Q&A: Planned Improv

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Here, Jenny Bloomer answers... 

Q: How do you deal with a fellow improviser that has planned the scene?

Basically, the question is how to deal with an improviser that does not trust the rest of the troupe. In my short experience, I have found that I just call them out on it. When I say the improviser does not trust the others, I have seen an improviser act out a predetermined character and direction for the scene. It was challenging for me to fit into what was going on. I am thinking that there are tactics I should have used? I am hoping that I don't repeat this situation. Thanks.


A: Get a coach, raise the issue to the coach and let them handle it. Improvisers shouldn't be giving their peers feedback within the troupe.

It damages the trust within the group (which already sounds damaged in this situation). In the interim, remember the fundamentals- accept and respond to what is happening in the moment. It's impossible not to fit into something when you're listening and directly responding to what is being said and done in the moment, even if someone comes in with something predetermined.

Focus on how you can use this to make you better.

If you're in a place of being frustrated with your troupe mate and you're blaming them for your experience, you're shooting yourself in the foot. You're going to improvise with a lot of difficult personalities early on (and later on, and always), so a pro move is to learn how to play with them and make them look good. Consider the fear and insecurity that someone must feel if they're coming in with everything gamed out, with very little trust for the group.

Try to come at that with acceptance and support.

That's going to send the message, "I've got your back, you can trust me." Another thought that I had when I read "It was challenging to me to fit into what was going on" is that not everyone needs to be in every scene. If you find yourself feeling "I don't need to be in this scene," listen to that instinct. An under-appreciated quality in great improvisers is knowing when to not enter/not speak. If you're playing a form that requires you to be in every scene or you exit the scene in a way that feels natural, remember that the environment is there. There are two places you can be in a scene- one is with your scene partner(s) and the other is with the environment. If you can't get a word in, embrace that. Go to that environment. You'll still be engaged in the scene, supporting and enriching it, and by taking that time to be listening and engaged non-verbally, you might even find a place to speak. In my years of experience I've found that people who are untrusting and difficult to work with disappear of their own accord and you don't have to worry about it anymore. If that doesn't happen, consider not working with that person in the future. I wasted a lot of time worrying about playing with difficult people early on. And that's what it is - a waste of time. If I had a time machine I'd go back and tell myself this:

Focus on you, focus on getting better.

Since I can't do that, I'll say it to you. Focus on you, focus on getting better.

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Posted on April 7, 2017 .