Learn the three key elements of improvisation by acting out a short scene.
Answering the questions “Who?”, “What?” and “Where?” is essential to any improvisation. In an open-ended improvisation the actors need to establish the answers to these questions as the scene is played. In a structured improvisation they are decided in advance.
WHO is in the scene – and what is their relationship to one another?
WHAT are the characters doing?
WHERE is the scene taking place?
The following activity helps to teach these elements. Divide the group into pairs labelled ‘A’ and ‘B’. The aim is to improvise a three-line scene and to establish the ‘Who’, ‘What’ and ‘Where’ as quickly as possible. ‘A’ initiates the scene and speaks first. ‘B’ must work out what situation ‘A’ is setting up and respond verbally in character. Finally ‘A’ ends the scene with a third line. The idea is not to plan the scene in advance, so as soon as ‘A’ has an idea the improvisation can start.
It is essential that the actors accept each other’s ideas by working together to create the scene. Remind them that they can use action, mimed objects and speech to communicate what is going on. Ask some of the pairs to play their scenes back and see if the audience can spot the ‘Who’, ‘What’ and ‘Where’. This will highlight how well the actors are working together and how clearly they are communicating their ideas.
An example scene might go something like this:
A: (MIMES UNROLLING SOMETHING.) Have you seen the mallet anywhere?
B: Ummm, I think it’s in my rucksack. (RUMMAGES AROUND AND PASSES THE MIMED MALLET.)
A: Can you hold up the tent pole? I’ll bang the peg in.
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