letting a scene unfold. Right off the bat my scene partner negated the reality of a very detailed scene I had built about the Mediterranean, and instead of letting it throw me, I noticed a game. I built more and more elaborate locations for her to nock down, and she did. After the scene ended, the teacher even noted that the negation of my scene-work could have been disastrous, but “Luckily, he knew what he was doing.” While it was a small compliment, it filled me with a true sense of accomplishment, that I had taken a step forward in my improv education and finally got what “finding the game” is about.