The David Razowsky Method (Video)

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

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4 responses to “The David Razowsky Method (Video)

  1. And a happy birthday to Dave Razowsky!

  2. Pingback: Comment trouver le “jeu de la scène” (style de Chicago / Del Close)

  3. Last month I had the great good fortune to attend one of Razowsky’s workshops in Denver. I have to say, I thought it was great. I found it enlightening and inspiring. His philosophy involves what many good teachers preach – honesty, and a natural, intelligent, human approach to being on stage.

    His “Jerry Chart” in the video refers to what tends to happen if you allow yourself to play the emotion. Not what has to happen. At least this is my take on it. Let yourself play the emotion and stick with it until it shifts. Much like the game emotional switch – where you play your emotion, and then switch to your partner’s emotion, then switch back during the course of the scene. You don’t want to force the heightening of the emotion, or to force the switch. You want to be aware of it, stay with it, use it. At the start of a scene it might be all you have, so use it.

    By staying with the emotion and using it as your point of view in the scene, it can heighten and then change on its own accord. Much like in real life, if you feel a strong emotion and rather than ignore it you stay with it and actually allow yourself to feel it, it will transform. Think of how transformative it is when you really vent your anger, or cry like a little baby girl. When you admit that you have the emotion, and feel it, and own it. Quite often (in real life) when I allow myself to fully feel and express anger, it changes almost immediately.

    I think what Razowsky is getting at is simply committing to an emotional viewpoint at the start of a scene. It’s a way in, as opposed to inventing plot, backstory, exposition.

    In your blog post that precedes the Razowsky one – there’s a section titled If you can commit to something at the top of the scene, everything else flows. You suggest that we double down on whatever we’ve done in the first ten seconds of the scene. That’s exactly what Dave is saying. The only difference is that he’s doubling down specifically on the emotional point of view.

    His way certainly isn’t the only way – but it’s valid. And fun. And when plot does finally enter a scene that has a strong emotional footing – it’s big.

  4. Hi! I just found this. Nice. 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.

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