In this video, David Razowsky shares his method for navigating a scene.
This method has its merits. We’re often told to “heighten and explore.” Following Razowsky’s pattern would heighten emotion, but I’m hesitant to say you could lay this template over every scene.
Leading with emotion is great. Heightening that emotion is great. But heightening regardless of what’s being fed your way seems odd. You can get great mileage by going away from a bit, then returning later in a scene.
I also disagree that once an emotion is heightened, it changes. Going from anger to sadness feels like a crazy u-turn. How about going from anger to calm, back to anger, back to calm?
This method also advocates starting with your emotion at a “1.” If you start that subtly, it would be easy for your partner to miss the vibe you’re sending out.
Consider modifying this method to resemble the kids’ game, “Hot and Cold.” You seek something while the other person in the room says whether you’re getting hotter or colder. When you’re really far away, you might hear, “Ice cold!” When you’re really close, you’ll hear, “Burning hot!”
Starting a scene, you’ll discover certain likes and dislikes about your partner’s character. When you know that, you can control their emotion. I coach my group that whenever someone says, “Don’t do that,” it’s a giant green light to do that. The audience wants to see you misbehave. They want to see the consequences. But a savvy improviser doesn’t just keep doing the forbidden activity over and over, harder and harder. They’ll do it a little bit, then let the audience forget about it, then do it harder, then go away, then come back and do it as hard as possible.
Obviously, there is no right or wrong with improv. Whatever helps you navigate the scene and have fun is the right way to go. What do you think of David’s method?
Years later, Razowsky responds…
Okay…please look at the video again and see how the example shows going from one emotion to another organically. This change from anger to sadness isn’t a “u-turn,” rather it’s an evolution, an honest transformation that results in two characters being honest with each other.
Heightening an emotion leads to another emotion, which leads to a change in the scene, entering us into another beat. Please look at “Maya,” a scene from Second City’s 50th, a scene we all did in the mid-90s. Carell’s character emotionally heightens, allowing him to express a truth he previously didn’t see. It’s a beautiful example.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had you as a student, but when I will please have me explain this to you. Thank you for posting this, but you’re not doing seeing it correctly.
Got an improv question? E-mail me at boilingpointimprov[at]gmail.com