Improv class 2.5 – What do you really want?

The theme of last week’s class was “what do you really want?” We started the class with a relaxation exercise followed by a warm up game called “Bunny bunny”. This game so excited me that I hurt my back. Luckily Mike had a few amateur chiropractor tricks up his sleeve. After getting all my vertebrae lined up again we did an Augusto Boal exercise called “Character walks”. In this exercise everyone walks around in the workshop space and becomes aware of their bodies. You identify the part of your body that you lead with and then accentuate it until you become a caricature of yourself. This makes you very aware of what stress and emotion you carry in your body. After that you shake off the character and go into a neutral walk. ( a walk without animation) Then for several rounds you focus on different parts of your body and do something different with that part of your body when you walk. As the teacher I would then ask different questions about the characters while everyone is walking. It is amazing how you will feel like a whole different person when you just walk differently. And answering questions like “what do you feel”, “where are you going?”, “what is your job?”, “what makes you angry?”, “what makes you happy?” and “what is the one thing that drives you?” are very easy. This is a great way to come up with a very strong character for a scene by just walking differently. After this exercise we played a game that I learned from Jet Eveleth at the IO Theatre called “Secret wants”. In this game two players do a scene. Before they start a secret want is given to each player. For example in the scene by Luci and Sonwabo, Luci wanted to be left alone and Sonwabo wanted Luci to be his friend. The secret wants made each character’s behaviour motivated, creating very strong characters. And because of the contrasting wants it resulted in a very interesting scene. Knowing what your character wants in an improv scene is very important because it makes the character well defined and motivates everything that he does. Sometimes when I tell players they should play strong characters they think it means a weird crazy character, but it is quite the opposite. A weird crazy character’s behaviour is often random and unmotivated. A strong character knows what he wants.

So what is the application of this improv wisdom in real life? If you want a strong personal character know what you want. And how do you know what you want? Look at your behaviour and write down the activities that take up most of your time and then ask yourself why you do this until you get to the core value behind these activities. If your time is filled with activities that you really don’t like such as a job that you hate, ask yourself how you can be true to your core value by doing something different that you do like. Or if the activity is something that you really can’t change, knowing why you do it will help you change the way you feel about it. Like my sister and business partner, Petro, says “Know your values, know your value.”
PS This week practise launching yourself into your core being…but mind your back.

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7 Replies to “Improv class 2.5 – What do you really want?”

  1. ag vrek! die klas klink of ek dit soooooo sou geniet het! ek is uiteindelik GESOND! ek join julle makkers vannaand!!!

  2. Hierdie is ‘n cool artikel, effens aagepas om by Burgert se wyse woorde aantesluit…
    A strong character is “Livable and Lovable” This rests upon a deep and unselfish sympathy with those around us. “Be pitiful,” said Ian Maclaren, “every man is fighting a hard battle.” That is the key-note, because, through the gate of understanding and kinship of feeling, we enter into the inner chamber of other hearts, and find ourselves not only loving, but beloved.

  3. Thanks B – this is a very helpful post. I can identify with the lack of direction a wild, crazy character brings: not only doesn’t it help the scene by building a plot, but it also confuses the other characters and break downs trust.

    The key message of knowing what you want will create a strong scene with a lot of potential. Looking forward to applying this!

  4. Thanks B! You have to own your character. A character isn’t just you with a different accent, or you walking funny. It’s a new persone, and you have to decide what that person wants, and who that person is – Awesome!

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