In between Christmas and New Year I’ve decided to take some time to look at some of the things we’ve been working on this year in MissImp and to put down my thoughts. It’d be great if you joined in. There are so many ways of looking at what we do, it’d be nice to get lots of comments from the group (and beyond for that matter).
First on the agenda, the concept of “Game Of The Scene”. As a group we have been influenced by the UCB definition of this through Chelsea Clarke, Brandon Gardner and through the learnings I’ve passed on from my visits there. However there are a lot of ways of looking at game and my thinking has evolved over the last year.
The UCB definition is “A consistent pattern of behavior that breaks from the everyday pattern of behaviour” that then gets played and heightened. Matt Besser, one of the UCB founders believes not only that there is a game to be played in every scene but that the game IS the scene.
This Summer I studied at The Annoyance who look at things differently. Susan Messing who, all being well, will be coming to teach us in the new year, thinks game is a misnomer and that “The games of the scene are anything you do more than once that become characteristics or facts.” That said, she still plays with the UCB guys from time-to-time and, as she said in a MissImp podcast puts a “real person” into their world. Susan creates really compelling characters and I sometimes hear people speak about character work and game as two concepts that can’t be combined. I think they co-exist beautifully.
I like game. I don’t like “finding” the game though. As Susan puts it, “That sounds like there was a game there and we were too stupid to find it” and I agree. Our choices in a scene will allow games to develop naturally, and if we’re paying attention, we’ll make repeatable moves. All we have to do is pay attention to what we’re doing.
I still identify more with UCB style than anything else. Maybe it’s because it’s where I first trained, but maybe it’s also because I write. UCB is very much like writing on your feet. It’s quite cerebral. Where I think I differ is that whilst UCB believes in us finding the “unusual” thing and exploiting it in a scene, I believe that is only one option. I also believe we can exploit the truthful thing. As improvisers we talk of truth in comedy and when an audience recognises something from their life in your scene they often laugh. We can exploit this too. It’s not necessarily unusual – in fact far from it. It’s a “usual thing”. And in my experience, audiences love seeing these games played.
Mick Napier, founder of the Annoyance and author of “Improvise: Scene From The Inside Out” describes game in a way I love. It’s when the audience thinks “I wanna see that improviser do that more.” And an audience will usually tell you when they see something they like by laughing.
So, for me, the “game of the scene” is a pattern of behaviour that is amusing to the audience and that can be repeated and heightened. It is introduced by active choices, and played by paying attention to what we have done, and what reaction it has elicited from our scene partner(s) and the audience.
I’ll probably change my mind on this in six months though….
What do you think?