By Guest Blogger: Alyssa Davis
It’s 2:15 PM on a Wednesday. Your body has molded to your chair and your mind has gone into hibernation mode. Such sweet slumber. Suddenly the shrill ring of your phone jars you awake, your email is invaded by marching red flags, all marked “Urgent”, and your calendar dings a 15 minute warning about the quarterly meeting with your boss. The list of tasks is staggering and the weight of responsibility is overwhelming. What are you to do?
If an improv show is spiraling out of control, it usually means that everyone is making tons of crazy moves too quickly. Think: insane characters and desperate moves, lots of yelling and flailing. The way to counter that is to do the exact opposite: slow down the scenes and invest back into a few key characters. Talk slower, listen to your partner. That way you center yourself, find clear, calm relationships and slow down the pacing.
The same is true in a disaster situation. Recognize that even though things are happening very quickly around you, the best way to counter them is by assessing each problem individually and making an informed decision about how to change it. Take one huge breath, relax your shoulders, and move to step two.
When a show is going insane, look to your teammates. They all have strengths and they know yours. Play to those strengths until you get your feet under yourselves.
Recognize the strength of the other people in the room and allow them to shine. This way the responsibility is shared equally and the problem is splintered into smaller, more manageable, pieces.
If a show or scene is going poorly, some players will glue themselves to the sidelines and refuse to go back onstage because they think their idea might not be “right”. In reality, the players onstage will appreciate any help at all. The only bad move is being afraid to make a move. Nobody has any idea how the show will end up, but if everyone tries something, then at the very least it will be a unified product.
In these situations, trust me, the simplest move is the best. Pick something you know you can do and DO IT. So many people will be panicked and frozen in fear that they will be grateful for someone to take the first step. Move logically, one step at a time. Don’t try to fix the whole problem all at one time, just go one piece at a time and trust that other people will follow suit.
Hopefully you’ll never have to use these, but if you do: GOOD LUCK!
Alyssa Davis is a sweet Southern girl and an improviser on improve it!'s team The Spotty Truth. Some favorite former roles include Helen of Troy in 'Trojan Women', The Madwoman Josephine in 'The Madwoman of Chaillot,' and every character in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'. She majored in Theatre at University of Richmond, was a member of the improv team 'Subject to Change' and started UR’s first sketch video group, Sub Par Productions. She worked with an Emmy-Award Winning Filmmaker in a Documentary about the Dah Theatar in Serbia. She has studied at iO Theater, The Second City, and The Annoyance Theatre and is currently performing in Improvised Mythology and Will You Accept this Rose? at Under the Gun and Emergency Sleepover, a Harold Team at iO.