The Improv Life: The (1) Thing I Will Take Away From My Pack Level 1 Improv Clas

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(Whether sketch or improv, I love the Pack Stage)

Respect Your Scene Partner’s Initiations

So many scenes die before they are born because of initiations.

It could be that an initiation is never clear, or that someone disregards what has been offered because they think they have a better idea.

I definitely fall in that camp.

I play fast, which is not always a good thing.

Playing fast is fun for both me and the audience, but that means that sometimes I don’t fully comprehend what my scene partner is asking of me.

Basically, someone comes out with an initiation of some kind, my brain sees something interesting in that initiation and then I just take off with the idea.

Although it’s fun to play that way, it’s not always respectful of my scene partner’s choice. In fact, it’s a dick move on my part, and I just realized that.

This problem is only made worse by the fact that “Yes-And” culture of improv means that once an idea morphs into some thing, it’s up to everybody involved to make that idea come to life

I didn’t know this was a problem until I started to work with Brian James O’Connell of the Pack Theater in his Level 1 Class.

Brian has a whole science of how to approach initiations — it’s pretty deep, profound, and practical — so hit him up if you want the whole breakdown (or better yet take Level 1 with him at the Pack!). 

Brian really drilled into me to always support the initiation of my partner.

If you’re partner comes out with an idea, it’s your job to support that idea no matter what and to the best of your ability.

Whether their initiation is a fully baked premise, or it’s not yet even clear to them, it’s on you to build on their choice, because their choice is the first choice of the scene, therefore, it’s the most important choice of the scene.

What happens from there is fair game, but you are obligated to support that first choice and help your scene partner turn their initiation into what they envisioned, or into something even better! Who knows?

Furthermore, what’s great about Brian is that he always corrected me whenever I would introduce my idea without fully supporting whatever the initiation was.

“Wait a minute. He has an idea. Go with that first,” and other statements like this were always included with the correction.

The correction was immediate and direct, but it was necessary to destroy my old habit and establish a new one.

Baseball Analogy: It’s like Brian is a great hitting coach and he was helping me out with my baseball swing. Before I even got to swing the bat, he could already tell by my stance how I would execute my swing. By changing my stance, he improved my probability of hitting the ball and getting on base.

It’s easy to take initiations for granted, or not see your choices as disrespectful to your scene partner, but after 8 weeks of a really fun and enlightening class — take it now to learn Position Play and how to apply it to your current improv style! — I learned to really respect the initiation of my scene partner, and to overall, really respect all of my scene partner’s choices.

Thank you Pack Level 1 for teaching me all of this! 

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