When I approached our second week Round 2 class, the focus was on character. I am someone who likes the physical. The physical informs the players who their characters are while grounding them in their bodies. Matt’s shoulders are curved. What does that tell him about who his character is in the world of the scene? Kelly walks with her toes leading her body around the studio. How does that inform her of who she might be in a scene? There is so much to play with when the body leads. Not to mention when living in a body shape that is not normally used, what sorts of phrases come out of a person’s mouth. I had an experience of leading with my chest and I felt my face get stiff. All I wanted to say with clenched teeth were, “Shut up, I like pudding!”
Endowments are the gifts we give to our team and ourselves. When we endow someone with a trait, habit or physicality it supports us as the receiver of the gift to know who and where we are. A better endowment is when someone adds an action. Another important aspect of character is to know what you want. I see plenty of people get up and just begin talking. Taking no time at all to set their space or sketch out a want that their character may have.
In Ben Hauck’s book on long form, he talks about character as being selfish and it’s our job as improvisers to loosen the characters up. This is brilliant! It highlights the differences between the two games at work for the improviser. There is the character game and the player game. The character game is explicit. It’s the game that is right out in front of the audience with its circumstances of the scene and playing with the other character(s) in the scene. The second game is the player game, which is implicit. It’s the game inside and it has to do with the player herself. If you find yourself with a character want and you as the improviser is having a hard time fulfilling that want of the character’s, then best take a look at what is stopping you. If you have to kiss that slimy frog and you’re resisting, but the character MUST do it, then take an internal moment and CHANGE YOUR MIND.
Kevin was working in class with Grady. The location was a pie eating contest and Kevin was the pie eater and Grady was his coach. Kevin at one point figured out his want was to not be in the contest anymore because he didn’t like sweets but liked hotdogs. Grady countered with a solution of a hotdog pie. The scene was deadlocked because Kevin was waffling on eating the hotdog pie. I stopped him and pointed that out and said, “Eat the hotdog pie and see where it goes.” The energy up to that point was stuck, but as soon as he ate the pie, he got a stomachache and the scene opened up again. Both were listening again and engaged in the scene instead of deadlocking it.
Thank you Ben for your insightful book, Long-Form Improv: The Complete Guide to Creating Characters, Sustaining Scenes, and Performing Extraordinary Harolds