I took what I consider to be a game-changing workshop with Piero Procaccini. The language, concepts, and exercises he used really clicked for me. And while I won’t discuss them in specific detail since they’re his, I will discuss the realization that occurred to me. Suffice to say, Piero’s workshop connected the dots of all the thoughts I’d had about improv and then moved them years forward because of his experience and knowledge.
On their DVD Trust Us This is All Made Up, TJ and Dave talk about how when they take the stage they’re jumping into the lives of people who actually exist. They live in the characters for 45 minutes and then they jump out, but the characters continue to exist–some get married, some have kids, some drive their cars off cliffs, others become President, etc. The point is: the characters are real.
Piero used his own language to explain the above framework in further detail and provided an exercise for us to try out his ideas. I played like I was the character and what was happening was really happening (as opposed to I’m an improviser onstage doing a scene). The result brought back to me my old ideas about using the language of meditation to talk about improv. I was super focused, responding to everything I was taking in, using my own thoughts, emotions, and instincts not to inform my performance but to be my performance. It was like I’d popped into the lives of the character I was, just like TJ and Dave do. And because I was paying such close attention, everything I said was organic since it was a response to what had immediately proceeded–building the scene moment by moment.
I realized that I could not afford to not be myself in my scenes for three reasons: it would read on my face if I denied my own instincts, ideas, wishes, etc; if I denied my own instincts, ideas, wishes, etc I’d end up in scenes that I didn’t want to be in and I’d later regret not using the opportunity to make the most of my scene; and I didn’t have the time to not use what was happening inside of me because the moments were passing so quickly (but not so quickly that I couldn’t make choices).
So, now I will be using everything–Krav Maga improv. And I will be super focused. So focused that I won’t even think about what I’m doing as an improviser– not worrying about having my back turned to the audience, the distance between me and my scene partner(s), or concerned with whether my idea’s the ideas being played. I will simply focus on what’s happening, as if I am meditating, and the thoughts that would normally pop into my mind while meditating will be the very thoughts that direct the choices I make because they’re inspired by what just happened. Some of those thoughts will strike me as comedic choices to make, ways in which the scene has become an excuse to do something (like genre parody), dick moves to make, etc. And at other times I won’t even have time to what sort of choice it is but I’ll know that it’s the choice I have to make because it’s the choice I’m telling myself to make. After all, that instinct is me– it’s me thinking so fast that it doesn’t even feel like I’m thinking. It feels like it’s coming from somewhere else. It’s thinking with my whole being.