Here’s an exercise that’s six days old. We had a lot of fun with it in rehearsal last Tuesday. What we ended up doing wasn’t exactly the exercise I intended to invent; yes-anding the offers my improvisers in the Mop & Bucket Co. made, I re-wrote the exercise a bit. Enjoy!
The Routine Routine
A short scene (90 seconds, for example) is played twice. The scene should be of an unremarkable, oft-repeated event in the life of two people who know each other well—breakfast at home, husband and wife, for example.
The first run of the scene features the two players remarking on the things that they know are happening/will happen in the scene. (For example: Husband: “She’s going to brown the eggs too much again, ’cause she never remembers to find the jam in the fridge before she starts the eggs!” These remarks may be about the physical action or they may be about the interpersonal drama that unfolds every day between these characters, eg: Husband: I am reading the paper so that I won’t have to engage with her never-ending, monotonous chatter. Wife: I speak really quickly and enthusiastically, trying to get him engaged in our lives together.
The focus should be on creating the description of a completely known, uneventful slice of life , rich because it is loaded with varying kinds of color added by the two players.
The second time, the players play the scene normally, with dialogue. They should be encouraged to make no overt reference to any of the things mentioned in the first iteration; but honor the flow of the first scene with their actions.
This is a platform scene; the improvisers should resist the temptation to have the “but then one day” moment happen—the whole point is to fully explore the normal life prior to the event that sparks a drama.
The impulse to develop a scene based on ennui/antipathy will probably be strong; there is nothing wrong with this, but there are happily married couples, barbers who enjoy their work etc. Watch out for a repetition of the negative flavored scene, funny as it may at first seem.
Players must be particularly careful to listen and yes and each other in the first scene; they will find that they endow each other greatly during this stage, and shouldn’t block these offers.
This example uses two players. There is no reason that the exercise should be limited to two—one, three, or five should be possible.